When considering your skincare routine, you may not have given much thought to sources of antioxidants. You should. Taking care of your skin involves more than twice-daily cleansing and moisturizing. In fact, what you put into your body has a huge impact on not only your skin, but the rest of your bodily systems, as well.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals travel through your body causing harm, destruction and lots of damage- like tearing apart the collagen matrix that helps your skin maintain its integrity and strength. They are formed as a result of some of the body’s metabolic functions. For example, the liver produces and uses free radicals to detoxify the body, and white blood cells send free radicals in to destroy bacteria, viruses, and damaged cells. It’s once their work is done that they become hoodlums. Free radicals also come from external sources like environmental pollutants and toxins, smoking, and alcohol consumption.
The process of free radical formation is called oxidation. If you’ve watched an apple turn brown or iron rust, you’ve witnessed oxidation in action.
In simple terms, a free radical is an oxygen molecule that is missing an electron. What makes it so “dangerous” is that it goes careening around the body seeking out another atom to bond with. In its search, the free radical goes rudely elbowing its way around, causing damage in its frantic search for a partner.
What do Antioxidants Do?
The roaming free radical can be neutralized with the help of antioxidants, and can sometimes be prevented from forming in the first place. Antioxidants help to counteract the deterioration of food products, but they also remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents from a living organism.
Poor nutrition, exposure to toxins, or other factors can lead to lower levels of antioxidants in the body than free radicals, which is when oxidation wreaks havoc in the body. The result is accelerated aging, damaged or mutated cells, broken-down tissue, the activation of harmful genes within our DNA, and an overloaded immune system.
Our lifestyle of processed foods, reliance on medications, and high exposure to chemicals or environmental pollutants seems to tip the balance towards more free radicals than antioxidants. As a result, we need to pay attention to the foods we eat, focusing on those that provide a huge boost in antioxidants.
Here are the top seven providers of powerful antioxidants that especially serve to protect and renew your skin.
The potent catechin polyphenols in green tea reduce the development of some signs of aging, clearing cell damage and repairing wrinkles, blemishes, or other impurities. One cup of the stuff has greater antioxidant effects than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots, or strawberries. The taste is slightly bitter, especially if not brewed properly.
- Bring a kettle to boil
- Let it stand for 5 minutes
- Pour over tea bag
- Steep for 3 minutes before removing tea bag
Still not a fan of the flavor? Try it iced as a base for your smoothie or green drink, or apply it topically. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found women whose skin was treated with green tea extract were more protected from the adverse effects of sunlight exposure.
Not only do they taste great, but berries are packed with antioxidants to protect your skin from the sun’s effects. “With ½ cup blueberries, you can just about double the amount of antioxidants most Americans get in one day. If you want to slow down the free radical aging process, blueberries are the leader of the pack,” says Ronald Prior, PhD, head of the USDA Phytochemical Laboratory at Tufts.
Strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C, which your body doesn’t have the ability to store for later, so you must consume it regularly. Vitamin C is particularly effective in diminishing the look of fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, and uneven skin tone. It’s considered an anti-aging superstar for all skin types.
Cranberries are another that are high in antioxidants, plus they have flavonoids that help to increase the antioxidant activity in the body.
Since berries are one of the highest antioxidant foods available, using them in your refreshing smoothies is a great way to get your daily dose for your skin! The best berries for the job: blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, acai, blackberries, and raspberries.
Onions are rich in quercetin, which protects against wrinkles. Some studies show it may also save the skin from harmful UVB rays. They’re also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, which play a vital role in keeping the skin healthy.
Packed with vitamin C, B5 and antioxidant polyphenols, the odd, tart fruit of pomegranates contains more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. I can keep your skin looking bright and may help to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain polyphenols and carotenoids that fight the aging process. Brown rice contains polyphenols, powerful compounds that can help to stop the oxidation process. Oats are another great source of antioxidants.
This delicious versatile ingredient happens to be one of nature’s richest sources of lycopene, one of the strongest antioxidants. Be sure to choose only certified organic or spray-free tomatoes, as they are known for being heavily sprayed with pesticides and fungicides – negating the positive effect of the antioxidants!
7. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) is high in epicatechin, a type of flavonoid. It’s also rich with polyphenols – even greater than wine and tea. A study reported in the New Scientist showed that eating dark chocolate can increase antioxidant levels (but milk chocolate didn’t). The higher the cacao/cocoa percentage, the more antioxidants!