Antioxidant Vitamins for Your Immune System
Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay cell damage1. Our body cannot form antioxidants spontaneously. Instead, we must consume them in our diet. Nutrients that appear to have antioxidant properties include vitamins E, C and beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and mineral selenium.
Vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and the primary function of vitamin E is as an antioxidant; it donates an electron to free radicals, stabilizing them and preventing them from destabilizing other molecules. Vitamin E also protects LDL from being oxidized, therefore lowering the risk for heart disease2, 3. It is also enhances immune function by protecting white blood cells and other component of the immune system, thus helping the body to defend against illness and disease4.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and antioxidant; and it must be obtained from food or supplement. Just like vitamin E, it helps to protect LDL-cholesterol from oxidation and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C also enhances the absorption of iron. It is recommended that people with low iron stores consume vitamin C-rich foods along with iron sources to improve absorption.
Beta carotene is the pro-vitamin A. Pro-vitamins are the inactive forms of vitamins that the body cannot use until they are converted to their active form. Beta-carotene is a phytochemical classified as a carotenoid, one of a group of plant pigments that are the basis of the red, orange and deep yellow colors of fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is recognized to have antioxidant properties5. It helps to protect skin from the damage caused by UV rays, protect the eyes and prevent age-related vision impairment and enhance the immune system and boost the body’s ability to fight illness and disease.
Selenium is a trace mineral. It works together with vitamin E to prevent oxidative damage to lipids and decrease damage to cell membranes. Selenium is needed for the production of thyroxine; thus it involved in the maintenance of basal metabolism and body temperature.
- Antioxidants. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/antioxidants.html (Retrieved on 3rd February 2017).
- Yeomans, V. C., J. Linseisen., G. Wolfram. 2005. Interactive effects of polyphenols, tocopherol, and ascorbic acid on the Cu2+- mediated oxidative modification of human low density lipoproteins. Eur. J. Nutr. 2015.
- Winklhofer-Roob., et al. 2004. Effects of vitamin E depletion/ repletion on biomarkers of oxidative stress in healthy aging. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1031:361-264.
- Thompson J. L., Manore M. M., Vaughan L. A.,The Science of Nutrition Second Edition.
- Burri, B. J. 1997. Beta carotene and human health: A review of current research. Nutr Res. 17:547-580