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Antioxidants have gotten a lot of buzz as “the restorers of youth,” but they do so much more than just reduce wrinkles.

Antioxidants defend your body against free radicals – unstable molecules looking for a spare electron. In their quest to form stable bonds, they wind up damaging healthy cells. While free radicals are a byproduct of normal cellular function, they also come from smoking, drugs (both medications and illegal drugs), pesticides, hyper-processed food products, chemicals and other toxins.

If free radicals have free reign, the result is oxidative stress, premature aging and a host of related health problems. Antioxidants balance against that.

Consider glutathione, which Dr. Mark Hyman refers to as “the mother of all antioxidants.” Commonly used to help the body detoxify after the removal of mercury amalgam fillings, glutathione – or GSH, for short – is a powerhouse in helping the body protect itself against…well, it can seem like practically everything:

treating cataracts and glaucoma, preventing aging, treating or preventing alcoholism, asthma, cancer, heart disease (atherosclerosis and high cholesterol), hepatitis, liver disease, diseases that weaken the body’s defense system (including AIDS and chronic fatigue syndrome), memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. Glutathione is also used for maintaining the body’s defense system (immune system) and fighting metal and drug poisoning.

Glutathione may increase your energy levels, reduce muscle discomfort, and strengthen your immune system. It can help keep your skin healthy and your mind sharp.

glutathione benefits

And here’s the great thing: Your body makes GSH for itself.

The secret of its power is the sulfur (SH) chemical groups it contains. Sulfur is a sticky, smelly molecule. It acts like fly paper and all the bad things in the body stick onto it, including free radicals and toxins like mercury and other heavy metals.

Normally glutathione is recycled in the body — except when the toxic load becomes too great. And that explains why we are in such trouble …

And why most of us can benefit from increasing our glutathione levels. Diet is one way to do it. Foods especially high in GSH include asparagus, onion, garlic and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage. Nutrients or supplements that support the body’s production or use of GSH can also be helpful – things like selenium, silymarin (milk thistle) and bioactive whey protein.

Regular exercise is another fantastic way to boost GSH levels. Even 30 minutes of walking a day can be helpful. Add some strength training a few times a week – even better!

Supplemental forms of GSH are also available. Liposomal GSH is preferred – a form that is not broken down through digestion but absorbed by your cells.

Finally, increasing your overall antioxidant levels is good idea. Your body can’t do everything it needs to with only glutathione, so make sure you are getting enough of other antioxidants, as well.

As ever, a varied diet rich in fresh produce is going to be your best bet. While various manufacturers have tried to use antioxidants to put health halos on otherwise nutrient-empty products – remember Diet Coke Plus or 7-Up with antioxidants or Splenda Essentials? – nutritionally, whole or minimally processed foods can’t be beat.

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