Skin creams may help, but adding specific foods to your diet might be a more practical way to maintain a youthful appearance.
By Linda Foster | Medically reviewed by Stefan B. Craig, MA, MD
Can you actually look younger just by adjusting your diet? “Yes,” says June Breiner, MD, an internist in Maryland. “And what you put in your mouth can take years off of your appearance.” The right foods are chock-full of anti-aging and anti-wrinkle agents.
Understanding Antioxidants: The Anti-Wrinkle Crusaders
How can what you eat affect your body so positively or negatively? “Antioxidants are the key,” explains Dr. Breiner. “They are nutrients that are able to protect your body from the aging effects of free radicals, a nasty process called oxidation.”
Free radicals are formed through natural processes in your body and the environment — everything from exposure to sun, cigarette smoke, chemicals, even exercise. A free radical is simply a molecule or atom that has lost one of its electrons and, now unpaired, has become unstable. This instability causes it to seek other atoms or molecules (yours) to stabilize it, resulting in a domino effect of unstable atoms and molecules in your body.
This is a problem “because the end result is a change in your cells’ DNA, which includes your body’s largest organ, your skin,” Breiner says. “Oxidative stress and inflammation are two major causes of the aging process.”
The Anti-Aging Diet: Foods That Smooth Skin
“Eat a fiber-rich diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables,” suggests Breiner. “Eight to 10 servings a day will help keep you young. Fruits and vegetables are generally low-calorie and have the ability to detoxify and renew your cells.”
Add these great anti-aging food choices to your regular diet:
- Colorful berries. The antioxidant anthocyanin is what gives berries their blue, red, and purple colors. To get a healthy dose of this potent antioxidant, eat plenty of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, pomegranate, cherries, acai berries, and blood oranges, to name a few of the best choices. Each of these foods has a variety of other powerful antioxidants that repair and protect your skin’s cells.
- Broccoli and broccoli sprouts. Quercetin is another powerful antioxidant that is found in broccoli, along with other foods including cranberries, onions, and apples. It is a natural anti-inflammatory agent as well, fighting the No. 2 cause of aging. Broccoli sprouts have 30 times more isothiocyanates (yet another antioxidant) regular broccoli.
- Spinach. Lutein is found in spinach, kale, corn, and other vegetables. It has the ability to give additional antioxidant capacity to your skin and enhances skin hydration.
- Garlic. Allium is an antioxidant that packs a punch. Garlic, onions, and scallions are loaded with this free-radical fighter that is good for your skin and your immune system.
- Beans. “Eat your beans, too,” says Breiner. Anthocyanin is found in very high quantities in black beans and black soybeans. Soybeans are also high in isoflavones, also linked to anti-aging properties.
- Tea. Catechins, found in green tea, dark chocolate, and red wine, are another antioxidant that packs a wallop. “Have four to six cups of tea a day with lemon, which enhances the antioxidants’ activity in your cells,” Breiner advises.
- Wine. In addition to those catechins, resveratrol is found in red wine and has many anti-aging properties. It is another potent antioxidant.
- Yellow and orange root vegetables. Put plenty of beta-carotene on your plate. These super-antioxidants are good for your skin and eyes. Good choices include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squash.
- Tomatoes. Lycopene, in red grapefruit, tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit, is a powerful weapon against free radicals. It has the ability to inhibit sun-induced aging and can neutralize free radicals. Breiner suggests, “Fill your glass with tomato juice or V8 juice daily.”
- Nuts. Eat a handful of nuts and seeds a day. They are loaded with “good” fat that helps “plump” your skin, antioxidants and lots of minerals that are good for your skin, too.
- Salmon. “Eat salmon at least three times a week,” says Breiner. “It has a host of benefits for your skin, from the omega-3s to the high-quality protein. Make it a regular in your diet, and you will see plumper, more youthful skin in about six weeks.”
- Water. Stay hydrated: Drink six to eight glasses of water a day. (And if you are drinking decaffeinated tea, that counts.) Caffeinated beverages can dehydrate you, which can contribute to dry, sallow-looking skin.
Eat fruits and vegetables raw when possible. If you cook them, steaming is the best way to go to keep all of the anti-aging, anti-wrinkle antioxidants. At the same time, cut down on sweets. Avoid processed, refined foods and sugars, which can increase free-radical activity.
If you choose from all these wonderful anti-aging and anti-wrinkle foods as often as possible, you will be on your way to a healthier, younger-looking you.