Food Sources of Glutathione

Glutathione benefits the body in numerous ways. This important nutrient primarily functions as an antioxidant, a detoxifying agent and a free radical scavenger, explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Glutathione primarily functions as an antioxidant, a detoxifying agent and a free radical scavenger Credit: serezniy/iStock/GettyImages

Comprised of the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine, glutathione is naturally present in cells throughout the body. However, its levels may decrease as a result of aging, stress and toxin exposure.

You can ensure your body produces enough glutathione by consuming dietary sources of glutathione-boosting foods. Some people choose to take a glutathione supplement, with a doctor's recommendation. Limiting stress and exposure to toxins can also help to protect glutathione levels.

Read more: Side Effects of Glutathione Supplements

Glutathione and Foods

Glutathione is made in the body's cells. In fact, it's one of the few antioxidants that your body makes on it its own, according to the Center for the Advancement of Cancer Education, aka BeatCancer.org.

Glutathione protects the health and longevity of every bodily cell, making it critical that the body has adequate levels. Without it, your body may not be able to ward off cellular damage caused by free radicals and peroxides.

The body can become deficient in glutathione due to external factors like stress and environmental toxins. Eating dietary sources of glutathione-boosting foods or taking a glutathione supplement can help to increase production.

These foods also will help to increase your body's ability to fight off infections, inflammation and diseases like cancer. Incorporate the following sulfur-rich foods in your diet to increase glutathione production:

  • Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Watercress
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Beef

Increasing your intake of vitamin C, whey protein, turmeric, milk thistle and foods rich in selenium will further help to boost glutathione production.

Glutathione Uses and Benefits

Glutathione benefits are far-reaching in terms of warding off many different diseases. It may help to prevent heart disease, dementia and cancer, says BeatCancer.org.

According to research published in Frontiers in Physiology in April 2014, there's also evidence linking oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammation in the brains of some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These individuals were shown to have abnormal levels of glutathione present in certain areas of the brain.

Of note is that many of the physiological abnormalities found in the brains of children with ASD are also shared by many diseases that have cognitive and behavioral symptoms, according to the Frontiers in Physiology article. Mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and inflammation have also been implicated in certain and psychiatric conditions and in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and other neurocognitive diseases.

Read more: 6 Anti-Inflammatory Recipes Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

Glutathione Benefits Fat Burning

Glutathione may even play a role in helping the body burn fat, according to April 2013 research conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine. Researchers found that when the body is deficient in glutathione, the body burns less fat.

Specifically, older people were found not to be able to make glutathione as well as younger people because they lacked cysteine and glycine — two key building-block amino acids that comprise glutathione.

When researchers provided additional amounts of these so-called "precursors" in participants' diets, the ability to make glutathione normalized. With the glutathione deficiency corrected, their fat oxidation also normalized. The older people were then able to go back to burning fat as well as younger people within 14 days.

Note that sources of cysteine and glycine include meat and meat products, dairy, eggs and vegetables, according to December 2018 research published in the journal Nutrients.

In addition to focusing on dietary sources of glutathione-boosting foods, getting adequate sleep will help to increase glutathione production, says BeatCancer.org. Work with your doctor to determine which foods are best for you and whether you need a glutathione supplement.

Read more: 19 Best Brain Superfoods

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