Wrinkles, crow’s feet, and sagging skin all start at the cellular level. Aging is, in part, the result of accumulated damage to the molecules that make up our cells. To get your youthful glow back I recommend incorporating the following foods, packed with antioxidants, essential fatty acids and proteins, into your diet to keep your cells and skin looking healthy well into your golden years:
1. Minimize sugar-intake for fewer wrinkles
If you’re looking to smooth out your skin and prevent the signs of aging, you need to break off your relationship with sugar. Wrinkling and accelerated aging occurs with high insulin and sugar intake because of an increase in abnormal attachment of sugar molecules to the collagen (a process called glycation) and an increase in free radical stress.
Bottom line: If you’re spending half your paycheque on expensive creams and potions, you may not see the benefits if sugar is wreaking havoc on your skin. Instead opt for skin-friendly ways to sweeten your dishes or smoothies such as adding cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder or stevia. It can take up to three weeks for your taste buds to adapt to a diet without sugar so patience is key. If you find your cravings are high during this time, add 200-600 mcg (micrograms) of chromium with breakfast and/or dinner.
2. Love your olive oil and eat your veggies
One interesting study looked at the relationship between food and wrinkling, particularly how food can affect skin damage. Researchers found that participants with a higher intake of vegetables, olive oil, monounsaturated fat and legumes had less skin wrinkling than their counterparts who consumed milk/milk products, butter, margarine and sugar products.
A similar study showed that topping your dishes with olive oil, and sticking to a diet high in fish and colourful fruits and veggies (which is like SPF on a plate) can go a long way towards preventing skin cancer. One group was provided a drink high in antioxidants, while the other enjoyed beverages such as sodas. Those who hydrated with the antioxidant-rich drink had fifty percent fewer oxidation products in their blood at the end of the two-week period, which included five to six hours of exposure to the sun daily.
Bottom line: Enjoy at least one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil daily, and be sure to add a little colour to your plate with a wide assortment of seasonal veggies.
3. Fatty fish for fewer wrinkles
Fresh, wild salmon is high in essential fatty acids and natural anti-inflammatory compounds which help to keep our skin smooth and supple. Fish oil has been found to be effective in reducing wrinkle formation and thinning of the skin by boosting collagen and elastin levels.
Bottom line: In addition to incorporating fatty fish (think salmon, mackerel, trout) twice a week, I recommend taking 3 capsules (or 1 teaspoon) of a high quality fish oil with meals twice daily for reduced inflammation, weight loss and healthy, glowing skin.
4. Beautify your skin with berries
Anything that reduces oxidative stress in the body can also help you turn back the clock and reduce your risk of various diseases. Strawberries have been proven to help with just that by improving the antioxidant capacity of blood. A group of volunteers ate half a kilo of strawberries every day for two weeks to demonstrate that eating this fruit improves the antioxidant capacity of blood. Each day, the scientists fed 12 healthy volunteers 500 grams of strawberries throughout the day. They took blood samples from them after four, eight, 12, 16 and 30 days.
Bottom line: The results show that regular consumption of this fruit can improve the antioxidant capacity of blood plasma and also the resistance of red blood cells to oxidative stress which can impact both how you look and feel. Add half a cup of berries to your smoothies or as a side dish 1-2 times a day. Citrus fruits and red apples (with the peel on) are also high in antioxidants.
5. Kick up your salad with kale
Chances are you’ve heard of kale by now – maybe you’ve even had homemade kale chips (if you haven’t, you’re in for a delight). Kale contains high amounts of antioxidants that are necessary for skin healthy essentials like iron, lutein and vitamin A. As a bonus, one cup of kale has only 36 calories and a whopping 5 grams of fibre.
Bottom line: To make kale chips simply add a touch of sea salt and olive oil to a bowl of freshly washed, chopped and dried kale. Place on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the kale is crisp but not burnt. Enjoy 1-2 cups per day (either fresh or baked) for maximum results.
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Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.