Thursday, July 29, 2010

DEFY YOUR AGE: the antioxidant answer

Reprinted from Chatelaine
August 2010

By Amber Nasrulla

Canadian actor Ellen Dubin (shown above) admits to being an antioxidant addict. The co-star of the upcoming HBO Canada movie, Second Chances is constantly moving between time zones and climates, and all that travel takes a toll on her skin. “In L.A. the pollution and sunshine are very intense. In Toronto, the extreme weather is so dehydrating,” she says. But when you’re an actor, bad-skin days aren’t an option. To keep looking her best, Dubin loads up on antioxidants. She always carries a Thermos full of green tea and snacks on dark chocolate seasoned with acai and blueberry extract. “Have Baggie, will travel!” she says.

Has Dubin jumped on the latest food fad out of California, or is there sound science behind her dietary arsenal? “Antioxidants are kamikaze disease fighters because they combat free-radical damage,” says Christine Gerbstadt, a dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

To understand how antioxidants work, imagine looking at your body on a cellular level. You’ll see that you are made up of atoms. Stable atoms always have electrons in pairs, one positive and one negative, so they have a neutral charge. Free radicals however, are pesky little oxygen atoms that only have a negative charge. They’re lonely and unstable, and they go around trying to steal positive electrons from healthy atoms. Put in dating terms, free radicals are like that sexy single gal (or guy) who hits on your date and has lured him away by the end of the night. Now they’re together you’re the one looking to pair up.

The dating game between free radicals and healthy atoms starts almost from the moment we’re born. Our bodies produce free radicals when we’re exposed to stresses like sun, environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke and electromagnetic radiation. The more we produce, the more likely they are to harm cell structures and DNA. Eventually, the damage becomes irreversible and may result in inflammation or disease.

The negative impact of free radicals is most visible on our skin. It shows up in the form of brown spots and precancerous lesions, for instance. (Part of the mechanism here is the same chemical reaction – oxidation – that tarnishes your silver your silver and turns an apple brown after you bite it.) But don’t sob, sister – it is possible to protect yourself.

Enter antioxidants. By stimulating cells’ defence mechanisms, these super-nutrients neutralize free radicals. Antioxidants willingly donate electrons to the free radicals, without affecting healthy cells. They are the “sacrificial lambs that preserve the health of your cells,” says Gerbstadt.

The rock star antioxidants are Vitamin C found in blueberries, broccoli, strawberries, and oranges; Vitamin E in goji berries and acai berries; resveratrol in red wine and raw grapes; polyphenols in red cherries, cranberries, dark chocolate, coffee and green tea; lycopene found in tomatoes and watermelon.

Dietitians recommend adults eat 4½ cups of antioxidant-rich food daily. According to the Canada Food Guide, a serving size is ½ cup so that’s nine servings of fruits and vegetables. Herbs and spices, such as cloves, basil, oregano and cinnamon, contain antioxidants too. (Small quantities, such as ¼ tsp of cinnamon, make up a serving.)

If you’re trying to harness this power for your skin, you’re going to need more than a few berries on your cereal. The antioxidants required for serious skin care work best topically, but only if they penetrate the skin. Sheldon Pinnell, a professor emeritus of dermatology at Duke University proved that Vitamin C can reduce sun damage in his groundbreaking 1992 study. He’s a pioneer in the industry and considered by some to be the godfather of skin-care science.

Although there are thousands of antioxidants, Pinnell’s lifetime of research as a collagen chemist, has determined that the skin can absorb very few of them. Vitamins A, C and E are good bets for skin care. The bottom line: Look for serums and creams that have high concentrations of these vitamins.

For the complete story, pick up the August issue of Chatelaine…. and go to and

P.S. I invested in Phloretin CF from Skinceuticals and love it…it’s pricey $153 for an ounce; and I also tried samples of the Hero package from Deep…both are great. Deep is more than $200 so I've started a savings fund for it. As a working mommy in the harsh Cali sun, it’s working wonders. And NO I didn’t get any freebies. Alas, they only send that to the editors, not to lowly freelancers. Hint. Hint.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sneaking a Nap With Preschoolers Around

Sometimes the best sleeps happen just where you happen to be sitting. But like a winter thaw, "snaps" (short naps) are to be cherished, because they don't last very long.

Take, for instance, my father, who is 69, and my son, who is three. Aba was at work at 7:30 a.m. today assisting in various surgeries. It's 6:22 p.m. and he's sprawled on the couch, eyes barely open for the last 7.5 minutes. Kamran is reading a soft cover book about a caterpillar looking for some lunch. "Red tomatoes, red tomatoes, munch munch munch tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, so much tomatoes. There are a lot of foods," he says. He pokes Aba. "Read it! Read it." Pre-schoolers aren't much for subtlety when someone needs rest.

Kamran brings his chubby face close to Aba's, so close that he inhales Aba's exhalations. "Naan-Aba, can we read another book!" Aba jumps. "Help me Naan-Aba. It's too heavy."

You're thinking I'm cruel for observing instead of giving my dad a break. Yes I am. But I so enjoy watching them play. Aba reads him Diego and Dora translating the English into Urdu. Kamran repeats the occasional word. Kitab. Book. "Dora made it past the troll bridge! Yaaay." He rubs his eyes. Aah, who is tired now?

Soon, Aba, soon, Kamran's eyelids will grow heavy and he'll fall asleep for 12 hours. Zzzzzzzz