There are several well-known factors that contribute to aging: smoking, stress, sun exposure and genetics, among them. But what you may not realize is what you put on your plate can also cause you to look beyond your year.
“Everything that goes into your mouth affects your aging cycle,” says Tina Martini, chef and author of "Delicious Medicine: The Healing Power of Food." Among the offenders are alcohol, refined sugar, and over-processed and fried foods.
“When you eat fresh foods, as close to nature as you can get, you can slow down the effects of damage to your cells, thus slowing the aging process,” she says.
One of the main damaging factors is acrylamide, an organic compound that is produced during the frying process of some starchy foods. This has led the American Cancer Society to recommend limiting french fries, potato chips, foods made from grains — breakfast cereals, cookies, toast — because they tend to have higher levels of this chemical.
“Acrylamide can affect the skin in the same way that sun damage does,” says Martini.
Reduce your exposure by soaking raw potato slices in water for 15 to 30 minutes and draining before frying or roasting. Also, when cooking, choose boiling or steaming to stop acrylamide from forming.
Sugar is the main source of energy for our bodies but it can also contribute to a process called glycation. The excess sugar molecules attach to proteins, creating "advanced glycation end products" or AGEs, which are linked to the loss of collagen. Losing collagen can lead to wrinkles and crepey skin.
“Remove processed sugary foods from your diet and eat fresh vegetables and fruits,” says Lorraine Kearney, BASc, NDTR, an adjunct lecturer at the City University of New York. “To get the maximum nutrients from fruits enjoy them whole instead of dried, blended or pureed.”
Snack on organic peaches, cherries, apples and strawberries as they can help to fight the signs of aging.
Enriched and fortified foods
You will often find the words “enriched” and “fortified” on labels of prepackaged foods. Those words generally mean that all the nutrients were removed during processing, and the manufacturer put back what they deemed important. A diet high in processed foods can lead to oxidative stress, which occurs due to an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body, and may lead to cell damage.
“Eating a diet rich in colorful foods increases the amount of nutrients the body needs to heal on the cellular level,” Kearney says.
Stock up on fresh and antioxidant-rich foods like blackberries, blueberries, beets, bell peppers and radishes as they mitigate the effects of oxidative stress.
While drinking some alcohols in moderation is known to have beneficial health effects, overuse can cause wrinkles, puffiness, inflammation and dehydration. While you should always remain hydrated, be extra mindful when consuming spirits; and instead of having a full glass of wine, enjoy a spritzer made with seltzer. Staying hydrated not only keeps your skin supple but also flushes toxins from the body.
“Skin care is very important in protecting our skin, but it’s really the moisture in our bodies that keeps us radiant,” says Martini.