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Foods That Turn Back the Clock

Foods That Turn Back the Clock

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For years, scientists have been telling us that a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is the key to long-lasting health. If you need even further motivation to start filling your meals with these wholesome foods, however, this may be it: The same foods that are great for your internal health can also do wonders for your skin. Vibrant, fresh, youthful-looking skin can be yours by eating certain kinds of unprocessed, nutrient-packed foods.

With so much emphasis being placed on cutting calories and dieting, it’s easy to miss out on nutrients that are important to the health of our skin. Fortunately, the foods that are good for your skin are also good for your waistline. And unlike diets that go in and out of style as rapidly as the latest fashion trends, the anti-age “diet” is not really a diet at all. Rather, it is a simple shift in the way you look at what you eat.

What Causes Skin to Age?

First, let’s take a look at the factors that cause our skin to age. The main enemies of youthful, vibrant skin are highly processed foods and exposure to harmful UV rays, which can lead to dryness, premature aging, wrinkles, clogged pores, acne, and inflammation. Eating fried and processed foods can cause damage to skin cells while exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun instigates a process called oxidation, which is also very damaging to the skin. That’s why antioxidants, which destroy free radicals and repair cellular damage, are so good for your skin.

Fortunately, there are foods that slow down the aging process by preventing inflammation, protecting against oxidation damage from the sun, and promoting turnover of healthy skin cells.

Foods that Fight Aging

Whole Foods

What they do:

Foods are most nutritious when left in their natural state. The more processing they undergo, the less beneficial they are. “Whole foods” refers to foods that don’t have a lot of additives and are relatively unprocessed. These foods are rich in the mineral selenium, which plays a big role in minimizing inflammation and oxidation. In addition to decreasing damage from the sun and lowering your risk of cancer, these foods tend to fill you up more quickly. When you have the full, satisfied feeling that whole foods provide, you are less likely to resort to a sugary snack.

Where to find them:

For whole foods, you want to shop around the perimeter of your grocery store, where fresh produce, dairy, and meats are found. When you get closer to the center aisles of the store, you are pushing your cart into dangerous territory, as they tend to be full of highly-processed, fattening, and sugary foods. For flavor and sustenance without all the inflammation-causing additives, stick to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein (such as poultry or tuna), low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, and beans.

Antioxidants

What they do:

Antioxidants can prevent sunburn, protect cells whose membranes are damaged from sun exposure, and guard against premature aging. Lycopene, the pigment that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color, has antioxidant qualities. Vitamins A, B, C, and E are also proven antioxidants. In addition to increasing healthy cell turnover, vitamin A is essential for vision, growth, and your immune system. Vitamin B also promotes healthy skin cells and prevents dry, flaky skin and dermatitis. Vitamin C aids the production and maintenance of collagen, which maintains the resiliency of your skin. Lastly, vitamin E is one of the top antioxidants for your skin, neutralizing free radicals in the body that cause tissue and cellular damage.

Where to find them:

Lycopene-This skin saver can be found in bright-colored berries, plums, artichokes, beans, prunes, and pecans.

Vitamin A-Beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A, is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, spinach, mango, and apricot.

Vitamin B-Low-fat dairy products, bananas, oats, peanuts, chicken breast, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, black beans, lentils, and asparagus are all great sources of vitamin B. Vitamin C-Though the most well-known source of vitamin C is oranges, some lesser-known sources are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, strawberries, and kiwi.

Vitamin E-Some good sources of this antioxidant are avocado, whole grain products, egg yolk, nuts, liver, and peanut butter.

Essential Fatty Acids

What they do:

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both types of “good fats” that are rich in vitamin E and have anti-inflammatory properties. Fatty acids aid in cell membrane function, which is important for a healthy glow. A healthy cell membrane acts as a passageway, letting waste products out and nutrients in. When functioning properly, it also acts as a barrier to harmful matter while holding moisture in. This ability to retain moisture in skin cells helps to give your face a fuller, more youthful look. Besides reinforcing the cell membrane, foods rich in essential fatty acids also reduce the production of inflammatory materials that are involved in the aging process.

Where to find them:

While most people get enough omega-6 in their diets, many do not get enough omega-3. Healthy oils that contain alpha-linolenic acid convert to omega-3 fatty acid in the body. Oils labeled cold pressed, expeller processed, or extra virgin are healthy sources of essential fatty acids that keep skin lubricated and healthy. Other good sources of omega-3 are salmon, tuna, walnuts, ground flax seeds, and tofu. It is important to remember that while oils are considered a healthy fat, they are also high in calories. All you need is about two tablespoons a day to see the benefits in your skin.

Tea and Water

What they do:

Tea is widely recognized as being particularly beneficial to the overall health of your skin. Besides having highly effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, tea protects the cell membrane and reduces damage from the sun, and therefore reduces the risk of cancer.

The importance of drinking plenty of water cannot be stressed enough. All of the anti-aging processes that are described above require water to do their job. Water keeps cells hydrated, assists nutrients and toxins flowing in and out of the cells, and makes you sweat more efficiently, leaving your skin healthy and clean.

Where to find them:

Whether you prefer green, black, or white tea, they all help protect and beautify your skin. Tea also contains less caffeine than coffee.

The best source of hydration is from water, not soda, juice, or soup. Clean water straight from the tap is an excellent choice.

Foods and Activities to Avoid

Just as the foods mentioned above can slow down or even reverse the effects of aging on your skin, there are also foods that will speed up the process. Sugar-filled indulgences with empty calories elevate blood sugar, insulin, and cortisol levels, making your body function less efficiently. The result is not attractive: premature wrinkles, puffy skin, and excess body fat around the midsection.

Saturated fat and heavily processed foods cause inflammation that can lead to disease and aging over time. Try to stay away from anything fried or that has “hydrogenated” on the label, and stick with whole foods low on additives and processing.

When it comes to anti-aging foods, what’s good for your figure is also great for your skin! Unprocessed, nutritious choices like whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and essential oils reduce sun damage, fight inflammation, and as an added reward, keep your weight under control. Stick with these eating habits and you may accomplish what many skin-care creams and products cannot: younger-looking skin. Bon appetit!

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