Antioxidants: A Beginner’s Guide

Antioxidants: A Beginner’s Guide

Get all you need to know about what antioxidants are and how to get more of them.


Antioxidants are molecules that counteract “oxidative stress” in the body. Ever taken a bite out of an apple and set it aside, only to find the flesh had turned brown minutes later?

That’s oxidative stress. Rust on your bicycle? Oxidative stress. Copper candelabra turned green? You guessed it: oxidative stress.

Although your body produces its own antioxidants, oxidative stress happens when harmful molecules called “free radicals” start to overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defenses causing cells to die and our skin (as well as the rest of the body) to age.

So you can understand why oxidation is bad for you — and why antioxidants and vitamins are good!

We can boost our body’s antioxidant levels by exercising regularly, eating plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and using fortified beauty products. Specially formulated creams that contain antioxidants can help to counteract oxidative stress in the skin caused by sun exposure, pollution, stress and air conditioning to name a few. Pack your body full of these antioxidants and get the benefits of a vitamin-rich diet!

Vitamin C
Increasing levels of vitamin C in the skin can prevent and (unlike most antioxidants) even repair some signs of aging. It firms the skin by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and scars. Topical vitamin C can be unstable, so look for formulas with ascorbic acid, the most stable form of vitamin C. Ensure products are packaged in opaque, airtight containers because they degrade and become less effective when exposed to oxygen and sunlight.

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Selenium
A mineral that occurs naturally in fish like cod, tuna and halibut, selenium is a classic antioxidant. It, like the rest of the items on this list, can help keep your skin looking great, but it also reportedly has the ability to prevent joint inflammation. The most selenium-packed food out there, though, is a Brazil nut. Get them if you find them!

Vitamin A
Retinoic acid (the active form of vitamin A) is an excellent way for treating sun-damaged skin, fine wrinkles and age spots. It restores elastic fibers, making your skin appear firmer. Add paprika, red pepper or cayenne to your foods for an instant Vitamin A boost.

Melatonin
This substance, known mostly for helping us getting to sleep, actually does have antioxidant properties. Studies have shown normal intake of foods like raspberries and various nuts can help the body’s immune system. You most likely won’t be able to cure a bout with insomnia by eating a crate of tomatoes, but every little bit counts — especially if it’s beauty sleep we’re talking about!

Green Tea
Thought it was only good for your insides? Well it’s also great for your skin if applied topically. In fact, it’s 100 times more effective than vitamin C at neutralizing free radicals. Studies show that it protects against DNA damage caused by the sun. It’s an anti-inflammatory, making it a good choice for those with sensitive skin.

Rooibos (Red Tea)
This wonder-tea has a huge number of health-boosting properties, as well as an intense soothing effect on skin irritations like sunburn, acne and eczema. It helps to firm skin, diminishes fine lines and wrinkles and studies indicate that it can be useful for preventing skin cancer. Plus, it increases the effectiveness of sunblock!

While it is nice to think that just eating the right foods can stave off any sicknesses and wrinkles, remember: Antioxidants are here to help, not completely prevent future problems. But by adding foods rich with these antioxidants into you and your family’s diet, you’ll be working your way toward that ounce of prevention!

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