I once saw a sign in a store that said “Wrinkled was not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.” Now, as funny as that is, I think the sentiment is true for all of us. In a society where our vitality is measured by the appearance of our skin, don’t we all strive to avoid visible signs of aging as long as we possibly can? Well, just like everything else after 40, maintaining a youthful appearance takes more work.
After 40, hormonal changes and the slowing down of the natural life-cycle of skin are causative factors in the appearance of discoloration, wrinkles, and sagging. Of course, genetics play a part as well, but it’s dietary and lifestyle factors that either help slow down the aging process of the skin or kick it into high gear. They are the following:
- excess sun exposure: causes discoloration, wrinkling, and toughening of the skin
- excess cold exposure: causes thinning and wrinkling of the skin
- smoking: causes lines around the mouth and wrinkling due to oxygen deprivation
- excess alcohol consumption: dehydrates and discolors the skin
- overuse of acne products: drys and thins out the skin
- stress: causes worry lines
- being chronically crabby: causes frown lines
The food we eat not only has a huge impact on our general health, but it also plays a main role in our skin health as well. That makes sense because our outward appearance is really a reflection of what’s going on inside of our body. Our dietary choices can either slow down the aging process and help us maintain our youthful glow or accelerate the aging process, causing us to appear older than our age.
Foods that contribute to premature aging include:
- Sugar! Sugar is the number-one food to avoid if you want to maintain your youthful glow and slow down the aging process. Consuming sugar and refined foods (white flour products, sugary drinks, most junk food) accelerates the aging process of the skin through a process called glycation. Glycation occurs when sugar attaches to fat or proteins such as collagen and elastin in our body and forms new molecules called advanced glycation end products, or AGES. These AGES cause wrinkling and sagging of the skin, undereye circles, and dehydrated skin, as well as widespread inflammation and damage to our organs.
- Damaged fats: Trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) are found in processed foods (some peanut butters, margarine, commercial baked goods, etc.), as well as foods that have been fried in oil at high temperatures. Trans fats release free radicals and make skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet. This can cause cellular damage to the skin and accelerate the aging process due to an action called cross-linking, which affects DNA molecules and can damage and weaken skin’s collagen and elasticity.
- Excess caffeine: Caffeine is dehydrating to your skin and also affects your sleep, causing puffiness and darkness to the undereye area, wrinkles, and fine lines. To rehydrate, drink one cup of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage.
- Excess alcohol: Alcohol is dehydrating and also depletes us of essential nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and fatty acids, which are vital for our skin and overall health. To rehydrate, drink one cup of water for each alcoholic beverage.
- Excess sodium: Consuming too much salt in your diet can lead to dehydration due to sodium’s ability to draw water out of the skin. This can lead to premature wrinkling and fine lines.
Skin-Tastic Foods for Achieving Beauty from the Inside Out
In addition to the foods on your blood sugar–balancing foods list, the following foods are specific for skin health:
- collagen-rich foods: Collagen is literally the glue that holds us together and is responsible for our skin’s structure, elasticity, texture, strength, and resilience. We naturally make our own, but as we age our production diminishes. By the time we get to our mid 40s, our collagen levels may have fallen by as much as 30 percent. This decline in collagen production is the main cause of wrinkles, fine lines, undereye circles, dry skin, and cellulite.
- foods include: wild fish with the skin, seafood, bone broth, gelatin, eggs, beef, poultry, beans, dairy products
- foods that boost collagen production (all vitamin C–rich foods, garlic, leafy greens, cashews). In addition, blueberries have been shown to prevent loss of collagen.
- vitamin C-rich foods: promote the development of healthy skin and help to build collagen
- foods include: bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, guava
- hyaluronic acid–rich foods: Hyaluronic acid is a compound that occurs naturally in our body and is responsible for attracting and retaining moisture. We naturally make our own, but just like collagen, HA diminishes as we age.
- foods include: bone broth (the best source of HA)
- foods that help production of HA include: soy-based foods, starchy root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, turnips), citrus fruits (contain naringenin, which inhibits the breakdown of HA in the body), leafy greens
- zinc-rich foods: Promote soft and smooth skin and aid in the repair process.
- foods include: nuts and seeds (especially pumpkinseeds), oysters, poultry, lean red meat, whole grains
- selenium-rich foods: Play a protective role against sunburn, age spots, skin cancer.
- foods include: tomatoes, brazil nuts, eggs, broccoli, wild fish
- beta-carotene–rich foods: Have a positive impact on skin growth and stability and act like a natural sunblock, helping to protect your skin from sun damage.
- foods include: winter squash (acorn, spaghetti, pumpkin, butternut), sweet potatoes/yams, carrots
- omega-rich foods: Play an important role in reducing inflammation and keeping your skin thick, hydrated, and smooth and can help protect your skin from sun damage. Studies have shown that omega-3 fish oils can be sun-protective, making your skin less sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- foods include: wild fatty fish, nuts and seeds (especially walnuts, sunflower seeds), olives, avocados
- vitamin E–rich foods: Important for promoting wound healing and keeping your skin looking youthful.
- foods include: nuts and seeds (especially almonds, sunflower seeds), avocados, leafy green veggies (especially swiss chard, beet greens, spinach), oils (especially wheat-germ oil, grape-seed oil, rice bran oil, safflower oil), butternut squash, trout
- green tea: Catechins, the powerful compounds found in green tea, have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve the moisture, roughness, thickness, and elasticity of skin, as well as help protect skin from sun damage.
- dark chocolate (cocoa 70 percent-plus): This just may be the superfood of skin health! Research shows that the antioxidants in cocoa can result in thicker, smoother, more hydrated skin. Research also showed that eating 20 grams of high-antioxidant dark chocolate per day could allow your skin to withstand over twice as much UV radiation before burning. Take-home message: Get the good stuff–organic and at least 70 percent cocoa count.
- probiotics: Your skin is a reflection of your gut health, and probiotics are
essential for a healthy gut and skin health.
- foods include: plain and organic yogurt and kefir, plant-based yogurt and kefir, kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, fermented veggies
- prebiotics: important for gut health (food for the friendly bacteria)
- foods include: Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions, jicama, kimchi, kombucha tea, plain yogurt and kefir
- keratin-rich foods: important for healthy hair, skin, and nails, offering anti-aging and glow effects
- foods include: protein-rich foods (see blood sugar–balancing foods list)
- water: Last but not least, without hydration our skin would be dry and flaky without any glow! We need to hydrate throughout the day with pure, filtered water (1/2 an ounce per pound of body weight is the recommended amount). So if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink 75 ounces of water per day.
RECIPE: GOLDEN GLOW SMOOTHIE
True beauty is an inside job! This delicious organic elixir is chock-full of skin-loving nutrients to boost collagen production, protect from harmful UV rays, and keep your skin hydrated to achieve that healthy glow.
Makes 3-4 servings
For gorgeous, glowing energy that just won’t quit, start your day with a blast of greens. Great for a quick afternoon pick-me-up as well.
- 2 cups raw, organic baby spinach
- 2 organic carrots, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen organic blueberries
- 1 t. flax seeds
- 1/4 avocado
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut water
- 1 cup pure filtered water or chilled green tea
- Ice (optional)
Either juice or blend all ingredients until they are liquified (a juicer that does not extract but retains the pulp and fiber is best). Add ice if you prefer it chilled. Enjoy! Store remaining juice in a glass container. Top with lime juice and refrigerate for up to two to three days.