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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Nourishing Your Skin..

Great Diet, Great Skin

Antioxidants: Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer

Much of the so-called aging of the skin is really a result of long-term exposure to sun, tobacco smoke, and ozone. Environmental pollutants generate highly damaging oxygen fragments, called free radicals, that erode skin much like water rusts metal. Free radicals also damage collagen, the protein latticework that maintains the skin's firmness and suppleness. The result is a condition called photoaging, which includes dryness, loss of elasticity, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Free radicals generated by sun exposure also damage the genetic structure of skin cells, which contributes to the development of cancer. Antioxidant nutrients, including vitamins C and E and beta carotene, show promise in slowing the rate of free-radical damage to the skin. People who consume five or more antioxidant-rich foods -- spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cantaloupe, grapefruit, carrots -- stockpile these health-enhancing nutrients in their tissues and develop fewer skin cancers. Of course, the antioxidants are effective only if you combine this healthful diet with other risk-control habits, such as using sunscreen lotions.

More-Than-Skin-Deep Guidelines

The dietary guidelines for healthy, youthful skin are simple. Consume minimally processed foods daily -- including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and cooked dried beans and peas, with two to three servings of nonfat milk and a small amount of extra-lean meat or fish. Include several servings daily of antioxidant-rich foods, such as oranges for vitamin C, dark green leafy vegetables and apricots for beta carotene, and wheat germ for vitamin E. Include one linoleic acid-rich food in your daily diet, such as safflower oil, nuts, avocado, or seeds. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Avoid repeated bouts of weight loss and regain, since weight cycling can result in premature sagging, stretch marks, and wrinkling. Take a moderate-dose vitamin and mineral supplement . When outdoors, wear a hat, use sunscreen, and apply one of the new antioxidant-rich creams that contain vitamin E and C.

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Reviewed on May 29, 2002

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