How Oxidative Stress Ages Your Skin
Oxidative stress occurs when toxins, also known as free radicals, enter your body and react negatively with your cells. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that cause damage to your DNA and cell membranes, which are the building blocks of healthy skin cells. This is how oxidative stress from free radicals directly impacts the appearance of your skin.
As mentioned above, external sources of free radicals include certain foods and environmental factors. Pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides, pharmaceutical drugs, radiation and excess UV exposure all cause oxidative stress and cellular damage.
Trans fats from unhealthy fats, fried foods, refined sugar and alcohol are the major dietary sources of free radicals .
You see, fried foods and other junk foods such as pizza, hamburgers and soda contain proteins or fats called Advanced Glycation Endproducts or AGEs . AGEs are toxic compounds, or oxidants, that deplete antioxidants.
AGEs help enhance the taste and smell of foods and can cause certain foods we may not normally crave, to become addictive. For example, deep-fried asparagus versus raw asparagus. As you can guess, the Standard American Diet that's rich in fast foods, deep friedfoods and refined foods is a recipe for disaster when it comes to healthy looking skin- not to mention your overall health and wellness.
Lifestyle factors such as chronic stress can also contribute to oxidative damage, and your body naturally produces free radicals as a byproduct of energy production. For this reason, prolonged intense and rigorous exercise can also contribute to cellular damage and premature aging of the skin.
Now, your body counteracts oxidative stress and damage with nutrients called antioxidants. This is why you'll often see antioxidant vitamins A, C and E added to the formula of skin treatments, moisturizers and anti-aging creams. While applying these nutrients topically can promote improved skin health, your skin will get the best results by adding extra antioxidant vitamins and minerals to your diet.
In addition to antioxidant vitamins and minerals, there are many other nutrients you can eat daily that can help improve the appearance of your skin. These nutrients promote healthy cell membranes, healthy skin cells and cellular repair to prevent premature aging.
Let’s take a look at the most powerful nutrients for younger looking skin, and the best food sources to obtain them from.
1. Nucleic Acids
The nucleic acids RNA and DNA are best known for carrying genetic information, but they also provide "blueprints” or instructions to your cells for repair and regeneration. Unfortunately, free radicals can permanently damage your DNA, which compromises your body's ability to repair your cells and your skin.
Now, our bodies naturally produce RNA and DNA. But as we get older our production declines, which is when the aging process begins. Therefore, obtaining RNA and DNA from dietary sources and superfoods offers our cells a steady supply of the nucleic acids required for repair and regeneration- and ultimately, younger looking skin.
One of the best food sources of nucleic acids is the amazing green superfood, chlorella.
Chlorella is a single-celled green algae that contains a special nutrient called Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), which is rich in RNA and DNA.
You can receive the health benefits of chlorella and increase the nucleic acids in your diet by taking Sun Chlorella tablets as a nutritional supplement or by adding Sun Chlorella powder to your recipes, juices and smoothies.
Other food sources that contain nucleic acids include organ meats, wild fish, vegetables such as mushrooms and asparagus and nutritional yeast.
2. Amino Acids
As the building blocks of protein, amino acids play a critical role in healthy skin by helping the body produce collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin help the skin repair from the inside out, help to maintain elasticity, and promote a plump, supple appearance.
Collagen's benefits for the skin is recognized by being a key ingredient in many anti-aging formulas for creams and skin treatments. However, increasing the amino acids in your diet by eating quality protein is an even better way to trigger collagen and elastin production.
There are over 20 amino acids we require for good health, 9 of which are essential. We must obtain essential amino acids from our diet, because our bodies cannot produce them on their own. The 9 essential amino acids include isoleucine, leucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, tryptophan and histidine. The remaining amino acids your cells can manufacture on their own.
All 20 amino acids are required for healthy cell structures. In particular, creatine has been shown to play a key role in stimulating collagen production. Creatine is not an essential amino acid. Instead, your body produces creatine from the amino acids glycine and arginine.
All 9 essential amino acids (and several non-essential amino acids) can be found in animal products, such as grass fed meat, organic whey protein and wild caught fish. Certain plant foods also contain all 9 essential amino acids, such as quinoa and hemp hearts.
Beans, wild rice, leafy greens, fruit and vegetables also contain essential amino acids, although they’re not a complete protein because they only contain 3 or 4 essential amino acids. However, they are still a source of amino acids and should be included in any healthy diet.
Since collagen helps repair and maintain the appearance of skin, it's become popular as a nutritional supplement for anti-aging. You can take collagen peptides as a protein powder, and blend it in with your smoothies, juices and baking recipes.
3. Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid
Our body depends on omega 3 essential fatty acids to build healthy cell membranes and create healthy skin cells. Like amino acids, essential fatty acids are called essential because our bodies cannot produce them on their own.
As healthy fats, omega 3's act as an internal lubricant to help moisturize and brighten the skin from the inside out.
Fatty fish, grass fed meat, egg yolks and fish oil are rich in omega 3’s, as well as chia seeds, hemp hearts, flaxseed, walnuts and certain algae such as chlorella and spirulina.
By adding hemp hearts and walnuts to your morning oatmeal, Sun Chlorella powder to your smoothies and enjoying wild caught fish for dinner, it's easy to incorporate skin boosting nutrients in every meal.
4. Vitamin E
We've discussed the importance of antioxidants to protect your skin cells from oxidative stress, caused by free radicals. Vitamin E is one of the most important antioxidant vitamins to help neutralize free radical damage. This antioxidant vitamin may also have anti-inflammatory benefits, which may help reduce the severity of skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
Sunflower seeds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E, as well as pumpkin, avocado, dark leafy greens, almonds and spinach. You can take vitamin E as a nutritional supplement, which may also be helpful, but it's always important to check in with a qualified healthcare practitioner before adding a new supplement to your routine.
5. Vitamin A
The antioxidant form of vitamin A is best known as beta-carotene. Because it's so effective for improving the health of skin cells, beta carotene rich foods are commonly recommended as anti-aging foods for skin. Beta carotene rich foods are also used therapeutically for brightening the skin in face masks (pumpkin face masks, anyone?) and protecting against inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne.
Beta carotene is the nutrient that gives plants their bright orange, yellow or green pigment. Therefore, pumpkin, yellow and orange peppers, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens and chlorella are all excellent sources of vitamin A.
Since many medications can interact negatively with vitamin A supplements, they should not be taken without the approval of a licensed healthcare practitioner. Taking too much vitamin A can also be toxic to the liver, which is another reason why vitamin A nutritional supplements should always be taken with caution.
6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the next antioxidant vitamin that plays a critical role in maintaining youthful skin. High concentrations of vitamin C can be found in the skin, and help protect skin cells from the oxidative stress that leads to fine lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin C is depleted from smoking and environmental pollutants.
Fresh citrus fruits, kiwi, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, blueberries and melon are all rich in vitamin C. Broccoli, leafy greens and tomatoes also contain vitamin C.
Luckily, the fruits that contain high levels of vitamin C make excellent additions to customized smoothies. You can easily throw some berries, pineapple and spinach together to make a homemade skin brightening elixir in under a minute.
Other micronutrients that help promote skin health include the antioxidant minerals selenium and zinc, which can be found in brazil nuts, oysters and seafood.
As you can see, the quickest way to achieve better looking skin is by increasing antioxidant rich foods and skin supportive nutrients in your diet. Now, that’s not to say natural topical skin care treatments or moisturizers are useless- however, a diet full of skin supportive nutrients used in conjunction with natural skincare products will yield the best results.
If you do choose to use skincare products to get younger looking skin naturally, always ensure there aren’t hidden toxins lurking in the formula’s ingredients. Ironically, many commercially prepared anti-aging skin care products contain toxins that form free radicals, which is the exact cause of poor skin health.
My personal favorite moisturizer that makes my skin feel younger and smoother is Astarella Prime Time Skin Cream. Astarella is 100% chemical free, and only formulated with natural ingredients such as shea butter, jojoba oil and the antioxidant, astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant for skin health.
Learn more about how Astarella Prime Time Skin Cream promotes healthier, brighter looking skin.
Lastly, don't forget that simple lifestyle changes such as new stress management techniques can also improve the health of your skin, since stress can cause oxidative damage to your cells. Meditation, practicing yoga, journaling, listening to your favorite music and taking regular self-care days are all techniques you can use to promote younger looking skin on a daily basis.
About Brandi Black, RHN
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare time you'll find Brandi writing in her blog and hanging out with her teacup chihuahua, Coconut.
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