I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: not all vanity is trivial. It’s so easy for us to cruise along and not really think about what we’re eating—or how we’re living—when we don’t have any ostensible symptoms.
In my experience, three things typically compel people to take a closer look at their health: pain, issues with energy or cognitive function, or a change in appearance.
One of the most important things to accept is that the hundreds of tiny decisions we make daily—choosing a sandwich or a salad; eating the chocolate bar; having that fourth cup of coffee—really do have a cumulative effect.
Wrinkles are just one example of this. You don’t suddenly wake up with them! They develop slowly, until one day you look in the mirror and the crow’s feet around your eyes feel like the dominant feature of your face. You can’t believe that you’ve started looking so old.
While it’s true that there is a genetic propensity to fine lines (caused by a lack of sebum) there’s also a great deal you can do to combat them. Those tiny daily decisions can feel very empowering when viewed in a different light: with every choice, you have the power to nourish yourself. An enhanced appearance becomes a natural side effect.
With that in mind, here are some wrinkle-fighting foods to add into your diet:
Dehydration is a key factor in the development of fine lines. This beautiful fruit is approximately 92% water, which means that can contribute to proper hydration and plumper-looking skin. Its red colour comes from a pigment called lycopene, which has also been studied for its role in preventing sun damage . Enjoy a couple of slices of watermelon as a sweet end to your meal, or blend it with ice for a refreshing drink.
Even if you consume enough water, you need adequate amounts of the electrolyte minerals (namely sodium and potassium) to regulate the fluid in your cells. Celery is a good source of both these minerals. It also provides silicon, which plays a role in renewing connective tissue such as collagen, keeping skin firm . My favourite way to eat celery is to use it in casseroles, Bolognese and other slow-cooked dishes, as it provides a natural saltiness.
As well as silicon, vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis. This vitamin is also a powerful antioxidant which, like lycopene, helps to protect the skin from UV-induced damage . You cannot store vitamin C in your body, so you need to eat it daily. Happily, just one cup (about 150g) of strawberries contains your full recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Buy them as fresh as possible, and opt for organic if you can.
4. Green beans
The humble green been (French, string, mung and other varieties) is a source of hyaluronic acid. You may have heard of this substance before, as it’s often touted as a potent ingredient in skin creams. It works by attracting water, which helps to keep skin plump and hydrated . They may not seem terribly exciting, but green beans are incredibly easy to dress up. Try this: blanch them for two minutes, then sauté with a little extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and a few chilli flakes. Squeeze over some lemon juice for an extra vitamin C hit!
Yes, chocolate can be good for your skin! In one trial, daily consumption of cocoa flavanols for 6 months improved both facial wrinkles and skin elasticity in middle-aged and elderly women . The key here is to choose high-quality dark chocolate. Check the label to ensure the bar contains at least 70% cocoa solids but no milk solids (these stop the absorption of flavanols). A bar with 100% cocoa solids would be ideal, but you may need to work your way up to it. This one is my favourite.
In addition to water, it’s imperative that you eat adequate essential fats to achieve well-hydrated, smooth skin. These fatty acids, particularly the omega-6 fatty acids, act as a seal that keeps moisture in . Almonds are an excellent source of omega-6 fats, and they also contain protein to help with skin repair. They’re incredibly easy to add to your diet: pop a tablespoon of ground almonds in your smoothie, sprinkle chopped almonds over your salad, or simply grab a handful of whole almonds for a snack.
There is also some evidence to suggest that topical nutrients (those that you apply directly to the skin) can have a beneficial effect on signs of ageing.
In one study, women applied a solution with 5% niacinamide (vitamin B3) to one half of their face, and applied a placebo to the other half. After 3 months of twice-daily application, the niacimamide side was found to have reduced fine lines and wrinkles and improved elasticity . Let’s hope the women could then apply it to the other side of their face to even it out!
If you’d like to try this for yourself, this product can be a good starting point.
Finally, as with any therapeutic approach, what you take out can be just as important as what you put in. Anything that causes oxidative stress can accelerate skin ageing. This includes smoking, high alcohol intake, and excessive sun exposure (amongst several other factors).
As well as incorporating nutrient-rich foods, it’s therefore important you also monitor your alcohol intake, and avoid lengthy sunbathing sessions. It goes without saying that you should give up smoking if you want both good skin and good health.
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