Aging can be scary for some of us as you start to see those wrinkles pop up one by one. You might be looking for that magical fountain of youth that will keep you looking and feeling young forever, I know a lot of us are. People are so interested in staying youthful that an incredible amount of money is spent on potions, lotions, and cosmetic surgery, making beauty a multi-billion dollar industry. But, although these products may help, they don’t actually address the underlying cause of wrinkles—lifestyle and diet.
As a registered dietitian, I have found that the solution for looking and staying young doesn’t cost nearly as much as you might think and definitely doesn’t require any surgery. Food actually has a much bigger impact on the appearance of your skin, more than any beauty product ever could. Here are the top foods you need to include in your diet to help prevent wrinkles and keep your skin smooth and youthful forever.
What causes wrinkles?
Before we get to the foods, let’s talk about what causes wrinkles. Wrinkles have two primary causes: sun damage and skin changes due to aging. Sun exposure decreases collagen in the skin, which is a big deal because collagen makes up the structure of the skin. Once the collagen is depleted, the skin becomes weak, leading to drooping and the appearance of wrinkles. Also, as you age, skin naturally gets thinner, drier, and less elastic. The skin is unable to spring back as easily from any damage because it is weaker, which leads to wrinkles.
Wrinkles usually begin in areas with facial expressions—such as smiling, frowning, or furrowing of the brow—and in those exposed to the sun regularly. Pollution, smoking, weight, dehydration, diet, stress, and other lifestyle factors can also impact the appearance of skin and how quickly wrinkles appear.
How food protects skin
There has been a lot of research focusing on the impact of diet and skin appearance. A 2001 study, conducted with people living in three different countries, provided interesting findings in the area of wrinkling and diet. The secret to preventing wrinkles seems to be to consume a combination of foods that are high in antioxidants, protective against sun damage, and that provide essential fats.
Foods that contain these specific properties are inherently beneficial to health and well-being, including skin. Those with antioxidants help reduce free radicals, which damage skin and can cause a variety of other health problems. In addition, since sun damage is one of the major culprits of wrinkles, any food that can protect against the effects of the sun on collagen will be beneficial to the skin.
Lastly, certain dietary fats are necessary to help the skin stay moisturized. When a food is high in these specific beneficial nutrients, adding these foods to your diet these foods can help protect your skin against wrinkles and keep you looking youthful forever.
Legumes are a family of foods that include beans, lentils, nuts, and peas. They contain fiber, protein, and are full of antioxidants. The fiber in legumes is amazing for skin. It helps trap toxins in the digestive system, removing them from your body before they can be absorbed and affect the appearance of your skin.
Legumes are also high in vitamins E and C. Both vitamin E and C have been found to be photoprotective, meaning they can protect the skin against UV radiation from the sun. When consumed together, these two vitamins tend to have a synergistic effect on one another, boosting their antioxidant power even more. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen!
Still, legumes are incredibly versatile, inexpensive, and easy to prepare. Include legumes in your diet as a healthy mid-afternoon snack by munching on a handful of almonds. Or consider eating beans or lentils a few times a week as the primary protein source for a meal. A few servings of legumes a week can give your skin the nutrients it really needs to stay smooth and healthy.
Foods rich in vitamin C
A high intake of vitamin C-containing foods has been connected to a decreased appearance of wrinkles and dry skin. This is because vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it can help reduce the effect wrinkle-causing oxidative damage, which can be caused by poor diet, stress, and even pollution. Vitamin C is also powerfully protective against sun damage.
But, research is still unclear if it is just the vitamin C itself that leads to the reduction of wrinkles or if it’s a special property of vitamin C-containing foods. Your best bet is to always eat whole foods that contain vitamin C. Almost all fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C. Some of the highest vitamin C foods include citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers.
Foods rich in vitamin A
Foods containing vitamin A have also been found to be protective against wrinkles. Vitamin A is found in two forms, beta-carotene and active vitamin A. Beta-carotene needs to be converted into active vitamin A and is found in most orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Active vitamin A is found in animal foods such as beef liver, eggs, and butter.
Vitamin A is used in almost all of the body’s skin cells to help them bind together to form tissues. Without enough vitamin A, the body cannot heal from cuts, scrapes, or damage. This is the reason why vitamin A is such as powerful wrinkle fighter, it keeps skin cells bound together tightly, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Vitamin A can help skin in two ways, by either being consumed from food or applied directly to the skin as a cream called retinol. The cream is usually prescribed by a dermatologist, but there is no need to call for an appointment today when you can get the benefit of vitamin A without seeing a doctor by just eating vitamin A-containing foods. Munch on some baby carrots as an afternoon snack or add eggs to your breakfast for a healthy dose of vitamin A daily.
Skin dryness leads to premature wrinkling because when the skin is unable to hold in moisture, it starts to sag. You may think that drinking more water can help moisturize the skin, but this is only partially true. Without the right type of fats in your diet, skin cells are unable to hold water inside, and your skin will stay dry.
Olive oil helps the skin in two ways. Not only does it provide healthy monounsaturated fats, necessary to hold water in the cells, it is also incredibly high in antioxidants. It contains large amounts of vitamin E, more than most plant-based oils, as well as other protective antioxidants such as lutein and vitamin A. This makes it one of the best fats for preventing wrinkles and keeping skin moisturized.
Use olive oil as your primary oil to add to salads and for dipping. It can be used to sauté foods at a low temperature, but should never be used to deep fry or cook at high temperatures, because high temps can destroy the delicate fats. Just be careful with the portion size; even though olive oil is extremely healthy it is still high in calories, which can add up quickly. A tablespoon or two is all you really need for cooking or as a salad dressing.
Foods rich in potassium
Potassium is an electrolyte commonly found in many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Potassium plays a major role in helping maintain fluid balance particularly in the individual cells of the body. It works against the dehydrating effects of sodium to keep water inside the cells. When water stays inside the body’s cells, it helps the skin look hydrated, plump, and wrinkle-free.
Add potassium to your diet by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. A few that are the highest in potassium are spinach, bananas, and avocado. This is especially important after you consume a high salt meal, the potassium can help counteract the skin-wrinkling effects of sodium.
Fish is an amazing food for skin and overall health due to its high omega-3 content. Omega-3s are an essential fat, needed to help the skin maintain fluidity and flexibility, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. They are also one of the primary types of fats used to help with hydration inside the cells. In addition to these benefits, they are also highly anti-inflammatory, which can help decrease skin dryness. Fish is your secret weapon for smooth, radiant, and youthful looking skin.
Aim to eat fatty wild-caught fish at least two to three times per week. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna are the highest in omega-3 fats. Your skin will thank you.
High protein foods
Eating enough protein is essential for healthy skin. Skin is made from protein, so without adequate amounts in your diet, your skin cells will not be able to regenerate and will begin to look dull and dry. Frequent cell turnover is what leads to youthful looking skin, therefore protein is necessary if you want to stay wrinkle-free.
Foods that contain protein include animal foods such as chicken, fish, pork, and beef as well as beans and legumes, and dairy. Try to include one of these foods at every meal and snack to get enough protein throughout the day.
Preventing wrinkles with food
As you can see there are several powerful foods that can help prevent wrinkles. The bottom line is eating foods that are high in antioxidants is not just incredible for your skin, it also provides benefits for your whole body. Get those fruits, veggies, and healthy fats into your diet to give you a powerful antioxidant boost.
Foods high in vitamin A, C, E, and potassium can also have an impact on your skin’s hydration, decrease the collagen-depleting effects of the sun, and slow wrinkling. Lastly, the right types of essential fats help hold water in, making cells look plump and full, so wrinkles are less apparent. Eating a well-balanced diet can help you look young and beautiful without breaking the bank.