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Antioxidants: What You Need to Know (and eat)

By Veronica Harris

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Aging is more than just getting older. There are many reasons that skin ages. Environmental damage, excessive exfoliation, glycation, senescence, inflammation, and free radical damage are just to name a few.

According to Dermatology Research and Practice, Human skin is constantly directly exposed to the air, solar radiation, environmental pollutants, or other mechanical and chemical insults, which are capable of inducing the generation of free radicals as well as reactive oxygen species (ROS) of our own metabolism. Extrinsic skin damage develops due to several factors: ionizing radiation, severe physical and psychological stress, alcohol intake, poor nutrition, overeating, environmental pollution, and exposure to UV radiation (UVR)… The most important strategy to reduce the risk of sun UVR damage is to avoid the sun exposure and the use of sunscreens. The next step is the use of exogenous antioxidants orally or by topical application and interventions in preventing oxidative stress and in enhanced DNA repair.

Free radical formation occurs within the cell, causing damage. Free radical damage causes unhealthy cells to seek out healthy cells to steal electrons from. When the unhealthy cell succeeds in stealing an electron from a healthy cell it begins a cascading effect within the skin. This pilfering effort does not make the unhealthy cell healthy. In fact, the opposite occurs and more and more cells become unhealthy leading to visible signs of aging within the body, on our skin, as well as other diseases such as cancer. The mounting changes in our environment, increasingly affects the extent of free radical damage.

Antioxidants are the only way to neutralize free radical damage. Our bodies produce various types of antioxidants that will aide in neutralizing free radicals: vitamin c, beta-carotene, vitamin e are a few examples. Yes, our bodies have great healing powers and so does our food. Mother Nature saw fit that we have additional healing from plants and vegetation.  Here are a few examples:

Berries – Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries contain either high levels of phenolics, flavonoids or anthcyanidins which are said to produce strong antioxidant activity.

Citrus fruits – contains high levels of phenolics, which demonstrate strong antioxidant activity.

Carrots – considered a source of beta- carotenes; containing polyphenols, which are considered antioxidants.

Green Tea – The leaves of green tea contain flavonoids and polyphenols which possess strong antioxidant activity.

Spinach – Spinach has a high phenol and flavonoid content and like the others on this list, possess a strong antioxidant activity.

Spring is here. This is a perfect time to plant some of mother nature’s best healing fruits, vegetables and herbs that will aide in fighting the ever present, aforementioned free radical damage.

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