These Foods Help Fight Aging, According to Science
For some, the signs of skin aging are celebrated imprints of the fun, work, sweat and tears put into this life. Every damn wrinkle earned its place, thankyouverymuch. Others are wondering how the heck science can put people in space but can’t figure out how to get rid of brown spots.
The term anti-aging tends to draw lines of divisions as deep as political polarization. Much like the rest of us out here tryna to live our truth and be our best version, our biology-ordained lot of antioxidants is overwhelmed with the state of things and could use a lil’ help. The day-after-day stress of a polluted world ruled by a blazing ball of fire has taxed our skin to death. So what if I said eating your fruits and vegetables could affect what you see in the mirror? *mind blown*
If words like free radicals and oxidative stress stress you out, feel free to skip to the juicy part: Vitamin ABCs where we bite into the best of the best in the food kingdom when it comes to stacking your deck with age-fighting antioxidants. But if you want to know what you’re talking about when your friends start to ask where you got that glow, ‘cause they will, keep reading. (1, 2)
FREE RADICAL RALLY
We feel it in our bones and see it reflected back at us in the form of wrinkles, brown spots and crepey texture. It’s the common ground of the human experience we (eventually) all relate to: aging. And the bullies behind the aging process? Free radicals.
The free radical theory has been around since at least the 70s and is gaining ground thanks to a proliferation of studies. It goes like this: Oxygen-derived free radicals, which are unstable and highly reactive chemicals that occur both naturally in our skin and are caused environmentally, are responsible for age-related damage at the cellular level. Too many free radicals can overwhelm natural antioxidant defenses leading to oxidative stress and the potential destruction of proteins responsible for your skin’s structure and strength. (3, 4)
Translation: Free radicals, unchecked, mean wrinkles.
Antioxidants are common in topical skin treatments, yes, but research suggests that antioxidant-rich diets can also help your skin stand up to oxidative stress and free radical bullies. Plus, eating your vegetables might be a more cost-effective solution than some of the $150-plus serums overpowering the market. Antioxidants inhibit or block the formation of free radicals and there’s no shortage of them in vitamins present in easy-to-get foods. (5)
Ready to throw in your vote for more antioxidants in your daily diet? These vitamins polled the best as potential candidates for real skin change ready to fight free radicals and take on the challenges of pollution, sun exposure and more.
Vitamin A (aka Carotenoids)
Carotenoids are vitamin A derivatives. The carotenoid getting the most attention from studies and the internet is beta-carotines, although others like retinol exist. They pack some pretty serious antioxidant power, most notably for their well-documented photoprotective properties, the process that helps your skin cope with the radiation-induced damage caused by sun exposure. Effectiveness depends on dose, so go back for seconds of your mama’s sweet potato casserole, please. (6, 7)
Eat It In:
Carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mangos, papaya, apricots, beets, green peppers, broccoli and kale.
Vitamin C (See Also, L-Ascorbic Acid)
L’ascorbic acid isn’t the only form of vitamin C, but it is considered one of the most active, albeit also more difficult to stabilize in skincare products. L’ascorbic acid helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals and helps our body use vitamin E (up next) more efficiently. Unlike other animals, humans don’t make our own vitamin C. You have to consume it. (8, 9)
Eat It In:
Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, guava, chili pepper, snow peas, brussel sprouts and tomatoes.
Vitamin E (Alternative Fact: Tocopherols)
Vitamin E is a complex of eight compounds called tocopherols, a fat-soluble membrane-bound antioxidant, thus, free-radical scavenger. The intake of vitamin E helps with collagen cross linking and loosing lipids, both linked to skin aging. More than helping your skin ward off the tell-tale vestiges of time past, vitamin E has been shown to fight heart disease, boost immunity and stop cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. So, eat it. (10, 11)
Eat it in:
Sunflower seeds, peanut butter, mustard greens, spinach, avocado and red peppers.
Polyphenols (Or Phenolics)
For the last decade, anti-aging research has been drawn to the antioxidant benefits of polyphenols and their easy-intake into our diets and the role the play in preventing oxidative stress. Whereas the aforementioned vitamins come with a cap-per-day recommendation, polyphenols can be consumed in much higher amounts, as high as 1 gram per day (contrast that with the 15 milligrams of vitamin E experts recommend). The absolute best part of polyphenols (IMO)? They give you a health-certified green light to drink red wine. Also, coffee. (12, 13)
Eat (and drink) Them In:
Spices like ginger and cinnamon, herbs like rosemary and thyme, green and black tea, cocoa, dark berries like cherries and blackcurrant, pomegranate juice, nuts, olives, artichokes and red onions.
Other Foods For Thought
Like vitamin C, your body doesn’t produce fatty acids, but the health (and appearance) of your skin kinda depends on them. This is why you see omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (also known as linoleic and linolenic acids) touted across cyber space for both topical and supplement use. For a complete breakdown on which fatty acids are best for what skin type (including aging), open this link in a new tab. For a list of foods containing fatty acids your skin will love, stay here. (14)
Eat them in:
Fish and shellfish, salmon and albacore tuna (watch for mercury, tho) flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seed, hemp oil, egg yolks, walnuts and leafy vegetables.
Low Glycemic Index Foods
This goes hand-in-hand with avoiding sugar-induced aging. Low glycemic index (GI) foods don’t spike your blood sugar levels like fried foods, sweet treats and pasta can. On the flip side, high glycemic index foods that tend to be more highly processed with more refined sugar and carbs are easier to breakdown and more rapidly increase blood sugar, which is linked to acne, emotional rollercoasters and wrinkles. That’s because of glycation, the process of sugars hardening and cross-linking collagen, the protein responsible for keeping skin firm. When collagen is damaged, wrinkles appear. (15, 16)
Eat them in:
Whole grains, seafood, beans, berries, broccoli, lentils, nuts, seeds, apples, eggs and grass-fed beef