Antioxidants. It’s a word often thrown around in health circles, but do you really know what an antioxidant is and what it does? In a nutshell, an antioxidant is a molecule that can neutralize harmful atoms called free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress and damage cells. Over time, high levels of free radicals can contribute to illness and disease. Unfortunately, you are bombarded by free radicals each and every day from air pollution, the chemicals in consumer products, and many of the foods you eat. But boosting your antioxidant intake can lessen their damaging effects. Here are four of the most important antioxidants you need now.
Grape Seed Extract
Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are found in concentrated levels in grape seeds and are one of the most potent antioxidants known to science. They are so powerful they’re even more effective than vitamins C and E for neutralizing destructive free radicals. French grape seed extract, in particular, has an ORAC value of at least 20,000 per gram. In comparison, blueberries have a value of 6,552 per gram, dark chocolate has 40,200 per gram, and strawberries have 3,577 per gram. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and it’s a lab test that qualifies the total antioxidant capacity of foods. The high antioxidant power in French grape seed extract balances the immune response, allowing the body to reduce both chronic low-grade inflammation and acute inflammation. That translates to a real difference in conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The best OPCs are found in the French variety of grape seed called VX1 which is tannin-free and has unique specifications to make it highly absorbable and more effective. Study after study shows how powerful French grape seed is an antioxidant. One study in Carcinogenesis found that VX1 was able to boost levels of tumor-fighting genes. Plus, when compared to other grape seed extracts, VX1 was significantly more effective at a much lower dose than standard extracts without harming healthy cells. People sometimes misunderstand and think any grape seed extract can deliver this type of powerful outcome, but that’s not the case. To further add to the problem, the supplement industry has seen a rise in cheap or counterfeit products masquerading as grape seed extract. To ensure you’re getting the most effective grape seed extract, check supplement labels for tannin-free French OPC grapes in a VX1 formula that have undergone a verification program to ensure authenticity.
Although most people think of sleep or jetlag when they think of melatonin, it’s also well researched for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In fact, it’s one of the most important and most underappreciated factors contributing to a strong immune system. Because this hormone-like messenger is interwoven into virtually every process in the body, it’s a powerhouse at preventing free-radical and inflammatory damage to DNA. What’s more, melatonin regulates several immune system signaling factors that allow it to provide an effective immune response, which is especially helpful against viral infections like influenza-related pneumonia. Recent studies are also looking at its potential against Covid-19. A 2020 study in the Journal of Life Sciences showed that melatonin’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulating properties—along with vitamin D—may be able to lessen the chances of the virus causing acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome. But because melatonin levels decline due to aging and stress, getting a supplemental source of melatonin can have an important and positive impact on overall health. Start with a 5 mg chewable an hour or two before bedtime. Be aware, however, that some supplemental forms of melatonin have a half-life of just 35 to 45 minutes. Depending on your needs, consider a sustained-release form of melatonin that slowly enters the bloodstream over time as it breaks down in the digestive tract. This is the form used in clinical research and it has been shown to help effectively re-establish circadian rhythms.
Dubbed the “master antioxidant,” glutathione is present in every cell in the body. It acts as a first-line shield against oxidative stress and free radicals. Unfortunately, glutathione decreases with age. Adding insult to injury, things that cause high amounts of oxidative stress, like exposure to tobacco smoke, pollution, an unbalanced diet, intense physical activity, and viral infections, can rapidly use up the glutathione the body does make. That makes supplementation essential. However, because glutathione is an unstable molecule, providing it in an oral bioavailable form is difficult. Here’s why: The glutathione found in some supplements is quickly oxidized during digestion, which destroys any benefits. This is why it’s important to take a reduced, active (protected) form of glutathione. A human study looking at the difference between the two types of the nutrient reported that the active form led to a 38 point increase in active glutathione in the bloodstream. Unprotected (oxidized) glutathione, on the other hand, decreased the active amount by 40 points. That’s a 78 point difference, with reduced active glutathione showing a 230 percent improvement in blood glutathione levels compared to the oxidized form. That’s good news for anyone seeking strong antioxidant protection.
Andrographis has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times and is commonly known as the “King of Bitters” because of its bitter taste. While andrographis provides a full spectrum of compounds that prevent or stop disease, the andrographolide in andrographis is considered the most beneficial. Extracts of the herb have been shown to boost the activity of glutathione and superoxide dismutase—two of the most powerful antioxidants generated by the body. Andrographis prevents the accumulation of dangerous oxidized LDL particles inside arteries. A clinical trial also found that andrographis extract was just as effective as gemfibrozil, a drug that reduces the amounts of fat produced by the liver in patients with elevated triglycerides. Andrographis also shortened the duration of symptoms and the number of days needed for sick leave because of its ability to fight colds and flu. But these benefits just scratch the surface of what andrographis can do. Studies report that it can also protect against heart disease, arthritis, inflammatory bowel conditions, and a host of other inflammatory diseases. To take advantage of all that andrographis provides, look for a high-quality standardized andrographis supplement that provides at least 80 mg of andrographolides per serving.