by Melissa Chichester
Green vegetables are nourishing powerhouses when it comes to delivering healthy nutrients to your diet, but have you ever wondered why? It is truly incredible what veggies like spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts have to offer, and one of those nutrients is alpha lipoic acid, also known as ALA. This hearty antioxidant is naturally found in the body already since we can produce it, but dietary forms of alpha lipoic acid play a valuable role in providing antioxidant protection.*
Alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-like antioxidant and the only water- and fat-soluble nutrient in the body. Pioneer biochemical researcher and nutritionist Esmond Snell discovered alpha lipoic acid in 1937. This discovery was made while researching the role of bacteria in the growth of potato extract. It wasn’t until 1951 that ALA was isolated by other researchers. By the 1980s, alpha lipoic acid was recognized as an impressive and important antioxidant. Because ALA is involved in so many processes in the body, it is known as “the universal antioxidant”.* It is even added to pet foods to support the health of furry family members!
In the body, alpha lipoic acid is involved in many processes. It is involved in the absorption of sugar and supports its metabolism.* This means that ALA helps the body turn glucose into energy for the body to use.* In addition, ALA supports healthy nerve function.* ALA is best known for its role as an antioxidant.*
In the body, antioxidants are substances that maintain healthy cell structure and may help fight off cell-damaging free radicals that may cause oxidative stress.*
These include free radicals from pollution, foods we eat, and UV rays. While some free radicals occur from the body’s natural processes, antioxidants like ALA can help neutralize these substances.* ALA also creates an antioxidant network by regenerating glutathione (another primary antioxidant), and it recycles Vitamins C and E, and Coenzyme Q-10.*
ALA is found in many food sources, including aforementioned spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Other plant-based sources of alpha lipoic acid include sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, beets, and tomatoes.
Higher concentrations of alpha lipoic acid are found in meats, especially organ meats like liver, hearts, and kidneys.