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We have all heard the word ‘free radical damage’ being thrown around. But do we really know what it is? Where does it come from? And how do we combat it? We asked some nutritionists to explain what all the fuss is about.
What is it all about?
What are free radicals and why do we need to fight them? Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at Superfood.uk, the online shopping destination for all things health and wellbeing, explains: “Free radicals are molecules, which have extra hydrogen atoms giving them a positive charge. Certain things that we do, such as breathing, moving and many other biological functions, as a result create these positives charges. Some foods also contain extra hydrogen atoms, and therefore have a positive charge, such as fried foods. Having too many hydrogen atoms changes the PH balance of the body tissues and not only leaves us ageing quicker, but more susceptible to disease.”
What an antioxidant does is exactly the opposite of a free radical. ‘”Its molecules contain a negative charge. When passing through the body it attracts some of the excess hydrogen atoms from the free radicals, neutralising them. A diet full of antioxidants is important for maintaining a good PH balance of your body tissues, helping you age slower,” says Wilkinson.
How can we top up antioxidants level?
Look for your antioxidants in the fruit & veg aisle “Antioxidants are a whole host of vitamins, minerals, plant tannins and plant pigments especially found in dark foods such as cherries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, beetroots, as well as carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist (www.marilynglenville.com), author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
How can antioxidants help us achieve the perfect complexion?
Antioxidants work to protect the skin by limiting the production of free radicals; the main culprit for damaging our skin cells, which leads to the visible and hidden signs of ageing.
In fact, there is actually a whole host of great benefits that antioxidants have on our skin, so here are the top three:
Scar tissue has a different cell structure to that of healthy skin, so we need antioxidants to increase blood flow. This will support the development of new skin. “Antioxidants found in aloe are great to use and treatments in the form of a gel are perfect. Try new What Skin Needs Hydrating Facial Serum (www.whatskinnneds.co.uk, £17.99) it contains the patented active ingredient Plantolin and with it’s proven anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties it works to soothe, rehydrate and repair rough, dry and damaged skin” recommends nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.
Antioxidants can also rejuvenate the skin’s appearance. One of the most powerful antioxidants is Coenzyme Q-10. It could help us to stay youthful in many ways, with better energy levels but also younger-looking skin. “It is thought that the skin ageing process may occur due to the build-up of free radicals causing damage to our cells. Under internal and external environmental influences the skin’s Q10 requirements increase but our ability to produce it declines. This can weaken skin’s protective powers, which results in a dull complexion, lines and damaged collagen. Go for a supplement that combines CoQ10 with a complex of antioxidant-packed botanicals to maximise its anti-ageing benefits. Try Nature’s Plus Ageloss Energy Support (www.naturesplus.co.uk, £32.25) says Barns.
Antioxidants can also come handy during your summer holiday. “They enhance the effectiveness of sunscreens to help decrease the effects of sun exposure, which can put us at higher risk of cellular damage, age spots and early wrinkling, dullness and discolouration” explains Shona Wilkinson.