Glutathione Might Be The Best Anti-Aging Compound Around. Here's How To Eat It Daily
Though the word may look like an element you had to memorize in 11th-grade chemistry, glutathione is actually an antioxidant found in both animal and plant cells that is made up of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Pronounced "gloo-tuh-thahy-ohn," this compound is essential for protecting our cells1 from free radicals that can attack molecules like lipids and proteins that the body needs. Free radicals are created1 by natural processes in the body in addition to outside pollutants, so our cells are always in need of antioxidants like glutathione to maintain optimal health. Potential benefits of antioxidants like glutathione include a decrease in the risk of developing chronic diseases2, reduced signs of aging3, and improved immune system function4.
What are the benefits of glutathione?
Glutathione is naturally produced by the liver and works in that organ to combat toxins and turn them into bile, which is essential for fat digestion in the body. Glutathione also plays a key role in red and white blood cell formation (red blood cells are essential for carrying oxygen to tissues in the body, while white blood cells are part of the body’s immune system, so they fight off diseases in the body). The medical community continues to study the effects of glutathione on numerous diseases and has found5 that this antioxidant has effectively been used to strengthen cells after chemotherapy.
Because this compound has the potential to help you get sick less often (and look good while doing it!), you might be searching for ways to get more glutathione in your diet. Unfortunately, the wellness industry is often consumed with quick fixes instead of the admittedly less sexy advice of balanced eating. I say this because, though glutathione is an important antioxidant, I would recommend enjoying foods that are known to increase glutathione production in the body instead of reaching for a supplement.
What foods have glutathione?
Thankfully, you won’t need to go on a specialized diet or order exotic foods to get your fill. Those amino acids that glutathione is made of (cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine) can be found in the fruits, vegetables, and grains you probably eat frequently. Foods with large amounts of these glutathione building blocks include asparagus, cereal grains like wheat and barley, peppers, onions, broccoli, apples, oranges, bananas, and more. In addition to foods with glutathione building blocks, you can also increase the glutathione levels in your body by consuming foods that are high in selenium and alpha-lipoic acid. Both selenium and alpha-lipoic acid help the body produce glutathione, so they’re important to consume. Tuna, beef, cheese, and eggs are high in selenium, but if you follow a vegan diet you can get your fill of alpha-lipoic acid in foods like Brussels sprouts, spinach, tomatoes, and peas.
In addition, I also recommend incorporating almonds into your diet to take advantage of the benefits of glutathione. Many of the nutrients within almonds (like magnesium and vitamin E) are actually cofactors to glutathione. These cofactors are "helper molecules" that glutathione needs in order to carry out all the important functions in your body. Recipes like my almond and rice snack bars and riced broccoli salad are great examples of foods that incorporate those glutathione building blocks and cofactors like almonds.
So go on—enjoy that Brussels sprouts and almonds recipe you’ve been meaning to meal prep and know that you’re getting your fill of this important antioxidant. No supplements or special diets required.
Want to know more? Read more about glutathione here.
Abby Langer, R.D. is a consulting dietitian and owner of the Toronto-based Abby Langer Nutrition. Educated at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Loyola University in Chicago, Abby has worked extensively both in clinical nutrition, and nutrition media and consulting. She has won awards for her teaching and has served for three years on her regulatory college’s council. Abby is a contributor to Self magazine and the Huffington Post, and has been featured in radio, print, and television media in both the United States and Canada. She develops recipes and content for brands and for her own blog, www.abbylangernutrition.com.