Best Antioxidant Supplements

Best antioxidant supplementsWhat are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant is any molecule that is able to inhibit the oxidation of another molecule. Most antioxidants have additional roles in the body along with preventing oxidative stress. Some antioxidants are produced endogenously within the body (e.g. glutathione) while others are required to be taken in through the diet or supplementation (e.g. vitamin C).

They are absolutely essential for health and vitality – we can’t emphasize it enough! Think of them as the protectors and healers of cellular function. They are essential to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Protect DNA and cell differentiation
  • Prevent and even treat serious disease
  • Improve exercise recovery

To fully understand antioxidants, let’s get a quick refresher on what they are fighting:

Antioxidants Scavenge Reactive Oxygen Species & Free Radicals

Reactive oxygen species and free radicals freely attack other molecules and cause radical damage to the function and health of cells. To keep the chemistry at the absolute minimum, a free radical is created when an atom is “unstable” because its outer electron shell isn’t full. The electrons in the unfilled outer shell are said to be unpaired. All atoms want to be stable and they’ll do anything to get that way – including damaging healthy cells to get that way.

Once atoms are bonded together to form molecules, they don’t normally split apart in a way that leaves an unpaired electron. But weak bonds can split and result in unstable and volatile molecules called free radicals.

Free radicals are highly reactive and will react with the nearest molecule and take its electron. The molecule a free radical steals from will lose an electron from its outer shell in this exchange, and become a free radical itself. This process cascades from molecule to molecule and can eventually disrupt the function of a living cell – free radical cascades affect lipids, proteins, and DNA within the body [7][8]. This is called oxidative stress.

Reactive oxygen species are created through normal metabolic processes and are quickly quenched by antioxidants. Unfortunately, the environment also adds free radicals and can overwhelm the available antioxidants – hello imbalance and a cascade of free radical activity.

Environmental free radicals include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarette smoke (including passive smoking)
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Radiation (e.g. UV, x-rays, gamma radiation when flying)
  • Some medications and recreational drugs

How Antioxidants Stop Reactive Oxygen Species

Antioxidants neutralize the activity of a free radicals via different mechanisms including:

  1. Electron Donation: By donating an electron to a free radical’s outer shell, antioxidants can stabilise the molecule so it doesn’t cause any further damage.
  2. Hydrogen Donation: Similar to electron donation, some antioxidants donate a hydrogen atom to create a strong bond with the free radical. This neutralizes the free radical, rendering it non-reactive.
  3. Decomposing peroxides: Large antioxidant molecules can instigate chemical reactions that essentially dismantle certain free radicals into fats or water.

Top 5 Antioxidants Effective in Supplemental Form

We struggled to narrow down the list – all antioxidants are good, right? So, we narrowed it down to the fiercest antioxidants that have abundant research to back up their spot on our top five.

First, here are our tips for effective antioxidant supplementation:

  1. Start with a diet rich in fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants work in concert with one another and studies have concluded that they work best when most antioxidants in the body are derived from the diet. Supplementation just takes it to the next level.
  2. Use both fat-soluble and water-soluble antioxidants.
  3. Take supplements consistently. Regular, frequent dosage is far more effective than mega-dosing every few days.

#5 Ubiquinol / Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Ubiquinol (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring enzyme that is required for the function of every cell in the body. As well as handling electrons in the formation of ATP, CoQ10 works as a potent antioxidant to protect cells from ageing processes. In particular, CoQ10 has been thoroughly researched for its affinity for heart and blood vessels where it protects against oxidative stress and vascular damage.

Uniquely, ubiquinol has more electrons and hydrogens than other antioxidants. In fact, it has two to spare. Ubiquinol can happily donate one of these electrons to sedate a free radical, reducing itself back to ubiquinone. The body readily converts ubiquinone back to ubiquinol – with the help of some other antioxidants that we’ll introduce shortly.

Even more uniquely, CoQ10 protects the fatty environments in the body (e.g. cell membranes, LDL cholesterol) but also the mitochondria itself where cellular energy is produced. CoQ10 is a great antioxidant to boost if you’re looking to boost your energy or prevent age-related issues.

We recommend…

NanoNutra Liposomal Liquid CoQ10

CoQ10On our best CoQ10 supplements page, we recommend Transparent Labs CoQ10 based on overall value. However, if you are willing to pay for the newest CoQ10 technology, then this product will really spark your interest.

For optimal absorption of fat-soluble antioxidants, always go for a liquid form. Even better, try a liposomal formulation like this supplement from NanoNutra. CoQ10 has been emulsified with a phosphidylcholine complex that will chaperone ubiquinone through the digestive system and to the site of antioxidant action – the cell wall and mitochondria.

Each dose delivers 100mg of ubiquinone. To support its conversion to ubiquinol, take it alongside one or more of the following antioxidants:

#4 Carotenoids

Carotenoids are pigments that give orange, red and yellow color to fruits and vegetables – as well as autumn leaves, flamingo feathers, and algae blooms – and play a huge role in maintaining health throughout the body. They work as a team and are best taken as they appear in nature – blended together.

There are over 600 known carotenoids, but the major players in human health are:

  • Lutein: Supports the micro-vessels of the eyes and skin, and may protect against cataracts and other vision conditions [6].
  • Zeaxanthin: Works closely with lutein to protect the vasculature of the eyes and skin [6].
  • Lycopene: Renowned for its protective role against prostate cancer, lycopene is found in cooked tomatoes and tomato-based sauces [5].
  • beta-Carotene: All carotenoids have the potential to be converted into active vitamin A, but b-carotene is particularly likely to undergo that metabolism. This antioxidant is also protective against cataracts and age-related diseases [8].
  • Cryptoxanthin: This provitamin-A carotenoid is found mostly in the petals of flowers, papaya, orange rind, and apples, has been shown to help cells communicate and may prevent lung cancer [9] [10]. It also has a cool name.
  • Astaxanthin: Found mostly in algae blooms, astaxanthin is a red-coloured pigment that is being researched for its potential in preserving cognition and memory in old age [7].

We Recommend…

Solgar Lutein Carotenoid Complex (30 capsules)

Solgar CarotenoidsSolgar have created a supplement that combines carotenoids harvested from plants. This retains their natural potencies and promotes their synergistic interactions. Each capsule includes a therapeutic daily dose of b-Carotene and lutein, along with a complex of zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and cryptoxanthin to support their antioxidant actions.

This is a particularly good antioxidant complex if you are hoping to protect small blood vessels in the eyes, brain and reproductive system from age-related oxidative damage.

#3 Glutathione

Glutathione is a powerhouse antioxidant. It has the unique position of being abundant and active within all cells and extracellular environments. It is a tri-peptide made up of cysteine, glycine and glutamine that can quickly halt oxidative stress cascades.

Glutathione exists in two states – reduced (GSH) and oxidised (GSSG). In its reduced state, glutathione works with the enzyme glutathione peroxidase to quench reactive oxygen species by donating electrons. It can do the same to recover oxidised vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10 and lipoic acid back to their active antioxidant forms.

After this kind of electron donation, glutathione becomes highly reactive, oxidised, and forms GSSG. Increased levels of GSSG:GSH ratio within cells is seen as an indictor of extreme oxidative stress. Luckily, GSSG can be regenerated back to active glutathione by the enzyme glutathione reductase (take note – we’ll mention this enzyme again later!).

Antioxidant functions of glutathione include:

  • Unique ability to stop oxidative damage in lipid and liquid environments (e.g. in cell membranes and within extracellular environments – everywhere in the body)
  • Detoxifying fat before it is released into the gallbladder
  • Neutralising toxic metabolic by-products
  • Helping to prevent drug resistance
  • Protecting DNA during its synthesis and repair. The level of GSH in our cells has been suggested as a predictor for our longevity!
  • Improving muscle recovery after exercise

We Recommend…

Core Med Science Liposomal Glutathione (500mg, 120mL)

Glutathione Antioxidant supplementGlutathione is notoriously difficult to absorb in supplement form. Digestive acids that degrade proteins and peptides are efficient at breaking apart the amino acids that form glutathione, dissolving the antioxidant into its separate parts. Liposomal formulas protect the glutathione from protein digestion and this supplement by Core Med Science has been clinically proven to increase glutathione levels in the blood, indicating that it is absorbed and delivered to the tissue intact.

Each 4g serve delivers a therapeutic dose of 500mg of Japan-sourced L-glutathione. While the taste isn’t fantastic (glutathione naturally smells of sulphur), it’s barely noticeable when added to juice.

#2 Curcumin

Turmeric is trendy, but the buzz is backed up by the research. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant pigment that gives turmeric its yellow color and potent anti-inflammatory actions. It works in fatty environments, including the brain, to reduce oxidative stress and restore cellular functioning by supporting the production of antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase.

Curcumin has been shown to:

  • Decrease oxidative stress throughout the body [13]
  • Increase healing by reducing oxidative stress within wounds [12]
  • Improve oxygen delivery and sports performance by protecting blood cells against oxidation [13]
  • Shut down the COX-2 pathway, with studies indicating that it can relieve pain as quickly and effectively as ibuprofen [11]
  • Reduce insulin resistance and attenuate the negative effects of obesity [13]

We recommend…

Smarter Nutrition Curcumin (200mg, 60 capsules)

curcuminSmart Curcumin supplements contain the strongest concentration of the bioactive parts of turmeric – curcumin standardized to 95% tetra-hydro-curcuminoids – combined with antioxidant rich black cumin seed oil, ginger and Astragalus extracts. This supplement is highly absorbable and bioavailable, and even comes with a money-back guarantee.

If you’re looking to really feel a difference after taking a fat-soluble antioxidant supplement, this is the curcumin for you.

#1 Vitamin C

The most underrated, abundant antioxidant of them all. Vitamin C lost its cool factor somewhere in the last decade and is sometimes dismissed as a weak treatment for the common cold.

Newsflash! Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that has huge roles in major metabolic processes.

In fact, vitamin C is the most abundant water-based antioxidant in the human body. It’s active in plasma, interstitial fluids and the liquid-y parts of cells. With this widespread activity, vitamin C is able to protect a large portion of our physiology from oxidative damage.

As well as directly quenching free radicals, vitamin C supports other antioxidants:

  • Regenerates vitamin E by reducing tocopherol radicals
  • Maintains glutathione (GSH) by supporting glutathione reductase

As an antioxidant, Vitamin C is essential for:

  • Wound Healing. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is utlised by the immune system to destroy any nasties that may have invaded wounds, to clear out neutrophils (front-line white blood cells) from the site, and to reduce inflammation so that wound closure can begin [1]. Vitamin C is also essential for the formation of collagen – the connective tissue that keep skin looking plump and young, and holds our internal organs in place.
  • Recovery. Vitamin C can improve surgery outcomes and decrease the length of hospital stays by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation [2][3].
  • Cancer Prevention. Vitamin C is a covert operator that acts as an antioxidant under most physiological conditions but can switch it up and work as a pro-oxidant in pathological conditions [4]. This means that in areas of intense free radical damage, it can both quench the free radicals to reduce inflammation and totally take out any cells that are going rogue (a la cancer-causing cells).
  • Pain management. By reducing oxidative stress, vitamin C quenches inflammation and can reduce the severity and duration of chronic and acute pain [14].

We Recommend…

LivOn Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C (1,000mg, 60 packets)

Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C

Liposomal vitamin C is a new delivery method that allows for higher dosages and faster cellular uptake. Normally only 500mg of a 1g dose of vitamin C is absorbed in the gut, but by emulsifying sodium ascorbate with a phospholipid and phosphatidylcholine suspension, LivOn supplements deliver high doses of vitamin C that are readily absorbed into cells.

This supplement is liquid, but be sure to dissolve it in small glass of water or orange juice to mask the flavour and get past the slimy texture.

Further Reading:

About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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