Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin which is also known as vitamin B-2 or vitamin G. Riboflavin plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the body. In the body, riboflavin is converted into flavin mononucleotide (FMN), which is then converted to the coenzyme, flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). As part of the electron transport chain in the mitochondria, FAD is central to each cell’s energy production. These two flavoproteins and other enzymes that rely on them are also involved in the metabolism of several other vitamins.
Produced by the body, N-acetylcysteine (commonly called NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine. Because it enhances the production of the Enzyme glutathione, one of the body’s powerhouse antioxidants, NAC can both stave off disease and play an important role in boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that glutathione levels are often reduced in people with certain conditions related to the immune system.
Scientists identified vitamin E about 80 years ago, but only in the past few decades has its power as an antioxidant been revealed and fully appreciated. What this means is that you’ll have to get far more than the government-established RDA for this vitamin to benefit from its ability to stave off disease and enhance overall health. Unfortunately, most foods containing vitamin E–nuts, vegetable oils and margarine, for example–are high in fat. So to get the protective punch of vitamin E without adding fats to your diet, you need to seriously consider taking supplements.
In the eighteenth century, seasoned sailors found that by sucking on lemons they could avoid scurvy, a debilitating disease that often developed during long voyages when fresh fruits and vegetables were scarce. When the lemon’s key nutrient was formally identified in 1928, it was named ascorbic acid for its anti-scurvy, or antiscorbutic, action. Today ascorbic acid is widely known as vitamin C.
The trace mineral selenium makes its way into our bodies because it is contained in certain foods. Over time, it becomes part of nearly every cell, with particularly high concentrations in the kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen, and testes.
The most concentrated food source for selenium is the Brazil nut; a single one contains 120 mcg, (which is about twice the RDA). Seafood in general, as well as poultry and meat, are also good sources. So are grains, especially oats and brown rice.
As its name implies, grape seed extract is derived from the small seeds (and occasionally the skins) of red grapes–the same kind that are pressed to make wine. Used extensively in Europe, grape seed extract is rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties some consider even greater than the old standbys vitamin C and vitamin E. Antioxidants are believed to prevent and control numerous ailments by safeguarding cells against the ravages of unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals.
This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.
A source of fiber for linen fabric since ancient times, the slender flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) also boasts a long history as a healing herb. First cultivated in Europe, the plant’s brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed skin and healing slurries for constipation. Today, flaxseeds–also called linseeds–are best known for the therapeutic oil that is derived by pressing them. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil has earned a solid reputation for treating a range of ailments, from heart disease to lupus.
Flavonoids is the umbrella term given to some 4,000 compounds that impart the colorful pigment to fruits, vegetables and herbs. Also found in legumes, grains and nuts, flavonoids can act as effective antivirals, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines and antioxidants. They’re useful for reducing cancer risk and serve to prevent or treat a wide variety of conditions.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a short, shrubby perennial plant that inhabits the woods and forest meadows of Europe, western Asia, and the Rocky Mountains of North America. As with many other plants that belong to the same plant family (Vaccinium), bilberry bears edible fruits similar to those found on the American blueberry bush. Cranberries and huckleberry belong to this plant family too.
In the late 1980s, scientists realized that alpha-lipoic acid, a compound initially classified as a vitamin when it was discovered three decades earlier, possessed potent antioxidant properties that could prevent healthy cells from getting damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. In fact, this vitaminlike compound has proved to be many times more potent than such old guard antioxidants as vitamins C and E. As a perk, it even recycles C and E (as well as other antioxidants), enhancing their effectiveness.