The truth is not all vitamins have antioxidant properties. In this article, we will show you three known antioxidant vitamins and one that is potentially a free-radical weapon.
But before that, let us learn more about antioxidants and free radicals.
What Are Antioxidants and Free Radicals?
Every day, our cells are bombarded by threats, and one of them is free radicals. Free radicals are atom groups with an unpaired number of electrons that react with important cellular components such as DNA and damage them.
These reactive and destructive free radicals can hasten the aging process, and even cause diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
So, what causes free radicals? Natural or man-made elements.
They can be from UV rays, tanning beds, tobacco, alcohol, pollution, substances from processed food, and even from natural metabolic processes in your body.
While some of these factors can’t be avoided, it is best to avoid those that can be.
And thankfully, just as your body can sometimes produce free radicals, so are antioxidants that help arrest the destruction that free radicals havoc in your body.
Plus, certain vitamins will help you get more of these antioxidants into your system.
Which Vitamin Acts as an Antioxidant?
Antioxidants mainly come from the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Fruits and vegetables that are very colorful such as watermelon and carrots contain the most antioxidants.
The vitamins that these foods contain are the key though. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Beta-carotene (carotenoids) are three of the most common antioxidants.
Certain vitamins can help you counter the free radicals. These are:
Beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) is a fat-soluble vitamin that is converted into retinol (preformed vitamin A) in the body.
It helps stop cells from becoming cancerous growths by preventing oxidative DNA damage. It also triggers glutathione production in the cells which helps in increasing antioxidant activity.
Vitamin A reduces damage to fatty acids in your eyes by preventing the oxidation of free radicals. So, they are great for preventing cataract formation and macular degeneration.
Foods rich in pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene are yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables. Among them are:
You can also get them from leafy greens such as :
Beta-carotene becomes easier to absorb when these fruits and veggies are cooked or pureed.
For pre-formed vitamin A or retinol, they are abundant in:
- cod liver oil
- whole milk
There are no set requirements for vitamin A.
If you are thinking of taking supplements; however, consult with a doctor. Too much beta-carotene can cause carotenoderma or yellowing of the skin.
Meanwhile, an excess of retinol can cause hypervitaminosis A which is characterized by bone and joint pain, weight loss, and liver damage, among others.
It also appears that smoking and beta-carotene are at odds with each other. So, smokers should avoid supplementing with vitamin A. Or better yet, stop smoking since that contributes to more free radicals.
This water-soluble vitamin is the primary antioxidant vitamin in your blood and tissues. It also protects fats, proteins, and DNA from free radicals caused by environmental toxins, regular metabolism, and smoking.
The versatile vitamin C helps lower risks for a wide range of diseases, including stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
It also slows the development of the pancreas, liver, prostate, and colon cancer.
- bell pepper
- strawberries and other berries
All of these are good sources of Vitamin C.
This vitamin is vital in preventing fatigue. Historically, it was often used to treat scurvy.
It is important to keep in mind that our bodies are not capable of producing Vitamin C on their own. This additional antioxidant can and will make a difference in fighting off oxidants.
Just like most antioxidants though, Vitamin C is also involved in other functions of the body. Vitamin C not only fights off oxidants, but it helps in healing wounds as well.
Vitamin C Supplements
Supplements containing Vitamin C can be found in health shops and online. For example:
- Vitamin C 1000mg (250 Capsules) – Non-GMO Vitamin C Supplements with Citrus Bioflavonoids & Rose Hips for Immune Support & Antioxidant Protection
- Healthy Way Liposomal Vitamin C – 1200mg Supplement – 180 Capsules – High Absorption Vitamin C Ascorbic Acid Pills – Liposome Encapsulated
- Align Organics Liposomal Vitamin C Dietary Supplement 1400mg
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 60mg. While it is tempting to think that more is good with this versatile vitamin antioxidant, it is not. Going over 2000mg may cause adverse side effects.
This vitamin is fat-soluble. And being fat-soluble, it can penetrate your cell membranes that are mostly composed of fatty acids and other fats.
When it does, it puts a stop to a domino effect of destructive oxidation reactions. Additionally, vitamin E works great against cholesterol, a kind of lipid.
By helping prevent the oxidation of harmful LDL cholesterol ( Low-density lipoprotein) in your blood vessels, it also stops plaque formation which can cause heart disease and atherosclerosis.
One major difference between Vitamin E and Vitamin C is that Vitamin E is produced by our bodies and we tend to have enough Vitamin E in our bodies.
Since this vitamin is natural, it is also responsible for many other functions other than being an antioxidant. It often is associated with anti-aging effects and protecting the skin.
Vitamin E can also improve your memory, vision, and physical strength.
However, it is important to note that once a molecule of vitamin E neutralizes a free radical, it loses its ability to be an antioxidant.
Thus, it needs the presence of vitamin C for it to regain its antioxidant function.
Vitamin E is found in high-fat foods such as:
- vegetable oils
- olive oil
- fish oil
- wheat grain
Green leafy veggies are also great sources.
Increase your intake of vitamin E in proportion to your dietary fat intake even if you are relying on healthy fats.
Vitamin E Supplements
- Kirkland Signature Vitamin E
- Vitamin E by Sundown, For Immune Support and Antioxidant Support, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, 100 Softgels
- Vitamin E Capsules 1000 IU 200 Softgels Non-GMO, Gluten Free by Horbaach
Recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is 15 IU/day for men and 12 IU/day for women. The best kind of vitamin E antioxidant is alpha-tocopherol.
A lesser-known antioxidant is Vitamin D. Celebrated for its role in bone development and boosting the immune system, this vitamin also turns out to be an antioxidant according to recent studies.
A team of researchers from the New Jersey Medical School and New York Medical College found that vitamin D reduces signs of free radical damage.
Another study conducted on mice showed the possibility of vitamin D’s capability to protect liver cells in humans.
Separate researches also showed how breast and colorectal cancer might also have links to low vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D, which is also called the “sunshine vitamin,” can be taken from adequate sun exposure. It can also be sourced from:
- cod liver oil
- irradiated mushrooms
- egg yolks
- red herring
- other fatty fish
Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, but you will find processed yogurt, orange juice, and breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.
Unlike the others, beta-carotene is a pigment. Once consumed, our bodies proceed to convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Carotenoids represent the group that beta-carotene resides in.
As you may have guessed, the vegetable that corresponds to this vitamin is the carrot.
Broccoli, corn, and watermelon also contain carotenoids that make them antioxidants. However, watermelon contains a different type of carotenoid called lycopene.
Lycopene does not contain Vitamin A, but it is an antioxidant. Despite being found in watermelon, Lycopene is also found in many other fruits and vegetables including tomatoes.
In fact, Lycopene is responsible for the red color that tomatoes have. For this reason, tomatoes are a good source of antioxidants as it contains not only Lycopene but Vitamin C as well.
Benefits of antioxidants
As discussed before, antioxidants are essential for stopping oxidants and free radicals. This, in turn, helps in preventing heart disease and certain cancers.
Since our bodies produce antioxidants, it should not come as a surprise that antioxidants strengthen our immune systems.
An improved immune system means an increase in life span. Living longer is always a good thing, but antioxidants can also make your skin healthier and prevent vision issues down the road.
With the mass amount of oxidants being produced every day, it’s hard for our bodies to keep up. Knowing what vitamins are antioxidants allows us to stay healthy, live longer, and look good while doing it.
Oxidants are good. They help defend the body against viruses and other harmful substances. However, just like anything in life, too much of something can be bad.
The same goes for oxidants. That’s where antioxidants come in. Though our body creates oxidants, they can also enter from less desirable areas of life such as polluted air, cigarette smoke, and alcohol.
Antioxidants are needed when our bodies contain an excessive amount of oxidants. Antioxidants protect our cells.
The most common vitamins that are antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene (or vitamin A). These vitamins come from fruits and vegetables such as berries, carrots, and watermelon.
It is important to know what vitamins are antioxidants because oxidants can create life-threatening health issues such as heart disease and cancer.
So, we hope that answers your question of which vitamin acts as an antioxidant. Basically, you can get them in your food or by taking supplements.
So, eat a variety of fresh fruits, veggies, dairy products, and lean meats.
And get some sunshine!