Antioxidant Enzymes: What Exactly Do They Do?

Antioxidant Enzymes: What Exactly Do They Do?

Antioxidants are a hot topic in the health and wellness world. You know you need them, but do you ever stop and think why? It turns out they are popular for a good reason. 

Understanding the benefits of antioxidants will give you yet another clear reason to swap out that sugary soda for VINA, our delicious, functional, bubbly beverage.

Antioxidants protect your body against free radicals and oxidative stress that can cause negative health benefits. Read on to understand more about antioxidants, and specifically the role antioxidant enzymes play in protecting the body, and how to add more antioxidants into your diet. 

What Are Free Radicals?

Before we can understand what antioxidants are and how they work, we need to understand what a free radical is and how it functions. 

Free radicals are oxygen molecules that have an unpaired electron. The problem with these electrons is they are lonely and want to find a buddy, and they easily react to other molecules in the body. Free radicals can cause long chain reactions, which cause oxidative stress.  Free radicals and oxidative stress may cause negative health effects in the body, like poor metabolic function, heart health, and joint and cartilage health.

So, where do these free radicals come from? Normal functions in the body like digestion, immune response, exercise, and aging all cause free radicals. They can also come from outside stressors such as high sugar or processed foods, smoking, pollution, and industrial chemicals. 

Free radicals are not all bad. They help in the immune response to kill bacteria, viruses, and damaged cells. They also help with muscle building after exercise.  The problem comes when the body is not balanced, and too many free radicals are roaming around, creating oxidative stress. What stops these mischievous molecules? Antioxidants.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds in the body that protect against free radicals and oxidative stress. There are two types of antioxidants: non-enzymatic antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes. Both types of antioxidants have their own roles.

Non-enzymatic antioxidants are always giving and never expecting anything in return.  Free radicals are neutralized when non-enzymatic antioxidants give up some of their own electrons. Once the free radical has all of its electrons paired, it breaks the chain reactions that cause oxidative stress. This type of antioxidant is usually what is thought of when talking about antioxidants.  Vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are non-enzymatic antioxidants.

Antioxidant enzymes break down and remove free radicals. They also disrupt the oxidative long chain reactions and convert them to hydrogen peroxide and then to water.

Ideally, there is a balance in the body between antioxidants and free radicals. Unfortunately, with the overly processed and sugary foods and drinks we consume and the chemicals around us, there are often more free radicals than antioxidants. When the balance is tilted, oxidative stress takes place. 

When there is balance, your heart health, brain health, immune health, and health overall may benefit. To make sure your body is in balance, your body makes antioxidants, and you can get them from the foods you eat. 

Antioxidant Enzymes

Antioxidant enzymes are not talked about quite as much as non-enzymatic antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin E. However, they are still an extremely important part of protecting the body against free radicals. 

Antioxidant enzymes need cofactors like copper, zinc, manganese, and iron. Cofactors are molecules that help enzymes do their jobs.  There are four antioxidant enzymes with similar and different functions.  

Superoxide Dismutase

Superoxide dismutase is an antioxidant enzyme that breaks down free radicals in cells and turns them into hydrogen peroxide. Once turned into hydrogen peroxide, other antioxidant enzymes break it down further. Copper, zinc, and manganese are cofactors of superoxide dismutase.

Glutathione Peroxidase

Glutathione peroxidase aids in the process of turning hydrogen peroxide into water. There is selenium-dependent and non-selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase. You can find this enzyme in many of the organs in the body, specifically the heart and the brain. 

Glutathione Reductase

Glutathione reductase is an important cellular antioxidant found in many organs, specifically the colon, kidney, and small intestine. This enzyme helps detoxify compounds that are both organically made in the body from natural functions such as digestion and compounds from external substances like pollutants. 


Catalase is a key antioxidant enzyme that decomposes hydrogen peroxide and breaks it into water and oxygen. Catalase is in many areas of the body, mostly in the liver, fat, and bone marrow. Iron is a cofactor for catalase.

Sources of Antioxidant Enzymes

To make sure you are getting enough antioxidant enzymes, eating a well-balanced diet of whole foods is essential.  Eating right not only gives you the antioxidant enzymes you need, but you will also get the cofactors needed and non-enzymatic antioxidants. 

The cofactors needed for enzymatic antioxidants are all classified as trace minerals.  Adding functional beverages like VINA Prebiotic Soda with trace minerals is another great way to add in those minerals that help the enzymes to their free radical fighting work.


No surprise here: vegetables are good for you. 

Green veggies, specifically cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, and collard greens, are especially good for each of the different antioxidant enzymes.  Potatoes, okra, and avocados are also great sources of antioxidant enzymes. These veggies are also high in trace minerals. 


The antioxidant enzyme catalase is specifically high in fruits. Melons, bananas, and pineapples are all high in their antioxidant properties. Snacking on fruit will help increase your antioxidants and curb that pesky sweet tooth—it’s a win-win.

Whole Grains

Wheat can sometimes get a bad rap, but the truth is, if you do not have gluten sensitivities, whole wheat can bring health benefits, including antioxidant enzymes. When choosing your grains, make sure they are whole grains. Overly processed grains remove parts of the grain that contain most of the nutrients.  

Nuts and Seeds

Are you looking for a midday snack that will give your body a boost of antioxidant enzymes and energy? Having a handful of nuts and seeds at the ready will curb your appetite and give you lots of nutrients. 

Nuts, specifically raw nuts, can give you a good dose of the antioxidant enzymes that you need.  Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are all good sources. Both nuts and seeds are very high in trace minerals, which enable the antioxidant enzymes to do their jobs. 


Antioxidant enzymes are an important nutrient for the breakdown and removal of free radicals. When antioxidants and free radicals are balanced, oxidative stress is lowered, and your overall health may benefit. Eating a well-balanced diet will give you the antioxidants you need to support your body.

Along with a diet full of whole foods, drinking VINA can help the antioxidant enzymes by providing them the trace minerals needed for them to work. We add trace minerals to every can of our refreshing soda. 



Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health |

Understanding antioxidants | Harvard Health

Free radicals, natural antioxidants, and their reaction mechanisms | RSC Advances

Selenium-dependent and non-selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidases in human tissue 

extracts | PubMed 

CAT catalase [Homo sapiens (human)] - Gene |  NCBI