Are antioxidants necessary for good health?

December 28, 2016

Are antioxidants necessary for good health?

Antioxidants has become a buzzword in the food industry. But many people have no clue what antioxidants actually do for them. It’s a word that makes any type of food, drink, or supplement seem the healthier choice.

It doesn’t help that most medical professionals often downplay the significance of antioxidants, claiming that you can get all that you need from food. But due to soil depletion, GMO farming, and processed foods, very little REAL nutrition (especially antioxidants) actually makes its way into your body.

So this question may be bugging you. Are antioxidants really THAT important? It’s easy to be confused when there are contradictory statements all the time. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Dr. Whitaker, a popular wellness doctor says “It's no longer a question of should our patients be taking antioxidant supplements, but rather which ones and why. It's time that physicians recognize the value of the growing body of research showing the many health benefits of natural antioxidants."

On the other hand, there’s stuff like this from the Professor Tony Segal of the University College of London's Centre for Molecular Medicine, "Many patients might be using expensive antioxidant drugs based upon completely invalid theories as to their therapeutic potential."

So what are we to believe? We believe that antioxidants are critical to living a healthy life. Each person’s need for antioxidants is different and finding which ones will be best for you is a priority.

What’s an Antioxidant, and why is it important?

An antioxidant is a molecule that can neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are waste products of energy production in your cells. No matter how healthy you are, you are producing a mind-boggling amount of free radicals in your body every second. Free radicals are like zombies that like to feed on the electrons of healthy molecules. Once they steal an electron from a healthy molecule, they become satisfied while the healthy molecule turns into a free radical (zombie). If free radicals are left unchecked, they can build-up and eventually wreak havoc inside your cells causing massive irreversible damage. This will trigger all kinds of health issues.

Antioxidants can eliminate free radicals before they become dangerous, but understanding the types of antioxidants is crucial to adequately address the different free radicals located in various areas of your body.

Endogenous Antioxidants - Your Personal Free Radical Defense System

There are two main types of antioxidants. Exogenous antioxidants and endogenous antioxidants. The most important are the ones made in your cells, called endogenous antioxidants. Also referred to as your personal Antioxidant Defense System. The antioxidants that are made by your cells are enzymes. The three main antioxidant enzymes are, Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), Glutathione Peroxidase (GPX), and Catalase (CAT).

Superoxide Dismutase converts the free radical Superoxide Anion into Hydrogen Peroxide. Catalase and Glutathione Peroxidase both neutralize the free radical Hydrogen Peroxide into water. Basically, these three enzymes work together as the first line of defense against the free radicals in your cells and keeps them in check.

However, we live in a world that is becoming progressively more toxic. The food isn’t as nutritious. And we grow older every year. All of these are factors in your cells becoming sluggish and inefficient, which leads to increased free radical production. Kind of like how an old car spits out more black smog as it breaks down over the years. As a result, your cells become overrun by free radicals. And most of the time its more than what your Antioxidant Defense System can handle.

Free Radicals are Linked to Chronic Health Issues

Many scientists and researchers have linked Free Radicals to all kinds of health issues. Most chronic health issues are either caused by or produce free radicals in the cells, and in turn these free radicals trigger different symptoms in each individual. Ever notice how some people are more vulnerable to sunburn or some people are allergic to cats or peanuts? Your environment and genetics determines how significantly free radicals will influence your life.

Free radicals are also called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and the damage that they cause in your cells is called Oxidative Stress. Some diseases that have direct links to Oxidative Stress caused by free radicals include:


This list can go on and on but we gathered the most common ones here. If you have a chronic health challenge not on this list, you can try a google search for “___________ and oxidative stress” (fill in the specific health issue in the blank) to find out if you are indeed struggling with free radicals. Chances are high that whatever you’re dealing with is linked with free radicals.

The Delicate Balance - Free Radicals VS. Antioxidants

We established the fact that free radicals in excess causes damage to your body. However, not ALL free radicals are completely harmful. Some of them, such as hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide, are free radicals that cells use to communicate with other cells and eliminate toxic substances. For example, the antioxidant enzyme catalase uses hydrogen peroxide to oxidize toxins such as methanol, ethanol, formic acid, formaldehyde, and nitrite. Hydrogen peroxide is therefore extremely important in detoxifying your cells.

There’s a delicate balance between antioxidants and free radicals, but people usually overcompensate by taking too much of one antioxidant supplement thinking that will help and end up breaking that balance.

That’s why it’s important not to OVERUSE one antioxidant. The problem is that most antioxidants can’t specifically target only the harmful free radicals. A lot of times even the useful ones such as hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide are eliminated when there are too many antioxidants available. To help restore the balance between Free radicals and Antioxidants in your cells it’s important to:

  1. Take a wide spectrum of antioxidants that work in different areas of your body. 
  2. Utilize antioxidants that complement one another
  3. Use natural antioxidant supplements rather than synthetic ones 
  4. Use antioxidant complexes (that are research-based) to get a good variety

Exogenous Antioxidants - Different Types of Antioxidants from Food & Supplements

We discussed the antioxidant enzymes that are inside your cells that help fight free radicals, but it’s important to help them out with antioxidants from your diet in the right amounts. Antioxidants that you ingest from your diet are called exogenous antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables have antioxidants because they are constantly exposed to sunlight. Which means they are continuously bombarded by Ultra Violet Rays. UV Rays produce free radicals upon impact. So plants have highly developed antioxidants to protect themselves. These same antioxidants can be absorbed in your body by consuming these fruits and vegetables.

Food Sources of Antioxidants

The antioxidant content in food is measured in ORAC values (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). A sample of the food (most of the time a fruit or vegetable) is placed into a test tube and mixed with a chemical bath of free radicals. Scientists assign the ORAC score by measuring how well the sample can withstand the barrage of free radicals. There's a drawback with this method, because it is done in a test-tube in a lab. It doesn’t give a clear picture of what this antioxidant is capable of once it’s inside your body.

Different antioxidants work on specific areas of the body. For example, Ginkgo Biloba, an herb, gives most of its benefits in the brain and cardiovascular system,while Milk thistle is another herb that works most effectively in the liver. It’s not very productive when you take Ginkgo Biloba when you need more antioxidants in the liver right?

Essentially, the ORAC value is a very one-dimensional and incomplete measurement of antioxidant capacity. Nevertheless, it does tell you the total amount of antioxidants in a substance which can be useful to know. So, based on these ORAC values, here are the TOP 10 Antioxidant Foods, from Dr. Axe.

In addition to the ones above, here are some more common foods that you can incorporate in your diet:

  • Broccoli, ORAC - 890 
  • Kale, ORAC - 1,770 
  • Brussels sprouts, ORAC - 980 
  • Blueberries, ORAC - 2,400 
  • Spinach, ORAC - 1,260 
  • Raisins, ORAC - 2,830 
  • Strawberries, ORAC - 1,540 
  • Prunes, ORAC - 5,770

In addition to these, pomegranates, red wine and wild caught salmon also have high antioxidant content. Do your best to incorporate 2-3 servings daily of these high antioxidant foods in your diet for optimal health.

The Significance of Antioxidant Supplements

Supplementing your diet with antioxidants is CRUCIAL. Especially if you live in the city (where there’s heavy pollution), work in an environment exposed to chemicals, don’t eat as healthy as you should, or don’t exercise very often. It’s hard enough to eat healthy with your busy schedule, it’s even more difficult to get the right produce and make sure that it was sustainably farmed and the nutrient content is high.

Factory farming and GMO crops have ravaged the soil and even though produce may look fresh, they may not contain the nutrients that they did in the past. This is why supplements are becoming more and more popular as the Standard American Diet (Get it? SAD?) is depleted of real, whole, nutritious food.

When you are supplementing your diet with antioxidants, you should keep in mind to take antioxidants that are from NATURAL SOURCES as much as possible and not synthetic junk. There’s a huge difference between natural Vitamin E from aloe and man-made vitamin E. The natural Vitamin E contains other phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) that help the Vitamin E work better as an antioxidant. Whereas synthetic Vitamin E doesn’t provide the whole package of nutrients. For example, at low doses, natural Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) or synthetic Vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) can be fine, although you need 60% more of the synthetic one to get the same active dose as natural vitamin E.

Think of it like this, naturally derived supplements contain the carriers, the instructions, and the vitamin E itself. Taking synthetic vitamins is like getting a table from IKEA without any instructions on how to build it and use it. You can probably figure it out, but it may not be as sturdy and efficient as it was designed to be. Same thing with synthetic antioxidants, they are not as helpful as the real thing. As with everything in life, antioxidants from natural sources are more expensive then synthetic copies.

Main Antioxidant Supplements You Should Know

Another type of carotenoid which are found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, and spinach to name a few. It fights against the growth of different types of cancer.

Beta Carotene
Beta-Carotene is a type of carotenoid which are the yellow, orange, and red pigments found in fruits and vegetables (Think Carrots).

  • Converted to Vitamin A in the body and is known to strengthen the immune system and promote healthy cell growth. 
  • Potent antioxidant that gives a particular benefit to the immune system and lungs.
  • Helps asthma patients improve their quality of life
  • Make sure you don't take synthetic versions of this antioxidant, since they are made from acetylene gas.

Dried bilberry fruit and leaves are used to extract anthocyanosides and other bioflavanoids which are good for improving eyesight and helpful for treating eye conditions.

Bioperine is an extract from black pepper fruit that significantly improves the bioavailability of nutrients such as antioxidants. If bioperine is incorporated in the supplement that you take, chances are the company that produces the supplement prioritizes quality. 

  • Mixing Bioperine & beta-carotene showed a 60% increase in absorption of beta-carotene
  • Increases absorption whether the nutraceutical is fat or water soluble
  • Mixing Curcumin + BioPerine made curcumin 20x more bioavailable

Curcumin gives tumeric its yellow color and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. 

Chaparral Extract 
Chaparral is a shrub found in the desert regions of southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It contains Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid (NDGA) that targets the herpes virus.

    Ginkgo Biloba
    Ginkgo contains flavonoids and terpenoids that improve blood flow in the brain and act as a powerful antioxidants.

    Green tea extract 
    Green tea extract contains catechins, the most powerful of which is Epigallocatechin Gallage (EGCG).  

    • Prevents tumors from generating blood vessels to divert nutrients from healthy cells.
    • Inhibits metastasis
    • Natural telomerase inhibitor eliminating immortality of cancer cells 
    • Particularly effective against leukemia, prostate and breast cancer
    • Casein, a protein from dairy products completely block absorption of catechins in green tea. Drink tea straight, without milk to get the health benefits 

    Carnosine is an amino acid that is found primarily in red meat. However, an enzyme called carnosinase degrades carnosine quickly. High doses of L-Carnosine can show incredible benefit by overwhelming the carnosinase enzyme, leading to more L-carnosine available in the blood.

    • Protects cellular protein from oxidation
    • Prevents oxidation of sugars in the body
    • One of the best anti-aging antioxidants.

      L- Methionine 
      An essential amino acid that acts as an antioxidant and liver detoxifier

      • Provides powerful protection in Colon
      • Involved in the production of many important molecules in the cells
      • Helps reduce the level of histamine (allergic reaction molecule) in the blood

      A carotenoid vitamin related to beta-carotene and Vitamin A. Lutein is absorbed best when taken with a high-fat meal. Found in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, yellow carrots, egg yolk and animal fats).

      A bright red carotene pigment found in tomatoes and many other red fruits and vegetables (guavas, watermelon, tomatoes, and papayas).

      • Cooking enhances bioavailability in fruits and vegetables
      • Fights prostate and bladder cancer
      • Combined with green tea extract, inhibits prostate cancer proliferation by 90% 

      Fruit that is found in the rainforest areas of Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. It contains a unique group of antioxidants called xanthones.

      N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)
      Comes from an amino acid L-Cysteine and is one of the keys to a healthy immune system and maintaining high levels of the endogenous antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase. and spinach to name a few.

      Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPC)
      Water-soluble and highly bioavailable polyphenolic substance in plants. Found in high concentrations in fruits such as apple, pear, and grapes, and in chocolate, wine and tea. 

      • Improves peripheral circulation 
      • Repairs varicose veins and aid in bruise prevention
      • Synergistic with Vitamin C, vastly increasing Vitamin C activity and strengthening collagen activity

      A flavanoid antioxidant that's found in fruits and vegetables. One of the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet. 

      Resveratrol is concentrated in the skin of grapes. Resveratrol was assumed to be the reason for the French Paradox, that people who drank red wine are unaffected by high fat/high cholesterol diets. There's actually very little resveratrol in wine and grapes are no longer used for extracts. Instead Japanese and Chinese knotweed are extracted due to their high resveratrol content. 

      R-Lipoic Acid
      Also called the "Mother Antioxidant", R-Lipoic acid is the biologically active form that the human body prefers. It's an integral part of the energy process in our cells.

      Is a trace mineral that is a component of glutathione peroxidase. Organic forms of selenium or found in amino acids. Selenomethionine, selenocysteine, and methylselenocysteine.

      • Synergistic with glutathione and catalase in helping protect cell membranes
      • rotects liver and important for thyroid and immune function
      • Recommended daily allowance is 55mcg due to concern for toxicity. 
      • Low selenium levels have been connected to death from heart diseases to cancer

      Tocototrienols are Vitamin E components that are 40 times more powerful than standard Vitamin E.

      Vitamin C 
      Vitamin C is the most well-known antioxidant, found in papaya, guava, kale, red peppers, broccoli and citrus fruits among others. 

      • Helps repair and regenerate tissues
      • Protects against heart disease
      • Decreases bad cholesterol
      • Supports healthy immune function

      A carotenoid pigment that gives paparika, corn, saffron, wolfberries, and many other plants their characteristic color. Zeaxanthin is actually found within the retina of the eye. Zeaxanthin is the dominant carotenoid in the peripheral retina while lutein is dominant in the center of the retina.

      There are many more antioxidant molecules out there but these are some of the main ones that have been important in the health and wellness industry. Try to get a wide variety of antioxidants in your diet to keep your free radicals in check, and to target different health issues that you may be dealing with. 

      The Perfect Antioxidant - Molecular Hydrogen

      As you can see, there are many different antioxidants available to us through food and supplements. However, these different antioxidants each have their pros and cons. One thing to note is that it is possible to take TOO MUCH antioxidants, which is why a good variety of antioxidants is recommended. We mentioned earlier that it's hard for most antioxidants to differentiate between good and bad free radicals, and rather eliminate ALL free radicals.

      Second, there's the issue of bioavailability. This means that even though you ingest a supplement or food, how much of the antioxidant ACTUALLY gets absorbed into your body? Bioavailability is basically how well a nutrient is available for absorption. Most antioxidants don't absorb very well and therefore have a low bioavailability.

      Molecular Hydrogen is considered the Perfect Antioxidant, because it's HIGHLY bioavailable, and it targets ONLY the harmful free radicals, something that other antioxidants do not have the capacity to accomplish. Over the past 10 years there has been an explosion of research regarding Molecular Hydrogen.

      Ideally, you want to take a variety of antioxidants to keep your free radicals levels down. Among the ones you take, you should always have Molecular Hydrogen as part of your antioxidant arsenal. Learn more about Molecular Hydrogen by signing up for our FREE EBOOK, or going to the website for our Molecular Hydrogen product PRIMOH2.

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