Even the best dietary supplements and vitamin products cannot replace what we get from food

Food As Medicine: Vitamins, Supplements & Other Dietary Products


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Those of us who believe a long life is related to a good diet have something to celebrate this year. In 1912 the term vitamin was first used to describe the compounds in food necessary to prevent nutritional deficiencies.  Now our use of the word vitamin, and the supplements and dietary products they’re found in, is 100 years old!

A Brief History of Food

Before the isolation of the first vitamin and recognition of its importance to health, all people had to worry about when it came to food was getting enough to eat to stay alive. Food choice was based solely on availability. We ate what we could hunt, catch or gather, and when the “local” food supply diminished, we moved on to find food in other places.

Eventually, the ability to grow plants and raise animals made it possible to stay in one place a bit longer, but did not insure there would always be enough food to go around. Unpredictable changes in the weather and other environmental conditions made a feast or famine existence a way of life for most of the world right into the 20th Century.

Advances in agricultural practices in the mid-1900s resulted in bigger crop yields while improvements in storage and distribution allowed more food to reach more people. Finally, there was enough food to allow the nutritional quality to become a point of distinction when making food decisions.

Is the Food Supply Getting Better or Worse?

Many people today think our food is not as good as it used to be. There is no doubt in my mind that what I eat now is quite different from what I ate in my childhood, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the goodness of the food.

An increase in the variety and quantity of food available explains, in part, why what we eat has changed over time. Another reason is the increased information we have about food composition and our nutritional needs. It certainly has become easier to question the quality of our food since we started seeing Nutrition Facts on labels. They weren’t always there.

But I don’t blame the food industry for making food more appealing, convenient, and inexpensive. I also don’t blame them for using all of the technology at their disposal to develop new products and market them so people will want to buy them. That’s their job.

It’s my job to decide what I want to eat. At the end of the day, the quality of my food choices rests entirely with me.

That is why when people ask me what are the best dietary supplements, I always say choose your food wisely. Thirteen unique vitamins have been identified in the last 100 years. The most recent discovery was in 1941 for Folic Acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9. Other possible vitamins to be added to the list are currently under review.

The only way to be sure you are ingesting everything you need for optimal health is to consume a varied diet, because that is where the nutrients are. Vitamins and other dietary products can supplement what you eat, but cannot be relied on to replace food.


Learn how fat soluble nutrients can be absorbed when using fat free dressing

Do Fat Free Dressings Block Nutrients in Salad?

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.


Hold the trash! It’s not time to discard all those bottles of fat free dressing you have stored on your refrigerator door just yet.

Yes, a study done at Purdue University did make quite a splash this week with its report you absorb more of the nutrients in your salad if your dressing contains fat, but it didn’t tell the whole story. What we really got was another example of the kind of research that proves why you shouldn’t change your diet based on a single study.

What the Salad Dressing Study Did Find

The researchers wanted to see what type of fat and how much of it produced the biggest change in blood levels of certain fat-soluble phytonutrients. Their study included 29 healthy subjects who had to eat 9 salads containing baby spinach leaves, chopped tomato, and shredded carrots, each with a different type and amount of dressing.

The dressings were made with 3 types of fat: canola oil for its monounsaturated fat, corn oil for its polyunsaturated fat, and butter for its saturated fat. The amount of dressing on each salad provided either 3 grams of fat, 6 grams, or 20 grams. This made a total of nine different salad samples.

After the subjects ate each salad, their blood was tested to measure their absorption of carotenoids. Carotenoids are compounds with names like lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin that are found in plants and have numerous health benefits. Because carotenoids are fat soluble, they are better absorbed when consumed and digested with fat.

As expected, higher levels of carotenoids were found in the subjects’ blood after eating salads with the higher amounts of fat. This held true for all three types of fat. The best absorption of carotenoids for the least amount of fat was seen with the canola oil, or monounsaturated fat.

What the Study Did Not Find

The study did not tell us what would happen if you ate other foods containing some fat along with those salads or put some fat-containing foods on them. Good nutrition science says you can use a fat free dressing and still absorb the carotenoids in your salad as long as another source of fat is consumed around the same time.

I have been advising clients for decades that a salad is not a meal unless you add some protein and a greater variety of vegetables than were included in this study. I also know that anyone who tries to get away with eating a plain salad and fat free dressing for a meal will not last long. Fortunately (in this case), the snack they reach for shortly afterwards will probably be high in fat.

So if you like to toss your salads with olives, nuts, avocado or cheese; top them with egg, chicken, salmon, tuna, falafel, steak or bacon; or follow them with lasagna, beef bourguignon or chicken tikka masala, go ahead and use that fat free dressing. Your carotenoid levels will be fine.

 How many different dressings to have in your house?

Vegetables in jars and cans from your pantry shelf add nutritional value to salad when fresh produce is not available

9 Nutritious Salad Toppers (From Your Pantry Shelf)

Vegetables in jars and cans add nutritional value to salad when fresh produce is not available

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you love making salad from the wide assortment of fresh garden vegetables available in the summer months, your wait is almost over. But while you wait, there are many ways to add variety to your plated greens. Just turn to the jars and cans of pickled and marinated vegetables on your pantry shelf. They can offer an endless array of tastes, textures, nutrients and eye-appeal to your meals until that first rosey radish is plucked from the ground.


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Artichoke Hearts

Sold marinated or packed in water, both easily drained to lower the sodium content

Calories: 25 in 3 water-packed hearts or 25 per heart packed in oil and drained

Key Vitamins: C, folate

Key Minerals: magnesium, copper, potassium

Other Nutrients: cyanin and silymarin which aid liver function

Reese Specialty Foods


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Beets

Sold whole, quartered or sliced with a no added salt option.

Calories: 35 per half cup sliced, 22 whole per 2 inch diameter

Key Vitamins: folate, C

Key Mineral: manganese, potassium, magnesium

Other Nutrients: betacyanin, which may protect against colon cancer

Food in Jars


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Baby Corn

Sold whole and in pieces, packed in water

Calories: 6 per ear, 65 per ½ cup pieces

Key Vitamins: folate, B6, C

Key Mineral: potassium, magnesium, iron

Other Nutrients: fiber, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are good for eye health

Roland Food Company Baby Corn


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Asparagus

Sold whole and in pieces, in white or green

Calories: 3 per spear, 20 per half cup pieces drained

Key Vitamins: A, C, K, folate

Key Mineral: copper, manganese, selenium

Other Nutrients: carotenes and cryto-xanthins, which have anti-oxidant properties

Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Better Salad: Olives

Sold in different sizes ripe, cured, stuffed, spiced, and sliced; in single or mixed varieties; pitted or not

Calories: 5 each for medium size, 75 per ½ cup sliced or chopped

Key Vitamins: E, A

Key Mineral: calcium, iron, zinc

Other Nutrients: oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, needed to form cell membranes

Lindsay Olives


 9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Mushrooms

Sold whole and in pieces; pickled, marinated or in water

Calories: 3 per whole mushroom, 22 per ½ cup pieces

Key Vitamins: D and B-complex vitamins riboflavin, niacin, pantothentic acid

Key Mineral: copper, selenium, potassium

Key Phytonutrients: ergothioneine, an antioxidant which protects the cells

The Mushroom Council


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Peppers

Sold grilled and roasted; whole, sliced, strips and diced; red, green, yellow and orange

Calories: 40 calories per whole bell pepper,

Key Vitamins: A, C, folate

Key Mineral: potassium, iron, magnesium

Other Nutrients: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene, which can be converted into vitamin A

B&G Peppers


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Red or yellow; marinated or in water; whole, halved or sliced; plain or seasoned

Calories: 6 per whole piece in oil and drained; 115 per half cup sliced in oil and drained

Key Vitamins: A, C, B-complex riboflavin, niacin, B6

Key Mineral: potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium

Other Nutrients: lycopene, associated with lower risks of cancer and heart disease

Tomato Products Wellness Council


9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Onions

Sold in water, vinegar or “cocktail” style brine

Calories: 5 each small whole (size of grape), 35 per ½ cup

Key Vitamins: C, B6, folate

Key Minerals: potassium, phosphorus, calcium

Other Nutrients: quercetin, helps eliminate free radicals

The National Onion Association

What you eat affects how you thinks and feel

Feeding the Aging Mind: What Foods Keep Your Mind Sharp?


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Do you fear living with an aging mind more than an aging body? I do, so I’m always ready to learn more about ways to keep my mind sharp right up until my body wears out. The good news is the right diet can help keep both shape.

What Happens to as Our Brain’s Age?

The brain’s billions of neurons “talk” to one another through neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters send signals along the pathways in our brain and central nervous system. Neurons that can’t get their messages through the pathways are like cell phones that can’t get their signals through to other cell phones.

This inability of neurons to communicate effectively is responsible for most of the loss of mental function as we age.

Although people naturally lose brain cells throughout their lives, the process does not necessarily accelerate with aging. Chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes do, however, accelerate it.

The big concern today is that we are living longer, so want those neurons to last longer. Some groundbreaking research offers hope. While it was long-believed that the central nervous system, which includes the brain, was not capable of regenerating itself, studies have found the brain is capable of making new neurons well into old age, but at a slower rate.

It’s More Than Antioxidants

The antioxidants in foods have been credited with helping to save our aging brains. I’m sure you’ve seen those lists of the latest and greatest “superfoods” ranked for their antioxidant capacity. But what those lists don’t reveal is that the brain doesn’t get charged up by just one or two antioxidants found in blueberries or kale, it wants whole foods.

That is why our total diet is so important. There are compounds in the foods we eat that nutrition scientists have not yet measured and named. But it is clear those compounds have benefits beyond what we get from the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that have been identified. So our best bet for optimal nutrition is to eat a wide variety of minimally processed foods.

Foods That Feed the Aging Mind

Fruits & Vegetables: The more the better when it comes to raising the antioxidant levels of the blood. Keep fresh, frozen, dried, canned and 100% juice on hand to make it easier to have some at every meal and snack.

Beans & Lentils: They can take the place of meat at any meal or be used as a side dish with it. The big assortment of canned beans offers a way to have a different bean every day for weeks.

Nuts: Whether you like walnuts, almonds, pistachios or a mixed assortment is fine. Try using them as a crunchy topping on hot and cold cereals, salads, yogurt, and vegetables.

Fish: Keep the cost down with canned tuna, salmon and sardines and the right servings size. Just two 3-ounce servings a week are recommended.

Brewed tea: Green, black, white and oolong teas all come from the same plant and are rich in powerful antioxidants. Brewing your own from teabags or leaves you get the most benefit.

A lack of healthy red blood cells produces anemia and may increase the risk of dying after a stroke

Anemia Causes Higher Risk of Death After Stroke


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the world. It develops when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to your cells. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type, but there are many others, each with its own cause and treatment. New research now suggests that anemia may increase your risk of death following a stroke.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association meeting in February. Researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine reviewed the medical records of 3,750 men who had suffered an ischemic stroke and were treated in one of 131 Veterans Administration Hospitals in 2007.

When they compared survival rates of those with anemia to non-anemic patients they found severe anemia increased the risk of dying 3.5 times while the patient was still in the hospital and 2.5 times within the first year following the stroke. Those with moderate anemia had twice the risk of dying within six months to a year after their stroke and for those with mild anemia the risk was 1.5 times higher than those without anemia.

During an ischemic stroke a blood vessel to the brain is blocked or a blood clot occurs within the brain. The researchers believe anemia restricts the body’s natural response to raise the blood pressure after a stroke in order to force more blood to the brain. Anemia also decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the brain after a stroke when it is most needed.

The report concluded that stroke survivors with anemia have an increased risk of dying within the first year and should be closely monitored.

The researchers stated further studies are needed to see if the results are the same for women and blacks, who were not included in their population. They also said they would like to determine what type of anemia patients who suffer strokes have and whether a blood transfusion might prevent them from dying.

Are you ready to be tested to see if you have anemia?

Potatoes provide nutritional and culinary benefits worth celebrating all year round

It’s Time to Celebrate Potatoes


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Potato chips are part of most celebrations in the U.S., but today is the day they are celebrated. Yes, March 14th is National Potato Chip Day!

Since the average American consumes about 17 pounds of potato chips a year, there is no need to say anything that might encourage eating more of this fried and salted snack. Instead, I want to talk about their primary ingredient, the potato.

And with St. Patrick’s Day in the same week, there is no better time to promote the nutritional and culinary benefits of potatoes.

What’s So Good About Potatoes?

On its own, a medium potato (5.3 ounces raw) is one of the best low calorie foods you can buy. For only 110 calories you get 45% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C and more potassium than a banana (620 mg vs 450 mg). That same potato provides an often overlooked 3 g of protein along with 2 g of fiber, half of which is in the skin.

Though colorful fruits and vegetables get more attention, the white ones, like potatoes, are also a good source of phytonutrients with antioxidant potential. The total antioxidant capacity of russet potatoes ranked fifth out of 42 vegetables tested, ahead of broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes.

One of the best things about potatoes is what they don’t contain: No saturated fat, no trans fat, no fat at all. And they have no cholesterol and no sodium, either.

Depending on how you prepare them, a potato can become “stuffed” with even more nutrients. I like to add salsa and cheese or leftover chili to a baked potato for a quick and satisfying lunch. Or I’ll stuff one with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Why Are Potatoes Such a Culinary Staple?

One of the best ways for a food to become a staple in any cuisine is to be available, affordable and versatile. Potatoes are all three.

Potatoes are consumed in some form by people on every continent. In the U.S., frozen is the most popular form, followed by fresh, chips, dehydrated and canned. They can be cooked by baking, boiling, deep frying, grilled, microwaving, pan frying, roasting, and steaming, plus in casseroles and slow cookers. Every cook appreciates that kind of versatility when faced with limited fuel or cooking facilities.

The most common varieties are categorized as russets, reds, whites, yellows (or Yukon’s) and purples. The shapes and sizes cover everything from the finger-shaped fingerlings, to round ones ranging in size from golf-balls to baseballs, to the classic oblong russet. That’s enough variety to serve them every day and never see the same ones twice in a month!

To tell the truth, the only potato I can’t recommend is the couch potato!

Go to PotatoGoodness.com for recipes and videos.


Milk and milk products provide an overlooked source of protein

Milk is a Great Source of Protein, Too!


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Most people know that milk is a great source of calcium. Unfortunately the connection between milk and calcium has been so well taught, many people don’t know about the other important nutrients found in milk and milk products. Protein is one of them.

In my work with vegetarians, finicky eaters, and others who struggle to plan nutritionally balanced diets, the question of how to get good sources of protein always comes up. When I point out the protein content of milk, yogurt, and cheese, they are always surprised those foods can supply protein and calcium at the same time.

The truth is, most foods provide an array of different nutrients. But in an effort to make menu planning easier, nutrition educators have grouped foods according to the key nutrients they contain. For example, milk became known for its calcium, orange juice for its vitamin C, and meat for its protein. That strategy obviously had some drawbacks when it came to learning about the other nutrients those foods contain.

So for those who need more protein in their diets and are not able to get it all from meat and meat substitutes, such as beans, nuts and soy products, milk is your go-to source. Milk is also a good source of Vitamins A, B2, B12, and D and a good source of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium in addition to calcium.

Ways to Add Milk Products into Your Meals

A big advantage in using milk products to bulk up your protein intake is how easily they can be combined with other foods without taxing your appetite. For just a few ideas, you can add powdered milk to fluid milk, use evaporated milk to make “creamed” soups, blend strained yogurt into mashed potatoes, melt cheese onto your vegetables, stir ricotta cheese into pasta before adding sauce, or whip cottage cheese to use as a base for a cream sauce.

Protein Content of Milk Products

1 cup portion used for easy comparison

grams protein

28 Cheese, shredded: American, Cheddar, Mozzarella

28 Cottage Cheese: low fat or full fat

28 Ricotta Cheese: part skim or full fat

24 Powdered Milk, instant: fat free

22 Greek (strained) Yogurt, plain: fat free or reduced fat

19 Evaporated Milk, canned: fat free or reduced fat

14 Yogurt, plain: fat free or low fat

11 Milk Plus: fat free

8 Fluid Milk: fat fee, low fat, reduced fat and whole

Cooking with mushrooms can stretch your meat budget and mushroom dishes boost taste, texture and health benefits

Cooking with Mushrooms Adds Nutrition, Saves Money!


If you love the savory taste of umami, also known as the “fifth taste,” then you won’t need any other reason for cooking with mushrooms. I know I’m of those people who thinks mushrooms can make just about anything taste better. Whether simply sautéed or incorporated into other foods, mushrooms are a treat to the palate.

For those who are more inclined towards the sweet, salty, sour or bitter taste of foods, mushroom dishes are a great way to stretch your meat budget without giving up the chewy texture of meat. Incorporating mushrooms into your favorite recipes or replacing other ingredients with them can add moisture, increase the volume, reduce the calories and improve the nutritional value.

Cooking With Mushrooms

You can use fresh or reconstituted dried mushrooms to extend ground meats, such as beef, veal, chicken, turkey or pork. Just chop the mushrooms to match the size of the cooked meat and add them to replace 25%-50% of the meat called for in your meatloaf, meatballs, hamburgers, chili, and tacos.

If you make your own filling for ravioli, cannelloni, dumplings, or pierogi, finely minced mushrooms can be used along with meat or instead of it. Same for stuffed cabbage and peppers.

By adding minced mushrooms to your turkey stuffing you can lower the calories by 430 with every cup of dry bread crumbs you replace with them, and increase the moisture of the stuffing.

The flavor of soups, stews, ragouts, and curry dishes can be enriched with mushrooms, without overpowering the signature flavor. This is a great way to use the mushroom stems that may not have been needed for other purposes. Just chop them up and add them to the pot with the other vegetables.

One of my favorite ways of using raw mushrooms is to stretch my chicken, turkey or egg salad. Chopped cremini (a.k.a. baby bella) mushrooms blend in perfectly with chicken and turkey salad while white button mushrooms are best for the egg salad.

Mushroom Nutrition

The top three nutritional attributes of mushrooms are that they are very low in calories and have no fat or sodium. Since calories, fat and sodium are three things nearly every adult and most children need to eat less of to reduce the risks of obesity, heart disease and stroke, mushrooms are a addition to the diet.

One cup of sliced raw white mushrooms equals 2/3 cup when cooked. They contain:

  • 15 calories
  • 2 g Carbohydrate
  • 2 g Protein
  • 1 g Fiber
  • 10% or more of the Daily Value for Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, and Copper

All mushrooms contain some Vitamin D, but growers can increase the levels by exposing them to ultraviolet light. Check the package to see if yours have this advantage.

Mushroom Varieties Chart & Nutritional Information


New research provides further evidence why we should prevent zinc deficiency as we age

Today’s Nutrition News: Preventing Zinc Deficiency

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.


You don’t hear much about zinc deficiency in nutrition circles. My chief recollection of it from

undergraduate school was that it was responsible for the a loss of taste as we aged. Fearing that possibility, I’ve always paid attention to the zinc content of foods. (Baked beans, dark meat chicken, cashews, chick peas and Swiss cheese are my favorites)

Now a new study helps to explain why we develop zinc deficiency as we age. This research may lead to a better understanding of how we can continue enjoy the taste of our food as we grow older and benefit from the many other important functions zinc performs in the body.

Reasons for Zinc Deficiency

The research was done by scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. They found signs of zinc deficiency in older rats that had adequate zinc in their diets. The cause was malfunctioning zinc transporters. In a convoluted process, the mechanisms used to transport zinc were disrupted by changes in DNA, and the DNA was damaged by the lack of zinc.

In humans as well as rats, zinc is needed to repair the damage to DNA that goes on in the body throughout life. This study and others suggest our ability to keep up with these repairs becomes less efficient over time while the need gets greater.

One of the most serious effects of low zinc levels is an enhanced inflammatory response. Excessive inflammation is directly linked to many life-threatening diseases, including cancer and heart disease. When the rats in this study were given 10 times their dietary requirement for zinc, biomarkers for inflammation retuned to the levels of younger animals.

Given the aging of the population and rising rates of degenerative diseases, the role of zinc in controlling inflammation may be its most important contribution to a healthy retirement.

Key Facts About Zinc in the Diet

Zinc is involved in the activity of over 100 enzymes and needed for proper immune function, DNA and protein synthesis, wound healing and cell division.

The combination of low dietary intake of zinc and poor absorption can lead to a deficiency. Government food intake surveys found the diets of 35%-45% of people over age 60 did not meet average zinc requirements. When zinc sources from both diet and supplements were measured, 20%-25% still had inadequate intakes.

Current Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for zinc for people over age 19 are 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women. Due to lowered rates of absorption in older adults, many nutrition scientists believe the RDA for people over 50 should be increased.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include frequent infections, hair loss, poor appetite, loss of sense of taste and smell, poor wound healing, and mental lethargy. Many of these symptoms are also associated with other health problems so a thorough medical exam is needed to make a diagnosis.

People with higher risk for zinc deficiency are those with digestive diseases, malabsorption syndrome, chronic liver or renal disease, sickle cell disease, alcoholics, and vegetarians.

There are no medical tests to adequately measure zinc status. A dietary assessment is the best tool along with a review of medical history and medication use.

Zinc toxicity can occur from overuse of dietary supplements and over-the-counter cold remedies. Signs include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The Tolerable Upper Intake for men and women over age 19 is 40 mg/day.

Glutathione is an important antioxidant

Getting Your Fill of Glutathione

What antioxidant is found in every cell in your body and is the one produced most frequently at the cellular level? Here’s a hint: It’s often referred to as the “master antioxidant” due to the multitasking jobs it does fighting oxidation, boosting the immune system and aiding the removal of harmful toxins.

If you didn’t guess glutathione, you’re not alone.

Only 8 percent of consumers are even aware of glutathione according to research by Kyowa Hakko, one of the suppliers of the ingredient to the dietary supplement industry. But as we age our need for glutathione increases, so it’s my guess that this important antioxidant will be on the minds of more people in the years ahead.

Getting to Know Glutathione

You may not know much about glutathione because it is not considered an essential nutrient, meaning we can manufacture it in our bodies. It also may not be on your radar because early studies raised doubts about whether we could absorb it when taken as an oral supplement. But a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in May 2014 has sparked renewed interest in this antioxidant because it proved glutathione can be absorbed by the body when taken by mouth.

Researchers at Penn State University conducted a 6 month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 48 healthy adults, ages 30-791. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 250 mg or 1000 mg Setria glutathione per day or a placebo. Levels of glutathione were measured in different blood components and in biomarkers of oxidative stress at the beginning of the study and after 1, 3 and 6 months, then again after a 1-month washout period.

Glutathione levels in the blood were higher when tested at each interval compared to baseline for both doses. A reduction in oxidative stress was also seen in both groups based on decreases in the oxidized to reduced glutathione ratio in whole blood after 6 months. Levels of glutathione then returned to baseline a month after supplementation ended, suggesting long-term oral supplementation with glutathione may be effective in maintaining body stores.

Where to Find Glutathione

Just like most other foods rich in antioxidants, the best sources of glutathione are fresh fruits and vegetables. Freshly prepared meats are also a good source, while dairy foods, grains and highly processed foods are not.

Results from of two studies that measured dietary intakes of glutathione by Americans found a wide range due, in part, to losses that occur during food processing2,3. Based on these studies, it is estimated most Americans get less than 60 mg day from food sources.

The level of glutathione in different tissues of the body also varies widely, so it is difficult to estimate actual requirements, but it is known that our need increases with normal aging, health problems, medication use, excess weight, cigarette smoking, and alcohol abuse. Environmental conditions such as pollution and exposure to other toxins further increase our need for glutathione.

Why Do We Need Glutathione?

While breathing is essential to life, it is also a major cause of aging due to the oxidation of the cells that occurs with every breath. If cells become damaged by oxidation, free radicals are formed that can attack the body and cause disease. That is why antioxidants, like glutathione, are so important. They protect us against the damaging effects of these free radicals, which in turn, helps to promote a healthy immune system.

In addition to fighting free radicals, glutathione helps the kidneys and liver do their job of detoxifying the body by binding to ingested toxins so they can be excreted. And it is found in the lining of the entire gastrointestinal tract where it can neutralize toxins before they are absorbed.

It is impossible to know whether we produce enough glutathione to get the protection it can provide, but we do know our dietary intake can be erratic and many factors of modern life – including normal aging – increase our need. Doses of 3 grams per day of glutathione have been used experimentally with no adverse effects4, but taking 150-250 mg per day of supplemental glutathione appears to be reasonable a way to insure your needs are met.

Disclosure Statement: I was compensated for my time to write this blog by Kyowa Hakko, an international health ingredient manufacturer, but all opinions expressed here are my own.


  1. Richie JP Jr, et al. Eur J Nutr. 2014 May 5. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 24791752
  2. Flagg EW et al. Am J Epidemiol. 1994;139(5):453-65
  3. Jones DP et al. Nutr Cancer. 1992;17:57-75
  4. Witschi A et al. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1992;43(6):667-69