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Head to toe antioxidant guide
by Lisa Turner
The best antioxidant supplements for your body, top to bottom
You already know how important antioxidants are to overall health. They reduce the signs of aging, protect against disease, and improve energy levels and overall sense of well-being. But with so many antioxidants available on the market, how can you know which ones are right for you? We’ve made it easy, with a head-to-toe guide for choosing the antioxidant that’s best for your needs:
According to Amitava Dasgupta, PhD, author of the new book “pocket antioxidants” (hunter house, Inc., 2013), the following foods ranked highest in antioxidant content per serving, with blackberries taking the top spot.
- Artichokes, prepared
- Clove, ground
- Grape juice
- Chocolate, baked, unsweetened,
- Cherries, sour
- Power bar, chocolate flavor
- Guava nectar
- Juice drinks (10% juice, blueberry or strawberry, vitamin C)
- Cranberry juice
- Chocolate, dark, sugar-free
- Cabbage, red, cooked*
*Cooking can actually increase the antioxidant content of certain foods (versus eating them raw), including cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, red pepper, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Steaming is the best cooking method in most cases.
Goals: to prevent skin cancer, treat acne, and reduce discoloration, wrinkles, and the signs of aging.
Focus: Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The antioxidant found in green tea, EGCG repairs DNA and helps prevent the formation and growth of tumors, and is especially protective against skin cancer. Other studies suggest that green tea antioxidants protect against signs of skin aging, and wind topically applied, can help treat dermatitis, acne, and other skin conditions.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E has a strong anti-inflammatory of fact and encourages the skin’s natural repair systems well preventing further damage. Used topically, vitamin E can protect skin against sun damage, discoloration, signs of aging, and skin cancer. Vitamin D supplements, especially when taken with vitamin a and zinc, also help improve acne.
Goals: to improve memory; balance mood; and prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related neurological changes.
Focus: Omega-3 fats. Many studies have linked low levels of omega-3 fats with memory impairment, emotional disturbances, and altered brain processes. Studies also showed that adequate intake of omega-3 fats can slow age-related cognitive decline and may protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Polyphenols. The primary antioxidants in blueberries, raspberries, and cherries, polyphenols has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s and age-related changes in brain and motor function. Polyphenols are also known to reduce the risk for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.
Goals: To improve vision and reduce the risk of cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Focus: Lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoid antioxidants— found in spinach, yellow peppers, carrots, corn, and other dietary sources--protect the eyes from light and oxygen damage, and prevent age-related cellular and tissue degeneration in the eyes. There especially protective against AMD, a condition that causes vision loss and, ultimately, blindness.
Zinc. Zinc works with vitamin A to help the eyes make melanin, a protective pigment. Some studies have found that zinc improves vision acuity and reduces AMD risk. In one study, people at high risk of developing AMD reduce their risk by 25% by taking zinc in combination with vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and copper. In the same study, taking zinc alone reduced risk by 19%.
Goals: to prevent against heart attack,atherosclerosis, stroke, and various other cardiovascular diseases.
Focus: Resveratrol. An antioxidant that’s found in red wine, red grapes, and peanuts, resveratrol has a well-established reputation for protecting against heart attack, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and stroke. It also has considerable anti-inflammatory effects.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10, a vitamin-like substance found naturally in the body’s cells, has been shown in many studies to reduce blood pressure, or check the heart muscle, and prevent damage to the blood vessels. Additionally, CoQ10 is helpful in reducing muscle pain in people who take Statin drugs.
Goals: to reduced risk of breast cancer and protect against fibrocystic breast disease.
Focus: Selenium. Selenium, a mineral found naturally in Brazil nuts, seafood, and other dietary sources, has been shown to inhibit breast tumor growth and metastasis, especially when the selenomethionine form is used. Selenium also protects against colon, prostate, and other cancers.
Alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid, a vitamin-like compound found in organ meats, spinach, and broccoli, has a strong influence on cancer cell growth, reproduction, and apoptosis (cell death). It has also been shown to inhibit breast cancer metastasis and help protect against fibrocystic breast disease (fibroid breasts).
Goals: to protect against flu, bronchitis, and infection; reduce the risk of lung cancer; and treat asthma.
Focus: N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). NAC has powerful antioxidant activity, especially in the respiratory system. Studies have found that NAC can benefit even a cute respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and help improve immunity against the flu virus. Some studies also suggest that NAC protects against lung cancer.
Pycnogenol. Derived from French maritime pine bark, Pycnogenol has broad antioxidant activities and is especially helpful in treating asthma. In studies, people with asthma who took Pycnogenol showed significant improvement in pulmonary function and asthma symptoms.
Stomach, intestine, colon
Goals: to protect against colon cancer and prevent polyps.
Focus: Vitamin D. Vitamin D may decrease the risk of developing colon cancer, as well as other cancers. Some studies suggest that women who are vitamin D deficient have a 253% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Women who took 1100 IU per day of vitamin D3 lowered their risk of developing colon cancer by more than 60%.
Zingerone. Zingerone, a key component of ginger, has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, and may help protect against colon cancer. In one recent study, zingerone supplementation led to a significant decrease in the incidence of tumors and increased blood levels of antioxidants in test animals. Other studies have suggested that ginger root is protective against colon polyps and other types of cancer.
Female reproductive organs
Goals: to protect against cancers of the reproductive organs; improve fertility; and reduced fibroid tumors.
Focus: Diindolylmethane (DIM). A compound made in the body from indole-3-carbinol, which is found in cruciferous vegetables, DIM helps the body metabolize estrogen and protects the reproductive organs from age-related hormonal changes. Studies show that it reduces the risk of cervical cancer and other cancers of the reproductive organs, and can protect against fibroids.
Vitamin C. This all-purpose antioxidant may help improve female fertility by reducing oxidative stress that can interfere with ovulation, and may also have some cancer-protective effects. In one study, vitamin C was associated with a 15% lower risk of endometrial cancer.
Goals: to protect against prostate cancer and prevent Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).
Focus: Lycopene. An antioxidant from the carotenoid family found primarily in tomatoes, strawberries, and watermelon, lycopene has long been known for its ability to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Studies have shown that populations with high dietary lycopene intake have lower risk of prostate cancer. Other studies have found lower lycopene blood levels in people with prostate cancer.
Beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol, a substance found naturally in soybeans, flax, and peanuts, can help treat and prevent BPH, or enlarged prostate. Some studies suggest it inhibits proliferation of— and induces apoptosis in— cancer cells, and it may also protect against colon and breast cancers.
Goals: to prevent arthritis pain and protect joints from damage.
Focus: Curcumin. The active compound in turmeric, a spice used in curry powder, curcumin helps protect against the development and progression of both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. In one study, curcumin extracts were just as effective as ibuprofen in reducing osteoarthritis pain.
Astaxanthin. A type of carotenoid that’s naturally found in sea algae, astaxanthin is responsible for the pinkish color of salmon, shrimp, and other algae-eating seafoods. It has a pungent anti-inflammatory actions that help reduce arthritis and joint pain. It’s also used to protect against cancer and heart disease.