Feeding your face: How food can make you look younger or older

What woman doesn’t want clearer, more youthful skin? Many of us spend more than we’d like on creams, toners, moisturisers and anti-wrinkle products, but the best kept beauty secret to make your skin look younger and smoother is hidden in your refrigerator or kitchen cupboard.


Looking younger and holding back wrinkles is simple if you make sure you eat the right nutrients required for your skin. As an added bonus nutrients that are nourishing to your skin are also nourishing for your body and mind – so you’ll not only look great, you’ll feel great too.


The following ‘look younger’ foods are not expensive and you can get them from all food stores.


Look younger foods:



These tasty, crispy nuts are a fine source of skin-saving essential fatty acids and the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, and research has shown that all of these are essential for smooth, healthy and supple skin.

Before consuming almonds as a between meal snack, or sprinkled on cereal or yogurt, do check on the portion sizes. Almonds weigh in at 160 calories per one single ounce (i.e. a small handful), so you don’t need to eat large amounts every day to get the skin saving benefits. I also think they taste even better if you soak them in water for about 15 minutes or so before you eat them – you can absorb more nutrients when they have been soaked.



Mackerel is a great source of vitamin A, which is needed for cell regeneration, and it is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids as well. According to a study recently published in the Journal of Lipid Research, omega 3 fatty acids help prevent wrinkles, delay the ageing process of the sun, keep skin supple and prevent inflammation of the tissues, which damages skin cells. Despite all these benefits most of us don’t have enough oily fish, like mackerel, in our diet. Eat at least two 140 g portions of oily fish a week. If you are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding eat no more than two portions as oily fish can contain levels of pollutants that can collect in the body. If you can’t stomach fish then take the fish oil in capsule form (see Omega 3 on the Resources Page). If you are vegetarian then use 1000 mg of flax or linseed oil a day as this will give you similar omega 3 fatty acid benefits. I have included a lovely recipe for Mackerel Pate in this issue of Natural News (see page 46).


Citrus fruits

A good source of collagen – which is the substance that helps make your skin look young and smooth – citrus fruits can certainly help hold back the years. Try to eat one citrus fruit a day and don’t just stick with oranges and lemons, experiment with different varieties of citrus fruits. There are plenty of them: clementines, limes, grape fruits, mandarins, tangerines, kumquats and satsumas are all nutrient packed tasty alternatives.



Recent research showed that people who ate 55g of standard tomato puree a day for three months had 33 per cent more protection from sunburn (the equivalent of a very low factor sun cream) and much higher levels of procollagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm. For maximum anti-ageing benefits it seems that cooked tomatoes have more lycopene – another crucial component that protects the skin – than uncooked ones, so grill tomatoes for breakfast or supper, make some tomato soup for lunch and add extra tomato puree to pasta and pizzas.



A rich source of collagen-boosting vitamin C, blueberries also contain an antioxidant pigment (which gives them their purple colour) called anthrocyanin. Antioxidants can help fight the free radical damage (caused by smoking, pollution and sunlight) that can cause wrinkles. Try to eat at least 100g of blueberries a day, either on their own or blended into yogurts and smoothies or as toppings for cereal or dessert. If you can’t get fresh blueberries then frozen ones are fine and will still retain their antioxidant nutrients.


Wheat germ

Rich in zinc, vitamin E and selenium – three of the most powerful nutrients that can fight against ageing – wheat germ is an anti-ageing essential. Zinc, which is also found in wheat and whole grains, helps maintain the proper functioning of the oil-producing glands in the skin that can help to keep it looking young and supple. Vitamin E promotes skin healing, helping to protect cell membranes and guard against sun damage. And selenium is a powerful anti-ageing antioxidant. Try sprinkling wheat germ over cereals, salads, vegetables, soups and yogurts every day or add it to homemade cakes and breads.


Green tea

Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia in America have found that green tea contains compounds called polyphenols that can help eliminate the free radicals that speed up the ageing and wrinkling process. The polyphenol which is most active in green tea is called EGCG and it can help enhance skin regeneration and produce a younger looking, fresher complexion. For maximum benefits aim for one or two cups of green tea a day.



Containing a myriad of nutrients and vitamins, avocados help to moisturise, exfoliate and enrich the skin. They are particularly rich in the essential anti-ageing antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the skin from free radical damage. Vitamin E is also considered by professional beauty therapists to be an essential ingredient in treatments that help reduce the appearance of ageing.


Other skin savers include vitamin-A-rich sweet potatoes and circulation-boosting garlic but perhaps the best nutrient of them all – and one that is often forgotten – is water. Be sure to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day to flush out toxins and keep your skin looking healthy and fresh. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is also essential, as is avoiding foods that can make your skin look dry, peeled and older. Here are the major culprits to avoid:


Look older foods:



Skin care experts agree that a diet high in sugar makes you age faster by a process called glycation. Glycation is the uncontrolled reaction of sugars with proteins, which happens when glucose and insulin levels are allowed to get out of control. It’s a bit like the browning effect on foods when you bake them. If glycation is allowed to happen, it will create a damaged, ‘encrusted’ structure in different parts of the body. This browning effect results in the formation of highly toxic chemicals called Advance Glycosylation End products (AGEs). These AGEs damage the protein in cells, preventing them from functioning normally. They also cause membranes and blood vessels to thicken and can harden arteries. Over time, blood vessels will lose their elasticity and skin can become wrinkled – all signs of ageing. Basically ageing is the accumulation of damaged cells, so the more we can do to lessen the damage to our cells, the slower the ageing process will be and the healthier we will become. 

To keep your sugar intake to a minimum cut down on sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sugar-coated cereals and snack bars. Start to read food labels – look for the figure corresponding to carbohydrates as that is where the sugar can be found. More than 15g of sugar per 100g is too high, 5g or less per 100g is low and anything in the middle is medium. You should also swap soft drinks, which are typically high in sugar, with fruit juices diluted with filtered water and spread your toast with peanut butter or jam made with pure fruit and no added sugar.


Processed meat

High in salt, processed and cured meats (such as sausages, burgers, packaged and sliced meat) can make your skin age fast. This is because the high salt content dehydrates cells, which reduces the skin’s elasticity and increases puffiness. It can also aggravate dry skin. Not to mention the fact that processed meats are very high in saturated fat, which can slow down skin cell regeneration and inhibit the delivery of oxygen to your cells, making your skin look dull and tired. Try to replace processed and cured meats with fresh fish, oily fish, legumes and soya.


White rice

A diet rich in foods high on the glycaemic index (GI) – such as white rice and refined breads – can cause high levels of insulin, which in turn can trigger an inflammatory response that can damage skin cells. Researchers believe that this process could well be a major cause of premature wrinkles. Aim to switch from high GI foods to lower GI alternatives, which don’t cause such wild blood sugar swings. For example, swap white bread for wholegrain bread, white rice for brown rice and eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and avoid processed foods and crisps.


Pies and pastries

Baked foods (such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies and white bread) can be made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are likely to contain trans fats. Study after study has shown that not only can trans fats increase the risk of heart attacks and cancer, they can also interfere with the body’s ability to build long chain fatty acids – the type known to help keep your skin looking smooth and supple. The best way to avoid trans fats is to avoid fast food, baked goods such as pies and pastries, and any foods with hydrogenated vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.



Along with smoking, one of the fastest ways to look older than your years and to experience premature wrinkling is to drink too much alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates the skin, which increases the risk of wrinkles and also limits the body’s ability to absorb skin-saving free-radical-fighting vitamins and minerals, in particular vitamin C. It also dilates blood vessels close to the skin causing broken and peeling skin. You don’t need to cut out alcohol altogether, but should not drink more than one unit a day and drink at least one glass of water for every unit of alcohol you consume. Try to have at least three alcohol-free days a week and opt for red wine rather than beer or white wine, as it is higher in age-fighting antioxidants.


Look on your plate:


There’s nothing wrong with spending money on anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle products, but hopefully the information above has shown you that the foundation of smooth, younger looking skin can be found not at your chemists but on your plate. Pile it high with healthy, fresh food rich in nutrients and low in additives, preservatives, salt and sugar – within a few weeks you’ll notice how much softer and smoother your skin looks, naturally.

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