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Can the Right Diet Slow Down the Aging Process?

Finding the right mix of foods may be key to fostering healthy skin at every age from the inside out.

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With aging comes a host of surprising skin changes. As you grow older, you can start to develop rough, dry, flaky skin, wrinkles, brown spots, blemishes and loss of elasticity. But you don’t have to settle for less-than-radiant skin. Good nutrition – and a diet rich in certain foods – can help foster graceful aging and maintain your skin’s natural, healthy glow.   

“Diet plays a huge role in skin health and longevity, and it all starts with the foods we eat,” advises Melisa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE, Private Practice and Phytonutrient Dietitian. But can the right diet actually slow down the aging process? Here’s what the research states regarding which nutritional factors may promote aging and which can promote luscious skin.

Foods that can foster faster aging

These foods can sabotage your skin health and result in damaged, dry and sagging skin.

Too much sugar

“Excess sugar can contribute to wrinkles and acne. When blood sugar levels are high, from consuming sugary beverages or too many sweet treats like cookies, cake and candy, sugars can attach to proteins in collagen and produce compounds that cause skin to become saggy and wrinkled,” informs Lisa Drayer, MA, RD, author of The Beauty Diet

Instead, focus on eating high-fiber foods to better control blood sugars; this will cause less insulin resistance. “More insulin production increases the production of hormones known as androgens. High levels of androgens cause sebaceous glands in the skin to secrete more oil that becomes trapped inside the pores, and this leads to breakouts,” states Drayer.

Sodium-heavy, processed foods

Foods high in sodium, like salty snacks, pretzels and chips, and processed, canned and frozen foods, can cause water retention throughout the body, contributing to puffiness under your eyes,” reports Drayer. Keep these foods to a minimum. A study of 3,349 participants showed those who consumed less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily had more successful aging. 

Skip the chips and opt in for a veggie platter with a delicious dip like this Smoky Sunflower Dip

Overdoing it on alcoholic beverages

Too much alcohol can give you dry, wrinkled-looking skin. Alcohol is a diuretic, and [it] causes water loss from the body, including our skin.  Alcohol can also cause skin to turn red or swell, through its ability to open up blood vessels,” describes Drayer. 

If you choose to drink, alternate alcoholic beverages with water or seltzer to stay hydrated.” Or, make a mocktail with one of these 10 Mocktail recipes. 

For healthier skin as you age, try these foods and nutrients

If you’re hoping to keep your skin glowing, healthy and gorgeous at any age, you may be able to do so by tweaking your daily diet. Food plays a bigger role in skincare than many realize. “One of the most important things you can do to keep a youthful, glowing appearance is to eat foods that provide your features with optimal nutrition,” advocates Drayer. 

While there’s a lot of research regarding how food affects skin health, there’s no one specific anti-aging diet to follow to ensure always-glowing skin. In order to maintain plump, radiant skin, follow these guidelines and apply them to your lifestyle. 

Eat plenty of phytonutrients

“Phytonutrients are what give plant foods their color and unique health benefits. It is important to get enough of these protective foods with fiber and key nutrients,” explains Halas. “Herbs and spices are very powerful phytonutrients to add color and tasty flair. For example, just two teaspoons of dried oregano leaves have antioxidants two times higher than a medium sized Fuji apple.” 

One great source? Add fresh herbs into your meals. You can also combine herbs with other skin-friendly foods, like the fresh produce in our Rainbow Mango Slaw with Almond Butter Dressing and Fresh Herbs

Aim for an abundance of fruits and vegetables

Want to have your skin shine from the inside out? Eat a diet packed with fruits and vegetables. They contain vitamins A, C and E, which prolong youthful appearance and help prevent both extrinsic and intrinsic aging factors. 

For example, “including a single serving of 1 cup of blueberries daily is an excellent choice for anti-aging due to the vitamin C content, anthocyanins and pterostilbene. If fresh is out of the budget, consider buying frozen wild blueberries. Enjoy them as a cold treat, or defrost them in the refrigerator and enjoy in overnight oats or with yogurt and nuts,” shares Halas. 

Including at least one serving of fruits and/or vegetables at every meal is a good goal to strive for. 

Try a Mediterranean-style diet

Not only does the Mediterranean Diet improve cognitive function and reduce mental decline, but it also encourages healthy skin. Known for its abundance in fruits, vegetables, legumes (which have lots of fiber and help regulate blood sugars), fish (which contain omega-3s for healthy skin) and monounsaturated fats from olive oil (also known for its skin health benefits), this anti-inflammatory diet has been linked to decreasing acne and keeping the skin strong. 

Love seafood? Add more omega-3-rich foods to your routine by eating fatty fish like salmon and tuna twice weekly. Use olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, D, K and E, or avocado oil, which is also rich in vitamin E, when cooking or making a salad dressing. 

What to eat to help your skin age gracefully

To sum it up, follow these guidelines to slow down the aging process: 

  • Consume minimal refined sugars
  • Drink minimal alcohol
  • Reduce sodium intake 
  • Eat minimal highly processed foods
  • Enjoy adequate intake of phytonutrients
  • Incorporate fruits and/or vegetables at every meal
  • Include vitamin C, A and E-rich foods
  • Aim for high fiber foods daily
  • Focus on including omega-3-rich foods weekly
  • Use monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil

For more on the link between aging and the foods you eat, keep reading: