Since the dawn of time, soft, dewy skin has represented youth, vitality and beauty. In contrast, dull, scarred skin is associated with illness, aging and in some fairy tales, evil. So what is the key to good skin? Antioxidants seem to be the answer.
Dieticians and nutritionists consider them an integral part of any good-skin diet. Pharmaceutical companies have produced a mind-boggling array of supplements, and cosmetic companies hawk creams and serums that claim to contain them in potent forms and hence can help turn back the clock on aging. So what is the truth behind all the hype?
The Forces of Good and Evil
Free radicals are formed naturally by our bodies, and increase when we are exposed to environmental onslaughts such as sunlight, cigarette smoke and pollutants. They cause damage to the cells in our body which result in premature aging, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.
Most importantly, this oxidative stress also robs the skin of the very essence and fundamentals that maintain the elasticity and firmness of the skin.
Antioxidants on the other hand, protect our cells by neutralising free-radicals and limiting the damage that they do. As we are exposed to free radicals every day, it’s crucial to keep our body store of antioxidants at optimal levels.
Antioxidants – many classes
Most of us think of Vitamins A, C and E when we think of antioxidants. But, there is a wide spectrum of antioxidants out there, such as selenium, zinc, co-enzyme Q10, polyphenols and flavonoids. All these help maintain your health and keep your skin glowing with youth.
Most of antioxidants are found in plant-based food such as fruit and vegetables, green tea and soy.
However, just eating a lot of these foods is not enough; the way they are prepared plays a part in the amount of antioxidants you actually end up consuming.
For instance, both experts do not recommend cooking food under strong heat such as deep-frying or barbecuing. Instead, gentler cooking methods such as steaming are preferred. Plus, certain antioxidants like Vitamin C are water-soluble so food should not be soaked in water for too long either.
Boost the effects
The best way is to nourish our bodies is with natural, whole foods. That’s because some antioxidants work together to enhance, regenerate or recycle each other. For instance, medical research has identified five antioxidants; Vitamin C and E, Glutathione, Lipoic Acid and Coenzyme Q-10 that work particularly well together. Once done obliterating a free radical, they actually help recycle and regenerate each other.
Moreover, antioxidants act synergistically, offering a rainbow of protection rather than a single band of the spectrum. Also, plant antioxidants such as phenols and bioflavonoids may potentiate vitamin antioxidants.
For example, rutin, a bioflavonoid, potentiates Vitamins C and E when consumed together, yielding a more potent radical scavenging action. Thus adding a third antioxidant (rutin) can create a greater combined effect.
The Beauty Diet
Now that you’re read all that, what kind of diet should you be on for beautiful skin?
- Eat more fish -- particularly salmon
It is a known fact that salmon and other similar fish are good for you as they are great sources of protein which are building blocks to great skin. Its essential fatty acids omega-3 also nourishes the skin and keeps it plump and youthful while at the same time, help to reduce wrinkles.
- Trade coffee for cocoa
In a study published in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that cocoa contains high levels of two dietary flavonols (epicatchin and catechin) which protect the skin from sun damage, improve circulation to skin cells, affect hydration and make the skin look and feel smoother.
- Eat more soy
Research shows that soy may help protect against or heal some of the sun's photoaging damage. One study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, reported that a soy-based supplement with ingredients such as vitamins, fish protein, and extracts from white tea, grapeseed, and tomato improve the skin's structure and firmness after six months of consumption.
- Take collagen supplements
Collagen is the basic ingredient that gives skin its natural bounce, and makes up the bulk of the body's connective tissues. As we age, the body loses its natural ability to produce collagen, which results in a drop in bone density, and the inability to renew connective tissues that form cartilage, leading to osteoarthritis. And at skin level, it reduces the bounce and tightness of skin, hollowing out the plumpness of youth and give you wrinkles.
Apart from it’s intensive use in aesthetics procedures as a filler to iron out wrinkles, there are also been many supplement products available now that contain collagen – and researchers say that oral collagen is better absorbed and lasts longer than injected collagen.
However, doctors generally agree that the amount of collagen consumed daily has to be significant – much more than typically contained in a filler – for visible results.
- Take estrogen pills
Estrogen is the female sex hormone, and data suggests that estrogen deficiency is associated with skin atrophy, wrinkling, dryness, laxity, and decreased collagen content.
In one significant survey (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey ) conducted in America, estrogen use was found to prevent dry skin and skin wrinkling, “thus extending the potential benefits of postmenopausal estrogen therapy to include protection against selected age- and menopause-associated dermatologic conditions.”
So if you’re experiencing menopause or post-menopausal, hormone replacement therapy can also be your ticket to keep aging skin at bay.