Author: Andrea Mather
Source: All About Antioxidants
Rejuvenate Your Immune System with Antioxidant Nutrients
No doubt you’ve heard that antioxidants are essential to good health. But did you know that many doctors and nutritionists consider them the most important supplements you can take? In light of that, it’s worth finding out a bit more about what they do and which ones you should be taking. To get the lowdown, as well as a recommendation for a simple supplement program, we turned to Richard Firshein, D.O., a New York City-based osteopath, author of The Nutraceutical Revolution (Riverhead Books, 1998).
Taking supplements in your 20s and 30s is a good idea, but by your 40s and 50s it becomes vital. By then, you’ve already sustained some free radical damage from the cumulative effects of poor diet, excess stress, sun damage and hormonal shifts.
Q: What exactly are antioxidants and why are they so important?
A: Basically, antioxidants are nutrients that prevent or reduce the production of free radicals, those unstable molecules that can attack healthy cells and lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, aging processes and complications with diabetes. The fundamental antioxidants I recommend patients supplement with are A, C, E, Selenium, and Zinc. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables; vitamin E in grains; and vitamin A in yellow vegetables like squash. Many nuts and seeds contain the minerals selenium and zinc.
Q: Is it true that antioxidants tend to work with one another? If so, which should be taken together?
A: Yes, antioxidants do work synergistically with one another, meaning one supports the action of another. For instance, when vitamin E has mopped up as many free radicals as it can hold, vitamin C removes them from vitamin E, freeing E up to continue its work. Because of these relationships, you should take C, E, and selenium (which boosts E’s effectiveness) together. Zinc and vitamins C and E also help increase the absorption of vitamin A.
Getting adequate amounts of each nutrient is also important because different antioxidants help support different areas of the body. For example, vitamin E is fat-soluble, meaning it’s stored in the lipid, or fat-containing, membranes around cells. E helps prevent cardiovascular disease by insulating cells and protecting them from free radicals. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is water-soluble (meaning it is not stored in the body but rather flushed from the system), so it works best in the liquid portion of cells or in the bloodstream. It aids in respiration, serving as the first line of defense against pollution and helping to ease colds as well as chronic respiratory conditions like asthma. Also water-soluble, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) provides your skin with protection from the sun’s damaging rays. The mineral selenium supports liver function while zinc protects the immune system and, in men, the prostate.