science

Medically Reviewed

Antioxidant Vitamins: What You Need to Know

Woman holding multi-colored vitamins in the left hand and an empty vitamin package in the right.

There are many ways to address long-term oxidative stress. Read on to learn what supplements can help.

Oxidative stress is a common problem, and certain vitamin supplements may be part of the solution.

What is oxidation

Oxidative stress is an immune response to external stressors, which may include trauma and illness. It occurs when there’s an imbalance between the production of free radicals (a harmful, reactive oxygen species) and antioxidant defenses. Short-term oxidative stress is neither good nor bad and can even be necessary for proper immune function. When experienced over the long term, though, oxidative stress can lead to other health problems. Some causes of long-term oxidative stress include poor diet and certain unhelpful lifestyle habits, including smoking and failing to get enough sleep and exercise. To offset the impact of free radicals and limit the potential harmful effects of oxidative stress, you can implement some healthy lifestyle adjustments. You can also up your intake of antioxidants, including by taking some of the supplements described below.

Vitamins and supplements that may help manage oxidation and free radicals

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is the term that describes a group of fat-soluble retinoids, including carotenoids. Vitamin A and carotenoids are well known for their antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is available in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, and in orange vegetables like carrots. It’s available in supplement form.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, a.k.a. ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that’s widely available in certain foods and available as a supplement. In addition to supporting immune function, vitamin C boasts powerful antioxidant qualities. Studies have shown that vitamin C can help neutralize harmful free radicals and prevent oxidative damage. Care/of offers a top-notch vitamin C supplement – dubbed “The Citrus Savior” – that’s easy to digest and formulated for absorption.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports immune health and boasts important antioxidant properties. One study found that those who took vitamin D supplements saw increases in glutathione levels compared to the placebo group; glutathione is a substance made from amino acids that happens to be one of the body’s strongest antioxidants. Other studies suggest that the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D supplementation are limited to those who are deficient in the vitamin. Still, this is significant, because vitamin D deficiency is regrettably common. Care/of’s vitamin D supplement – “The Sunny D3” – is easy to digest and helps regulate immune cells.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-based vitamin whose main role in your body is to scavenge free radicals and to manage reactive oxidative species production. This study found that subjects who took vitamin E supplements for 12 weeks saw increased antioxidant capacity, as well as heightened glutathione levels (glutathione being one of the body’s strongest antioxidants).

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is the name of a generic family of compounds with a common chemical structure. This study showed that vitamin K1 and MK-4 (a form of vitamin K2) supplementation can help manage free radical activity.

B Vitamins

Riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2) is a B vitamin that plays a role in recycling glutathione, an important antioxidant. Adequate riboflavin is necessary for the body to have adequate glutathione levels. Animal studies have also shown that vitamin B2 is necessary for adequate glutathione levels. Human studies are needed.

Curcumin

Curcumin is the primary active substance in turmeric, and studies have demonstrated its effectiveness at reducing oxidative stress. Curcumin has poor bioavailability on its own, but pairing a curcumin supplement with black pepper can help improve absorption. Care/of’s turmeric supplement – “The Golden Spice” – uses a dual extraction method of the whole turmeric root which is high quality, easily absorbed, and proven effective.

Omega-3 Fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are present in fish oil supplements, and they’re vitally important for your health. Studies show that fish oil supplements have the potential to scavenge free radicals. The two main forms of omega-3s you’ll find in fish oil supplements are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are converted by your body from ALA (alpha linolenic, an important fatty acid. Studies have shown that DHA, in particular, has antioxidant potential.

Ginger

Ginger root has a long history of being used in herbal medicine. It’s been shown to raise antioxidant enzymes, as well as glutathione levels. An animal study even compared ginger’s antioxidant effect to that of vitamin C, which is well known for its antioxidant properties.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in wine, grapes, apples, blueberries, plums, and peanuts. Among its many properties, its most prominent is its capacity to act as a potent antioxidant. One study examined the effects of 500 mg resveratrol supplementation on human subjects and found that the resveratrol group saw significant improvements in quality of life compared to the placebo group. If you’re using a blood thinner, you should talk to your doctor before using resveratrol.

Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae known for its powerful antioxidant properties. Animal studies have shown that it can strengthen the immune system and promote antioxidant activity. Studies of human subjects have found that it can have antioxidant benefits for older adults. This study of older Korean adults found that taking 8g of spirulina daily for four months increased antioxidant capacity compared to the placebo group. A common way of taking spirulina is to add spirulina powder to a smoothie or shake.

Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme, derived from pineapple, with strong antioxidant properties. This study shows that the core, peel, and stem of pineapple contain high levels of bromelain, and therefore also contain antioxidant properties. Pineapple is also rich in vitamin C, another potent antioxidant. Studies show that bromelain has medium antioxidant activity with several additional benefits..

Green Tea extract

Green tea has a long history of use in traditional medicine, and it happens to boast strong antioxidant properties. It contains EGCG, which has been shown to scavenge harmful free radicals. One study found that four cups of green tea per day for eight weeks improved markers that indicate oxidative stress. Of the available green teas, matcha tea has the highest antioxidant content. Care/of’s matcha collagen is made with premium Japanese matcha powder.

Garlic

Garlic is a popular food, and aged garlic extract has been shown to exhibit strong antioxidant properties. It scavenges free radicals and enhances cellular antioxidant enzymes. You can incorporate more garlic into your diet or supplement. Care/of has a garlic supplement: “The Vampire Slayer” that supports the immune system through antioxidant properties.

When to seek a healthcare professional for additional support

You should always talk to a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement. If you experience oxidative stress over a sustained period of time and you’re not showing signs of improvement, you’ll want to talk to a doctor who can come up with a treatment plan.

Final takeaways

Oxidative stress is not uncommon, but if it persists over the long term, it can lead to health issues. The supplements listed above can help address oxidative stress by scavenging harmful free radicals and introducing antioxidants into the body. These supplements will be even more effective if paired with healthy lifestyle adjustments, including quitting smoking and getting enough sleep and exercise. A diverse, nutrient-rich diet can also be a big help. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about how to treat your oxidative stress.

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