Glutathione is referred to as the body's master antioxidant. Glutathione (GSH) is found in every cell of the human body and contains three amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamate built from the elements of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur linked together. The liver contains the highest concentration of glutathione, which helps the body detox unwanted waste. In fact, the liver produces GSH naturally.
Glutathione (GSH) is essential to the body's natural defense system. Glutathione decreases with age as well as viruses, bacteria, radiation, specific medications and heavy metal toxicity reduces glutathione. Long term reduction of GSH leads to a lower immune function and reduces the liver's ability to detoxify the body. Glutathione's role is to counteract free radicals and oxidative stress which leads to the aging, damage to the DNA which leads to disease. Chronic inflammation can contribute to oxidative stress and deplete glutathione supply (1.).
Luckily, there are foods grown from nature that fuels us with glutathione naturally. The best part is that some of these "super" foods are packed with so many nutrients they are considered some of the best foods in the world not only to aide in a healthy lifestyle, but to prevent cancer and other diseases.
The absorption rate of glutathione in the digestive tract varies for each food, as the digestive tract needs to break down the food into amino acids; however, consuming higher rates of produce and dark leafy greens have been linked to an overall healthy lifestyle because of GSH and other vitamins and nutrients that are in the foods. Processing and cooking vegetables can reduce GSH levels, but this should not stop anyone from consuming these foods. Those who are desperate to increase levels can find sublingual or supplements to help as the digestive rate differs.
Balance is required - not an excess! EVERYTHING ROOTS TO HARMONY. With each section I have linked recipes to support consuming more glutathione-based foods. You can also visit the Mind Body Soul Food Recipe index for more whole-food based recipes.
Cruciferous Vegetables - Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Bok Choy, Broccoli Sprouts, Brussel Sprouts
Well isn't that a long list? Cruciferous vegetables contain a compound named, sulforaphane, which are found in cruciferous vegetables and studies have shown sulforaphane increases and restores blood and cellular glutathione levels (2, 3).
Allium - Garlic, Onion, Shallots
Some medical doctors claim that sulfur-rich foods like Allium vegetables are rich in sulfer-containing compounds that increases GSH production. Sulfur is a chemical element found in many amino acids, which includes those needed to increase and synthesize GSH. Sulfur is found naturally in many plant and protein foods.
Cruciferous vegetables are also named sulfur-rich foods. Asparagus is an excellent sulfur-rich food.
Herbs - Rosemary + Turmeric
The 2019 A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support (4) states, "While there is a lack in human clinical trial data, there are several animal studies which would indicate that certain herbs and roots, such as rosemary [144,145,146], turmeric/curcumin , milk thistle , and Gingko biloba , may influence glutathione levels. Rosemary extract in the diet of female rats at concentrations of 0.25% to 1.0% by weight resulted in a 3.5- to 4.5-fold increase in hepatic GST. An increase was seen when injected intraperitoneally but to a lesser extent . In an animal study, a turmeric extract and curcumin were shown to increase hepatic glutathione content ."
Vitamin C Foods - Citrus Fruits, Melons, Berries, Peppers, Broccoli, Potatoes, Broccoli Microgreens
One of the biggest scams during COVID was that natural health advocates were quacks for telling people with COVID to increase Vitamin C levels. Although it was peer-reviewed in Asia, the American health system saw Vitamin C as a threat, which is the very basic vitamin to help colds.
Vitamin C is a power antioxidant and increases GSH within red and white blood cells. Some research has shown that Vitamin C attacks free radical first, thereby preserving GSH. Vitamin C helps reprocess glutathione by converting oxidized glutathione back to its active form (5). In the study noted below, adults took 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C daily for 13 weeks, leading to an 18% increase of glutathione in white blood cells (5).
Microgreens are known for its powerful nutrient density; however, many claim broccoli micro greens are the best of all, packed with Vitamin A,B, C, E, K.
Vitamin C is often found in many freshly-made juices. "For those for whom eating fruits and vegetables is challenging, drinking juice derived from these foods may provide another healthful option, although some health professionals might be concerned with their simple sugar content. Generally, clinical studies would suggest that drinking fruit and/or vegetable juices confer health benefits, such as improving antioxidant status [136,137,138,139]. (4)."
Eating a glutathione-supported diet could involve the inclusion of these foods daily, especially the green foods, asparagus, avocado, cucumber, green beans, and spinach (4).
Protein-rich foods have known to also be helpful with GSH levels. The three amino acids associated with GSH are not considered essential because the the body naturally produces it. However, cysteine and glycine are VERY necessary to consume especially when the body is over-stressed, injured or ill because the body because it needs more of these amino acids to fight off toxins or heal/repair from injury.
Other research has shown the the reduction of alcohol, getting enough sleep, and increasing physical activity helps glutathione levels. Glutathione depletion occurs from many factors, such as aging, a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Whole grains have all three amino acids and plant-based sources like sunflower seeds and lentils (cysteine), tempeh and organic tofu (glycine) and Kombu (glutamic acid) (6). Walnuts have been noted to have higher amounts of GSH.
Glutathione as well as the other nutrients and vitamins in all of these foods is another reason to switch to a healthier diet because of its immune function boosting capabilities.
Elizabeth Rae Kovar M.A. is Author of her memoir, Finding Om and is a Fitness Trainer, Yogi, Reiki Master, Presenter and Lover of Life. To view her portfolio please visit www.elizabethkovar.com