You know to wear sunscreen and apply anti-aging creams. But what goes inside your body also plays a role in maintaining your youthful appearance. Read on to see which foods and drinks add years to your skin and smile, and learn which smart swaps to make.
The white stuff isn’t the right stuff to keep wrinkles at bay. Getting more than the American Heart Association’s daily recommendation of 1,500 mg of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which “can weaken the skin by affecting collagen,” says registered dietitian Jen Brewer, author of Stop Dieting and Start Losing Weight. And that can cause wrinkles, especially in thin-skinned areas, like around your eyes, she adds. Salt also can cause puffiness by your eyes, says Heidi Waldorf, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. And there’s nothing youthful about puffy peepers. A skin-friendlier way to flavor your food: Use herbs, suggests Brewer.
Steer clear of that candy jar. Dermatologist Doris J. Day, MD, author of Forget the Facelift, says that sugar can overload what’s called the insulin pathway. That affects your blood vessels and accelerates skin’s aging process. “If you drop sugar, you’ll see a difference within one week,” assures Dr. Day. The change: clearer skin and more vibrant skin tone. To satisfy a sweet tooth, turn to fruit, recommends Dr. Day. Since natural sugars are more complex, your body processes them more slowly, avoiding the overload that ages skin.
The ultimate pick-me-up packs a double dose of aging elements. Coffee not only stains your teeth, replacing the pearly whites of your younger years, but also dehydrates your body, causing skin to dry out and look less youthfully plump. Plus, wrinkles around eyes become more prominent when the body’s not properly hydrated. Dr. Waldorf admits that coffee can be a necessity of a busy life, so if you’re jonesing for a jolt, be sure to moisturize properly, she advises. Or consider drinking green tea. It’s an excellent antioxidant and less dehydrating, thanks to its lower caffeine content.
Love your nightly red wine? According to Dr. Day, booze pulls water out of your cells. “This causes you to look puffy around the eyes,” she says, which ultimately makes you look older. Another reason liquor can give you a lickin’: You may be tempted to reach for salty bar snacks, like chips and pretzels, while you’re drinking. And you already know what salt can do. Counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effects by drinking one extra glass of water (above the 64 oz of fluids you already should be consuming daily) for every alcoholic beverage.
5. Red Meat
It’s a staple of most Americans’ diets, but a recent study from Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute suggests that eating it more than once a week is linked to wrinkling, as well as serious health risks. According to the research, the high level of carnitine, a compound abundant in animal protein, can harden blood vessel walls, causing skin to crease prematurely. Dr. Day says that red meat can be a good source of vitamin B12, which is crucial for red blood cells and brain function. But seafood and many dairy products are also rich in the vitamin. The bottom line: If you’re a red meat lover, indulge on a limited basis.
6. Simple Carbs
Foods like white bread and pasta have a high glycemic index, which inflames skin and produces reactive oxygen species. Those break down collagen, which keeps skin strong, and elastin, which keeps skin supple, resulting in less vibrancy and plumpness. When you’re craving carbs, choose complex ones, like whole grains, recommends Dr. Day. She explains that the body processes these foods more slowly than simple carbs, so there’s no insulin spike to which skin would react.
7. Spicy Foods
Hot peppers can be great for your metabolism, but bad for some people’s skin. Dr. Waldorf says spicy foods can dilate blood vessels in those who are rosacea-prone or going through menopause. “Those capillaries make the skin look less clear and youthful,” says Dr. Waldorf. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, avoiding spicy foods can keep rosacea sufferers looking young. But if you don’t have a history of the condition and aren’t menopausal, the flush that spicy foods can bring on is likely to be mild and temporary.
8. Hot Dogs and Cold Cuts
The sulfites that preserve these meats can age you. “They’re known to be a pro-inflammatory,” triggering rosacea and causing skin to look ruddy and sallow, says Dr. Day. Look for meats that don’t contain sulfites, and make sandwiches with tofu and legumes for the protein punch without the aging elements.
This fizzy drink isn’t kind to your teeth or your skin, says Brewer. Soda is highly acidic and wears away tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay. And a less-than-shiny smile can make your whole face look haggard. But that’s not all: Brewer says that soda’s high sodium levels age skin. In addition, soda drinkers may be dehydrated because they’re more likely to reach for the sweet stuff than water, causing puffiness and dull skin. Skip both diet and regular sodas and opt for fruit-infused water when you want a flavored drink.
10. Trans Fats
These manufactured fats, found in processed eats like fast foods and margarine, make you look older because they clog arteries. This takes away elasticity from skin because water can’t get through, says Brewer. But don’t cut out fat entirely. Natural monounsaturated fats, like those in olive oil and coconut oil, are rich in vitamin E, which helps stabilize cellular walls and protect against oxidation and free radicals that age skin, says Brewer.