5 Best Foods to Keep Your Skin Looking Youthful and Healthy - and the 5 Worst

Aging is an inevitable part of life. That doesn’t mean it's something to fear. Instead, the natural process our body and skin undergoes as we get older deserves our acknowledgment and our respect. How can you respect the aging process? One great way is to start thinking more about what you eat. 


"We’re actually learning that poor nutrition is just as bad for your skin as cigarette smoking," Patricia Farris, a dermatologist and author of The Sugar Detox, explained to health website Prevention.com. The reasons for this are multiple and relate to both short- and long-term effects.

Certain foods are crucial to keeping your skin hydrated while other foods can directly help protect your skin cells from damage that can lead to wrinkles.

“Every dermatologist will attest that a well-rounded diet will better support a healthy immune system,” says Bobby Buka, a New York City dermatologist, “and will therefore result in fewer dermatologic conditions of all types.”

By eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones, you may not be able to turn back the hands of time, but you can certainly slow down some of the cogs.

Here are five foods that will have you looking more youthful long into your golden years. 

1. Olive oil

You’ve probably heard that olive oil is great for your heart, but did you know it’s also super for your skin? A 2012 PLOS ONE study reflected this after analyzing the diets of 1,264 women. The study found that women who consumed more than 2 teaspoons of olive oil a day experienced “31 percent fewer signs of aging compared to people who ate less than 3.8 grams (about 1 teaspoon).” Olive oil in particular was responsible for this difference due to the fact that around “75 percent of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids.”

2. Tomatoes

If you spend a lot of time in the sun, tomatoes are your skin’s best friend. Those juicy reds are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which improves skin’s natural SPF. That doesn’t mean it acts as a replacement for sunscreen, but when used in combination, can work wonders for protecting you from harsh UV rays.

3. Dark chocolate

Cocoa flavanols, plentiful in this foodstuff, are great for hydrating your skin. Lisa Drayer, author of The Beauty Diet, suggests for optimum benefits keeping to a 1-ounce portion (150 calories) of the stuff.

4. Sardines and salmon

Oh, glorious omega-3 fatty acids! Why are they so good (and found in great quantity in these slippery suckers)? DHA, an anti-inflammatory omega-3, helps reduce outbreaks of acne and keeps skin clear.

5. Kale and spinach

Rich in lutein and zeaxanthin—nutrients known for neutralizing free radicals caused by UV rays—kale and spinach also help provide “134 percent and 133 percent of your daily value for skin-firming vitamin C and A, respectively,” according to research published in Clinics in Dermatology. Additionally, a Journal of Cancer study found that spinach-eaters “developed half as many skin tumors over 11 years” as those who went without, likely thanks to DNA-repairing folate.

The 5 Worst Foods

Of course, it is just as important to know which foods are bad for your skin so you can avoid them. The following five won't do your skin any favors.

1. Salt

Many a meal might call for a light savory sprinkle, but too much salt can take its toll. One of the more visible ways is the presence of puffy eyes. The reason has to do with the way salt causes skin to retain water. Too much salt in your diet can lead to swelling, particularly around areas where skin is thin, such as the eyes. This may not be a problem in your younger years, but as dermatologist Neal B. Schultz notes, “these effects of salt are definitely age related” becoming more visible the older you get.

2. Shellfish

Who doesn’t love a delish bit of shellfish overlooking the ocean? (Well, apart from vegans, vegetarians and allergy sufferers.) And so you should, but as with many things in life, such a thing should be enjoyed in moderation. Especially when it comes to your skin, which is prone to acne caused by a shellfish-rich diet. Why? Basically, this type of seafood is naturally high in iodine, which over time can lead to acne breakouts among those who are naturally prone.

3. Alcohol

Bet you saw this one coming. Turns out the old adage—too much alcohol will make you age faster—is more than just a preventative measure to get you to drink less. Like those hangovers some suffer from, the problem comes down to dehydration. Alcohol is a natural diuretic, so drinking too much can draw out the moisture from your skin, which with time can contribute to pronounced wrinkles and fine lines. Also, says Schultz (and anyone who knows about the natural blushing that happens after a few beers), alcohol triggers outbreaks of rosacea.

4. High glycemic foods

According to Dr. Buka, foods rich in starch should be avoided to maintain your complexion. Part of the reason has to do with blood sugar. When you eat starchy foods—which are considered high glycemic—this often leads to a spike in blood sugar, which in turn can spark a number of problems from acne to wrinkles. A 2007 Australian study showed that a low-glycemic diet reduced acne. As for wrinkles, explains Valori Treloar, dermatologist and author of The Clear Skin Diet, when you eat starch-based foods such as rice cakes, your body converts them into glucose, a natural enemy of the anti-wrinkle protein, collagen.

5. Sugar

Speaking of which, any food that contains straight sugar will act much the same. In fact, says dermatologist Farris, “countries without diets heavy in processed sugar” tend to produce children who “go through puberty without acne.” Moral of the story: Stay away from the sweet stuff.

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