I have two unreasonable vanity-fears about getting older.
The first is that my skin will age poorly and redraw my face into disharmonious contours that take me from still being “pretty” at 40-something to looking “craggy” by 50-something.
The second is a fear of developing a big back. Not a big backside. A big back. Like a linebacker.
Craggy face. Big back. That’s what freaks me out.
I think we all pretty much want to age gracefully. Even if that means not staying young forever. (Coincidentally, I’ve never been one for wanting to go back in time.)
You want to age and still be beautiful, like the late, great Lena Horne. Or living legend Cicely Tyson. Or my childhood hero Olivia Newton John (Xanadu and Grease – mind-shattering for an elementary school kid).
Or Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones (looking FABULOUS at 60+).
Whether you fight the war on aging by getting lots of exercise or by going under the knife, the mission is still the same – to somehow get older and wiser without losing your physical appeal.
One of the best ways to make peace with the natural aging process is really to find out what makes the body function optimally. Specifically, what makes for a craggy face? And is there something we can do right now to eliminate our chances of growing into a face that looks like an old catcher’s mitt?
Here’s some good news: You can eat your way to youth by choosing foods high in antioxidants. Make the transition from wrinkle warrior to ageless beauty.
Let’s take a trip back to your high school science class and see what you remember about antioxidants.
Marketers position antioxidants as a skin care cure-all – the key to tapping into your anti-aging abilities. Products that claim to be rich with antioxidant powers grace the pages of magazines and medical journals.
These days, it would seem that all you need is the right hand cream or pill to get the antioxidants you need. Is it really that easy? What are antioxidants and what can they do to keep you looking your best?
An antioxidant is a molecule that keeps other molecules from spoiling or breaking down through the oxidation process.
Think about metals. When they are exposed to air and water, they tend to oxidize, or rust. When the integrity of iron is not compromised, it is strong enough to be used to construct some of the world’s most magnificent buildings. Oxidized iron can deteriorate to the point where it’s barely strong enough to hold the weight of a toddler.
Antioxidants keep your cells from succumbing to the damage caused by oxidation or exposure to the elements. They essentially slow down the aging process.
If antioxidants are the ultimate anti-aging tool, free radicals are the anti-antioxidant.
The body continually replenishes its cells through a process called cellular metabolism. The body produces energy, creates cells and repairs any damage. One byproduct of cellular metabolism is unstable molecules called free radicals.
Free radicals are trouble-making molecules. They missing an electron, which makes them unstable. Their goal is to stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from your other cells. Damage..
Free radical damage doesn’t just affect your pretty face though. They cause diseases, thinner skin, and brittle bones. And they enter the body from environmental contaminants like air and water pollution, radiation and UV rays.
We increase our exposure to free radicals by engaging in habits like smoking and tanning. The more free radicals we encounter, the more damage will be done to our bodies.
Free radicals are no match for antioxidants though.
When antioxidants combine with free radicals, antioxidants neutralize them. That’s what gives antioxidants their anti-aging traits. Once free radicals are neutralized, they can no longer do any damage.
There is no recommended daily dose of antioxidants to correct free radical damage. Eating foods rich in antioxidants can positively impact your quality of life.
Okay. So how do I get my hands on some antioxidants?
We don’t naturally produce antioxidants. Most of us are going to get our dose of antioxidants either by what we eat or what we put on our skin.
Thankfully, antioxidants are pretty easy to get on a daily basis through a bit of nutritional planning. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants.
Eat your way young
* Vitamin C – citrus fruit, strawberries, bell peppers, fresh herbs, dark green leafy vegetables
* Vitamin A – liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, dried herbs, lettuce
* Vitamin E – sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, cooked spinach, cooked taro root
* Lutein – kale, spinach, greens, oranges, eggs
* Lycopene – tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruit, asparagus
* Beta-carotene – carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, greens
Antioxidants are also found in nuts, legumes, cold water fish, seafood and red meat. So, eating a varied diet of fruits, vegetables and the foods just named will increase the amount of antioxidants in your system and help reduce the incidence of disease.
If you’re going to have fruit, eat the fruit instead of juicing it, or grabbing a fruit juice. Fruit and fruit juice are not interchangeable. Juice is loaded with sugar.
Eating fruits and vegetables in their natural form helps you get the additional nutritional benefits available in live foods. This includes fiber which fills you up and tells you brain when you’ve had enough.
So, ya see… Food does more than stave off hunger and make you love being alive. Natural substances found in food can cause us to live longer and stay free of disease as you age…. gracefully.