By Dave Grotto, RD, LDN
There is biological aging and there is chronological aging. Can’t do much about the latter but there are some things you can do to slow down the hands of time’s effects on your looks and possibly even reverse damage through good nutrition and healthy living.
The best diet in the world can’t undo damage caused by bad lifestyle choices, especially if you continue to engage in them. So before you load up the grocery cart, unload these bad habits:
- Don’t smoke: This is “pedal to the metal” on the aging process. Studies show damage to the basic structure to skin cells which leave skin looking haggard and leathery.
- Get plenty of rest: Besides literally taking years off your life, the lack of sleep can make you look older than you really are. Experts suggest at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep.
- Limit sun exposure: Some exposure is good because it is the richest source for our daily vitamin D supply. Vitamin D supports muscles and bones, which in turn hold up your healthy skin. But overexposure can wipe away all the good aspects as it can increase changes of melanoma – a deadly type of skin cancer – and ultraviolet light can also permanently damage skin cell DNA and cripple collagen that supports healthy skin cells. Use appropriate skin protection when you think you will be exposed longer than you should be!
Good nutrition is more than skin-deep
Fruits and Veggies. Out of all the research on foods that have anti-aging properties, the consumption of fruit and vegetables offered the greatest breadth of scientific support. And the benefits may be as apparent on your face in as little as six weeks!
University of St. Andrews researchers found skin looked healthier and more attractive, had warmer and more youthful yellow and red hues and cooler colors were more muted with increased fruit and vegetable consumption. This is attributed to carotenoids in green, red, yellow and orange fruits and veggies that reflect in the skin’s surface. Surprisingly, just three servings of carotenoid-rich produce items like carrots, yams, spinach, peaches, pumpkin, apricots, watermelon, tomatoes and pink grapefruits over the six-week period was enough to show noticeable improvement. Eat produce daily to improve skin and everything else underneath it!
Cocoa is often the last food that people think of for promoting healthy skin. A double-blind study involving 30 healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to consume daily either a high or low flavanol chocolate treat for 12 weeks. The high cocoa flavanol group saw a doubling of UV protection in their skin compared to no such promise if the low flavanol chocolate product.
Grapes. Red wine and grape juice contains a compound called resveratrol, which resides in the skin of grapes. Resveratrol functions as an anti-inflammatory and UV radiation protectant to skin, halting premature aging. The nutrient also helps protect against dangerous skin cancer and other disorders. The seeds of grapes are also rich in proanthocyanidins which are strong antioxidants that protect against DNA damage to skin cells. Enjoy the whole grape!!
Olive Oil. In a review of many studies that looked at the anti-aging benefits of a Mediterranean diet, olive oil, because of its phenolic properties, was found to be key in preventing age-related diseases. The majority of the anti-aging benefits can be attributed to the phenolic compounds in olive oil for their anti-inflammatory affects.
Fatty Fish. Salmon, as well as trout, tuna, sardines and mackerel, are great sources of protein, omega-3s, and vitamin B12, all benefiting an overall youthful appearance. In fact, broken and weak nails may be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. What gives salmon its healthy “salmon” color is a phytonutrient called astaxanthin, which belongs to the carotenoid family. Research shows this powerful antioxidant fights age-related diseases. Omega-3s play a role in reducing internal inflammation, which means better circulation. Dry skin or an itchy scalp can be evidence of low intake and body stores of omega-3 fats.
Soy contains many nutrients that benefit healthy aging from the inside out. One substance is called equol which is derived from the soy isoflavone, diadzen. As women go through menopause, youthful levels of estrogen drop and along with it so do skin and bone density. In a cell study, equol significantly increased collagen, elastin, and caused significant positive changes in skin antioxidants and anti-aging genes. The benefit of soy and the supplement equol may be a safer yet effective alternative to estrogen therapy.
What foods help you feel and look younger?