Can Your Diet Make You Look Younger?
The anti-aging market is saturated with products promising to make you look younger. Walk down any beauty aisle, and you’ll be bombarded with vows of a younger you from a seemingly magic lotion or serum. But what we put in our bodies is even more important than we put on our bodies. By choosing foods that nurture your health, you can literally eat your way to a younger you. Mother Nature has provided us with an incredible bounty, stronger and more effective than anything on the beauty department shelves. Choose wisely and you’ll not only be looking younger, but also feeling younger to boot.
“Antioxidant” is a major buzzword right now, and not without merit. Antioxidants perform an incredible array of health-promoting processes in our bodies. But by what mechanism? Well, you can consider antioxidants a type of special police force, protecting against free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and when left unchecked, they can wreak havoc in your body – promoting inflammation and accelerating the aging process. There is no avoiding them. But you can com combat them. Their negative effects are exacerbated by sun exposure, smoking, stress, and inflammation. Left unchecked, they lead to oxidative stress which greatly amplifies the aging process.
But fear not – antioxidants are here to fight for your youth. They are able to donate an electron to a free radical to neutralize it, which removes its ability to damage your body (R). The key to maximizing your antioxidant exposure is to eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods. There are many different types of antioxidants, each of which fight inflammation and aging in different ways. In fact, most of the suggestions in this article have antioxidant activity. By eating a variety of sources, you’ll increase your body’s ability to slow the aging process. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A are the three main antioxidant vitamins. Minerals such as copper, zinc, and selenium, are also powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants are abundant in foods like fresh berries, citrus, leafy greens, mushrooms, green tea, and olive oil, to name a few.
Polyphenols are plant compounds with antioxidant activity that have been studied for their positive effects on overall health. They have been studied for their anti-cancer activity as well as their protective effects on brain and heart health (R). They have also been shown to have protective effects against sun exposure and promote cell repair, thus combating the physical signs of aging (R).
There are over 8,000 types of polyphenols. The most well-known include anthocyanins, lignans, and resveratrol (R). You don’t have to be an expert to find foods rich in polyphenols – just follow the color. Fruits, vegetables, and spices get their vibrant hues from polyphenols. That is why you’ll often hear Nutritionists advise you to “eat the rainbow.” Each different color comes to life due to a unique polyphenol. By eating a variety of colors, you’ll ensure you get a variety of polyphenols in your diet.
Some great sources of polyphenols include fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, cacao and dark chocolate, green and black tea, red wine (in moderation) and turmeric.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have incredible anti-inflammatory properties that work inside and out to fight aging. Including these healthy fats in your diet has been shown to increase lifespan, reduce inflammation, fight oxidation, and regulate aging (R). They have also been shown to prevent the decline of brain function that comes with aging (R). They promote increased bone mineral density, which will combat sub-optimal posture as you age (R).
Your intake of omega-3 fatty acids does not stand alone. In fact, science has shown that the ratio of omega-3’s to omega-6’s is key to reaping maximum health benefit and fighting the aging process. Omega-6 fatty acids can promote inflammation in high amounts. They are most commonly found in vegetable oil in the average American diet. By avoiding fried foods and cooking with healthy oils, you can easily decrease your omega-6 intake. The recommended ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids is 4:1 or less (R).
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and anchovies. At least two servings of fatty fish per week is recommended for optimal nutrition by the World Health Organization (R). Plant-based sources include avocado, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Collagen naturally exists in our skin and cartilage. In fact, it is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It is the foundation of healthy skin and a strong musculoskeletal system. There are many different types of collagen, all with a different job in our body. Over time, the aging process changes the structure of our collagen and we being to not only make less collagen, but the collagen we make is not as strong. This deterioration is amplified by intake of refined sugar (R) and overexposure to sun (R).
Collagen has been studied for its ability to hydrate skin and increase elasticity while reducing wrinkles (R). In food, collagen is found in the connective tissue of animals. One popular source of collagen is bone broth. It seems that bone broth is everywhere right now. By slow-cooking bones from poultry, beef, or fish, key health-promoting compounds are released into the broth. Collagen is one of these sought-after compounds. You can also find many collagen supplements available that can be added to smoothies for easy consumption.
Eating for overall health and eating to combat aging go hand in hand. By increasing your variety and intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, choosing healthy fats, and incorporating collagen into your diet, you can easily reap anti-aging benefits both inside and out. There is no time to get started like now. Visit my blog for a variety of healthy, age-defying recipes inspired by the Mediterranean.