Oxidative stress has been linked to a variety of chronic health conditions, but is there a way you can naturally reduce it? Keep reading to learn about the role of antioxidants in oxidative stress. 

Lifestyle choices, mental health, physical activity levels, and genetics all play a role in your overall health. When things are balanced, your body works in harmony, but when there are imbalances, you are at risk of chronic disease, inflammation, and other health conditions. But what causes these imbalances, and is there anything you can do to restore balance? Keep reading to learn more about oxidative stress, the impact it has on your body, and how antioxidant-rich foods and supplements can fight these negative effects. 

What is oxidative stress?

By definition, oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body (2). This damage can wreak havoc on your body, lead to inflammation and contribute to several diseases including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer (1). Oxidative stress also plays a role in the aging process.

Several factors contribute to this, such as diet, lifestyle, UV light, air pollution, cigarette smoke, and radiation.

Health implications of oxidative stress

While oxidative stress can negatively impact your body, it’s not always harmful. For instance, exercise can induce oxidative stress, which can have beneficial, regulatory effects on the body. This is because physical activity causes temporary oxidative stress by producing free radicals; however, this helps regulate tissue growth and stimulate the production of antioxidants (2).

The problems arise when you experience prolonged oxidative stress, as this can impact the ability to recover from illness and infections. This is especially evident in people who have been hospitalized, as research suggests that elevated preoperative oxidative stress has a greater risk of post operative complications and can prolong the recovery period (2). Additionally, studies have shown that patients who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 have significantly higher levels of oxidative stress than age matched individuals who have not been hospitalized (3).

Long-term oxidative stress can also negatively impact your body’s cells, proteins, and DNA (all of which contribute to the aging process), and play a role in the development of chronic inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma (2).

If you want to restore balance in your body, contact us to see how we can help!

Antioxidants and oxidative stress

Emerging evidence suggests that antioxidants can inhibit the formation of free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. By definition, antioxidants are compounds that have the ability to give or share an electron without causing excess damage in order to neutralize the free radicals.

Your body naturally makes a few antioxidants, but the majority come from your diet. Here are some of the most common antioxidants, as well as subsequent dietary sources.

Glutathione. This is made up of three amino acids and is produced in the liver and nerve cells. It is a powerful antioxidant that can reverse cellular damage, maintain brain health, and reduce inflammation. Spinach, avocado, and asparagus are naturally high in glutathione, but regular exercise, healthy sleep habits, increasing vitamin C intake, and consuming sulfur rich foods are just a few other ways to support glutathione production (6).

Coenzyme Q10. This is stored in the mitochondria and is found in the highest concentrations in the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Production of CoQ10 tends to decrease with age, but thankfully, it is easily absorbed from food and supplements. Food sources include liver, fatty fish (such as trout and mackerel), spinach, broccoli, soybeans, lentils, and pistachios. In supplements, there are two forms, but it is recommended to use ubiquinol as it is the most easily absorbed (7).

Vitamin C. This has many roles within the body such as boosting immunity, increasing iron absorption, and neutralizing free radicals. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is used before others (like glutathione), which helps maintain the levels of these compounds so they are available when needed. Vitamin C is present in many different fruits and vegetables, and most people will get enough from a balanced diet. As a water soluble vitamin, any excess will be removed from the body, and low dose supplementation does not typically cause any side effects (5).

Vitamin E. This is a fat soluble vitamin that also has high antioxidant properties. There are multiple forms of vitamin E, but the one that has the highest bioavailability is alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E can be found in many nuts and seeds including almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts (5).

Resveratrol. This is a compound called a polyphenol, and along with being a strong antioxidant, it has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. Resveratrol is most abundant in the skin of grapes, but it is also found in blueberries and cranberries (8).

By including more antioxidant rich foods in your diet, you can help reduce oxidative stress and the risk of chronic health conditions.


There is a strong connection between oxidative stress and chronic health conditions, but antioxidants play a vital role in neutralizing free radicals and improving health. Eating a well balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources can greatly improve your antioxidant levels, but if you still have concerns about whether you are getting what you need, discuss supplementation with your healthcare provider.

For other health and wellness content, check out these other blogs:

7 Must-Try Leafy Greens that aren’t Spinach or Kale
Is Stress Ruining Your Health?
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Why Should You Work with a Functional Dietitian?


  1. Liguori, I., Russo, G., Curcio, F., Bulli, G., Aran, L., Della-Morte, D., Gargiulo, G., Testa, G., Cacciatore, F., Bonaduce, D., & Abete, P. (2018). Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases. Clinical interventions in aging, 13, 757–772. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S158513
  2. What is oxidative stress? Effects on the body and how to reduce. Medicalnewstoday.com. (2022). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324863#free-radicals.
  3. Tsuchiya, M., Shiomoto, K., Mizutani, K., Fujioka, K., Suehiro, K., & Yamada, T. et al. (2018). Reduction of oxidative stress a key for enhanced postoperative recovery with fewer complications in esophageal surgery patients. Medicine, 97(47), e12845. https://doi.org/10.1097/md.0000000000012845
  4. COVID-19 patients have increased oxidative stress, oxidant damage, and glutathione deficiency. Baylor College of Medicine. (2022). https://www.bcm.edu/news/covid-19-patients-have-increased-oxidative-stress-oxidant-damage-and-glutathione-deficiency.
  5. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy reviews, 4(8), 118–126. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902
  6. 10 Natural Ways to Increase Your Glutathione Levels. Healthline (2022). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-glutathione
  7. 9 Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Healthline. (2022). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coenzyme-q10
  8. Health Benefits of Resveratrol-And Should You Take It? Cleveland Clinic (2022). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/resveratrol-benefits/amp/