How to Eat to Make the Most of Your Antioxidants

How to Eat to Make the Most of Your Antioxidants

Remember playing “hot-potato” as a kid?  Whether it was just a fast-paced game of catch or it was literally a steaming tuber being tossed around, speed and urgency are the name of the game.

The way your body deals with free radicals - the little, unstable molecules that can lead to inflammation if left unchecked - has to be fast too. Pick up that hot ember, quickly make a decision on who to pass it to, and then wait for when another one comes around to you. Even though your antioxidant system coordinates this at the tiniest scale, how well it works has big implications for your energy levels, healthy aging, and joint and heart health.

Your standard vitamins A, C, and E take care of the quick response.  Healthy glutathione levels provide the power to deal with the hot potato game of oxidative damage (check out our other posts if you want to learn more about glutathione - a hint: it might be your most important antioxidant, but you can’t supplement to get more). But what happens to your antioxidants in the process? 

Damaged glutathione and other antioxidants have to be recycled. In a sense, the troops have to be refreshed before they go back to keeping the peace with inflammation. If we were to play a full scale game of hot potato, with the potato being a free radical, there would be three classes of defenses to keep in mind: security, medics, and waste management.

Security and Communications: Selenium

Selenium is a part of selenocysteine. It’s a special amino acid that works in a protein to receive damaged glutathione and signal the rest of the peacekeepers to mount a defense. Higher selenium levels are linked to increased glutathione processing power, but that doesn’t mean everyone should just go and start supplementing with selenium!  Go too much over the recommended 400 micrograms per day and you’ll have some serious repercussions! Keep reading for the information you need to keep your selenium optimized.

Medical team: Copper, Zinc, and Manganese

These minerals have many other important roles in the body. In combination with glucosamine and chondroitin, supplementing with manganese is linked better joint health in older adults with osteoarthritis. High quality research suggests zinc might be helpful to take at the start of a cold to support the immune system’s activity. Low copper levels might be associated with heart disease and supplementing can increase some positive measures of heart health.

In the antioxidant system, copper, zinc, and manganese work to get glutathione back out on the front lines.  Copper supplementation has been shown to increase glutathione recycling systemsZinc raises the same enzyme that helps keep glutathione working well.  Even though it might not be enough to lower oxidative stress in the average person, it seems to work in people with increased risk for oxidative damage, like those with kidney disease, and in high-level athletes.

Disposal: Manganese and Iron

If the other minerals are the team of medics that patch up glutathione, then iron and manganese neutralize the damaging byproducts and leftovers.  Iron is a little tricky: just like selenium, you can get too much of a good thing, but too little will leave you feeling low-energy and easily fatigued. Women and children are at highest risk for iron deficiency. Too much iron can itself lead to increased oxidation and fatigue. The good news is that the National Institutes of Health recognize that iron overload from food doesn’t seem to be a big problem for most people - so outside of supplementing, eating iron-rich foods will help keep your energy up and your stress down. We’ll go more into how to eat to make sure you have the right iron levels in another post, so stay tuned!

How do I get enough selenium without getting too much?

The last time selenium made headlines was in 2008, when 201 people suffered from selenium poisoning in a poorly regulated supplement. You won’t find this kind of poor oversight in Resync products: our supplements go through rigorous testing to carry the highest safety certifications

The only other likely way you’ll get too much selenium is if you eat too many Brazil nuts. How many?  Well, it depends. Selenium in plants comes from the soil, and soil levels vary depending on where you live, but it seems that levels in animal products are more consistent.

So, if you think you have a clean diet and you’re getting lots of local whole foods, you really don’t know how much selenium you’re getting in your diet.  If you’re in the United States your best bet is to check out this map from the U.S. Geological Survey. If you’re only eating local foods in an area with low selenium levels, you should balance your diet out with some high-selenium foods.  If you get your food from an area that has decent selenium levels, the FDA states that it’s probably nothing to worry about unless you have increased needs.

Do I need more selenium?

Some groups that have been shown to have low selenium levels include:




Selenium

How much do I need?

The FDA recommends people get 55 micrograms (mcg) per day.  Some experts think that high-performing athletes, older individuals, people losing weight with exercise, and vegans are more at risk for being deficient. Most Americans get about 120 mcg of selenium per day.

Can I get too much?

Yes!  The FDA says that people shouldn’t eat more than 400 micrograms per day, which isn’t hard to do if you’re eating brazil nuts on the daily, but shouldn’t be a worry if you have an otherwise healthy diet. The first signs of toxic levels are garlic breath, metallic taste, brittle nails and hair loss.

How important is it?

Selenium is the most important mineral for glutathione recycling.  It’s also crucial for thyroid hormone health and normal levels are linked to better heart health

Selenium may be better absorbed with a vitamin C-rich diet (think citrus and green veggies), but not with a vitamin C supplement, aka. ascorbic acid. The best way for your body to use it might be along with other antioxidants like vitamin D, which can raise selenium levels and vitamin E, which may help prevent toxicity - olive oil drizzled salmon, anyone?

Where can I get it?

Just 5 brazil nuts a day can deliver toxic levels, but it might also take 100 - so watch out for signs of overdoing it if you eat them often! That being said, just 1 brazil nut a day is enough to boost glutathione and antioxidant levels - it’s all about moderation.

Sources that are high, but too high, are organ meats, followed by seafood, eggs, mustard and sunflower seeds. Other good sources are beans, spinach, and dairy products like cottage cheese. 

Selenium in plants depends on where they’re grown and is highly variable, so if you want to be confident about your selenium status, locally-raised organ meats and seafood are the best choices.


Bottom Line

  • Your antioxidant system coordinates a number of players to keep your antioxidants - especially glutathione - in their active form, letting you feeling full of energy and ready to take on the challenges of life.
  • Selenium (as selenocysteine) is the first-pass player in the game against oxidative stress. It signals other players to get ready and it absorbs the damage that glutathione took the brunt of.
  • That oxidative damage is passed on to proteins that use copper, zinc, manganese and iron to further neutralize the oxidation.
  • Selenium levels in plants are not reliable. One brazil nut might be enough to meet your daily needs, but levels vary, and its possible to get too much from brazil nuts in particular (watch out for garlic breath!).  Other plants that have selenium are mustard and sunflower seeds, and beans. More consistent selenium levels are found in organ meats, seafood, eggs, and dairy products.

Whether you’re trying to find the lifestyle balance to lower chronic stress or you’re trying to recover your best from pushing your limit, optimizing your total antioxidant system is hugely important - and it goes beyond taking your one-a-day.  Choosing the best foods to boost glutathione and then making sure that your whole system is prepared to support your antioxidants is a winning formula for living your life on your terms. Play hard, recover your best, and maintain your energy through the whole day with the Resync lifestyle! 

See our next post in this series where we decode what methylation means for your heart health. You do not want to miss out on it!

We want to hear from you! 

Comment below with your thoughts and questions and we’ll get back to you in future posts. 

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We strive to be your fact-based source for nutrition and supplement information. Unlike other companies that are just trying to sell you their stuff with clickbait and fake news, we make sure there’s research to backup what we say.  Want to learn more about a topic? Click on the red text to be redirected to a scientific article. We believe that if you have the right information, you’ll be empowered to make the best decision for yourself. And if you decide that our science-backed products are right for you, then hey, that’s a great perk for both of us!

Works Cited

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DiSilvestro, Robert A., Elizabeth L. Joseph, Wenyi Zhang, Adrienne E. Raimo, and Young Min Kim. “A Randomized Trial of Copper Supplementation Effects on Blood Copper Enzyme Activities and Parameters Related to Cardiovascular Health.” Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental 61, no. 9 (September 2012): 1242–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2012.02.002

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Jones, Gerrad D., Boris Droz, Peter Greve, Pia Gottschalk, Deyan Poffet, Steve P. McGrath, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Pete Smith, and Lenny H. E. Winkel. “Selenium Deficiency Risk Predicted to Increase under Future Climate Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, no. 11 (March 14, 2017): 2848–53. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1611576114 

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How to Keep Your Glutathione Up with Diet and Supplements

How to Keep Your Glutathione Up with Diet and Supplements

Glutathione is the front line in our body’s defense system. Inactivity, insomnia, pollution, and even healthy aging are just a few pieces of normal life that can increase damaging oxidation and inflammation. In our last post, we covered the lifestyle decisions that can enhance our glutathione. Exercise, good sleep, and getting rid of stressful triggers with yoga or meditation are some of the most powerful ways to decrease oxidative stress.

But what if we don’t have the time to exercise or sleep enough every day? When you’re being pulled from all sides, sometimes it feels impossible to take a moment for yourself, let alone an extra hour for a yoga session!

The good news is: you can keep up a healthy antioxidant system with what you eat too! Eating lots of colorful plants, healthy fats, and cutting out processed foods and sugar are the sure-fire ways to up your antioxidant power. 

When all else fails, natural supplements can raise glutathione as well.  More is not always better when it comes to antioxidant supplements. In fact, taking high dose vitamin C and E supplements can prevent some of the positive adaptations to endurance training. Yikes! You don’t want your anti-inflammatory supplements to work so well that they block healthy, adaptive inflammation too! 

Instead of focusing on antioxidants themselves, we’ll be looking at the supplements that can raise your whole antioxidant system. Plus, we’ll look into the research behind some bunk claims from less trustworthy sources on the internet. Even though we’re taking a look at the research to empower you to make your best decisions, it is still important to discuss any new supplements with your healthcare provider. 

 

How to keep glutathione up with the right foods

  • For plants, fruit is generally higher than vegetables. Apples, pears, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, and watermelon (if you eat enough of it!) have the highest levels. 
  • For proteins walnuts and almonds are the nut of choice, and most unprocessed meats are good sources.

Besides your greens and pungent veggies, other sulfur-rich foods help keep glutathione levels up. For a list of other foods high in sulfur, see our post “Not your normal antioxidants: glutathione and sulfur”.

How to Supplement to Raise Glutathione levels

Generally speaking, if you have a condition that depletes antioxidants or lowers muscle strength like natural aging, supplementation might be helpful to get your levels back to a healthy baseline.  But if you are already pretty healthy, antioxidant supplements might be doing more harm - especially if you’re trying to maximize your workout! 

Take for example, a study done with Taekwondo competitors. Yes, short-term supplementing with 2000 mg of vitamin C and 1400 IUs of vitamin E (those are some high doses!) lowers muscle damage and inflammatory responses.  But it’s been shown over and over that whether you’re training for strength or for endurance, as much as those antioxidants might lower the pain, they can also lower the gains (check out this study, this one, this detailed review on antioxidants in resistance training and this great review of antioxidants in endurance training). If you want to prevent massive damage to your muscles after a workout, go for it, but don’t go crying when long-term use leads to weaker, slower muscles! 

Find glycine in animal products like meat, low-temperature treated whey protein, bone broth, or at lower levels in veggie proteins like nuts and beans. It’s especially high in our versatile and delicious collagen blend!

Think that going carnivore might pass as a good way to get your glycine? Think again! If you’re eating a lot of meat and not enough collagen you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Because of the way one of the proteins which is high in meat (methionine) interacts with glycine (which is high in collagen and organ meats and higher in plant-based diets), you should get 1 gram of collagen for every 10 grams of animal meat. This translates to grabbing one serving of collagen for every half pound steak you throw on the grill! It may be hard to get enough glycine to support your best joint, bone, mental, and anti-oxidative health in your food alone, so think about varying up your routine a bit with supplemental sources of glycine.

Keeping a good level of selenium might be harder than it looks. Levels in food can be low or high depending on where you live, and might be changing with global climate changes, so it’s hard to say if you’re getting enough even with a healthy diet. Get it in a handful of Brazil nuts, most seafood, and organ meats. Wondering if you’re getting too much? Stay tuned for our next post on antioxidant recycling, but we’ll give you a hint now: watch out for a fruity breath!

  • Phase II inducers.  This may get a little technical, but we’ll keep it brief.  For the same reason that exercise can create oxidative damage and then compensate to make you stronger, plant chemicals can have a similar response.  Silymarin in milk thistle and curcumin in turmeric may have a similar positive effect on glutathione levels, but studies in humans haven’t been done. Since there are so much better ways to increase glutathione, we don’t recommend these as front-line approaches.

Bottom line 

Work hard, rest hard, and eat a varied, generally good diet that includes a lot of vegetables, high quality organ meats, and the occasional supplement if you need it to maximize your glutathione. The most impactful recommendations are:

Eat the rainbow, including greens and pungent white veggies like garlic and onion.

Try out a Mediterannean diet with lots of plants, some seafood and meats, and enough olive oil to bathe in. (Just kidding, but studies use 1 liter (about 1 quart) a week as a healthy amount.)

Alcohol saps your antioxidants, so drink an amount that lets you feel great the next day and consider wine or non-alcoholic beer.

Get glutathione from food in juicy fruits and veggies, walnuts, almonds, and lean meats.

Get glycine from food in collagen, like our delicious collagen recovery blend.

Get other nutrients to support your antioxidant system in liver and organ meats, poultry, lean meats, seafood

If lifestyle and diet aren’t going to work for you, some supplements you could consider include glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine, glycine, and selenium-rich foods.

Whether you’re a young athlete pushing yourself to your limit, or your youth has been ousted by wisdom, start with your lifestyle, then focus in on what you eat, and finally supplement if you’re  worried about low glutathione status to keep your defenses up!

Your glutathione levels might be up, but is the whole system working in top shape? Learn more about enhancing your whole-body system to defend against inflammation and oxidation in our next post on the micronutrients that support your whole antioxidant system.

We want to hear from you!

Comment below with your thoughts and questions and we’ll get back to you in future posts. 

Click here to subscribe to your trusted source for nutrition, supplements and healthy living information.  See our next post in this series on total antioxidant capacity with “How to Keep Your Antioxidant System Running Smoothly”. You do not want to miss out on it!

***Note*** We strive to be your fact-based source for nutrition and supplement information. Unlike other companies that are just trying to sell you their stuff with clickbait and fake news, we make sure there’s a research study to backup everything we say.  Want to learn more about a topic? Click on the red text to be redirected to a scientific article. We believe that if you have the right information, you’ll be empowered to make the best decision for yourself. And if you decide that our science-backed products are right for you, then hey, that’s a great perk for both of us!

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Nutrition and Your Own Antioxidants

Nutrition and Your Own Antioxidants
Counting your macros - aka. your macronutrients carbs, fat, and protein -  is all the rage these days. But if you’re not making sure you get your micronutrients too, you might not be getting the results you’re after. Let’s take the guesswork out of what to eat to support your body’s defenses so you can get to living your best life.

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