When looking to promote healthy, vibrant, youthful-looking skin, our first inclination is to seek out the best lotions, creams, and masks available. But, what if we told you that beauty actually begins on the inside?
A nutritious diet rich in natural antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols offers some of the best possible protection for healthy aging. In fact, a review investigated the link between nutrition and skin aging concluded that, “Fruit and vegetables consumption may represent the most healthy and safe method in order to maintain a balanced diet and youthful appearing skin.”
So, before purchasing another serum, lotion, or supplement, assess your daily nutrition plan and see where it can be improved. Here are 10 anti-aging foods for women (and men) to nourish, fortify, and protect your skin through the years!
Berries are constantly found on lists of the best superfoods. The reasons for this are many -- they’re packed with key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep oxidative stress in check and neutralize free radicals.
Berries are also sweet but low in calories and rich with fiber -- making them a fantastic anti-aging dessert, too! While blueberries and strawberries are the two most popular berries, feel free to mix and match other berries, including raspberries, blackberries, acai berries, and red or black currants!
Berries can be eaten by themselves, added to smoothies, mixed into yogurt/oatmeal, and used as a topping for protein pancakes!
Much like berries, spinach (and other dark leafy greens) are a mainstay on the yearly list of superfoods. Spinach is a source of non-heme iron, magnesium, vitamin C (which aids collagen synthesis), and lutein (a key antioxidant for eye and skin health).
Baby spinach is typically used as the base for all kinds of salads. It can also be sauteed, mixed with pasta, or added to smoothies. (Pro tip, if you want to make a true superfood salad, mix baby spinach with dried cranberries/fresh blueberries, ¼ cups walnuts, salmon, and a hard-boiled egg.)
Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition. They contain high-quality protein that rivals whey protein in terms of bioavailability as well as numerous essential vitamins, minerals, and other key micronutrients, including choline which is required for healthy brain development and cognitive function.
Over easy, scrambled, poached or hard-boiled, eggs are incredibly versatile and deserve a spot on any list of anti-aging superfoods!
#4 Nuts & seeds
Nuts & seeds are rich in plant-based protein as well as healthy fats (including omega-3s), fiber, magnesium, and vitamins, including vitamin E -- a powerful antioxidant that works in combination with vitamin C (found in many foods on this list) to promote healthy aging and offer skin protection.
A serving of nuts or seeds (usually one ounce -- 28 grams or ¼ cup) makes a great snack on its own. They can also be sprinkled on salads or oatmeal, blended into smoothies, or folded into baked treats (pancakes, protein bars, protein cookies, brownies, etc.).
One of the only fruits that are high in fat, avocados are chock full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E & K. Vitamin A is regarded for its eye health benefits, but it also supports skin by aiding wound healing and regulating the growth and differentiation of many cell types within skin.
Avocados can be eaten plain, smashed onto toast, blended into guacamole, or diced into cubes and incorporated into a salad (as mentioned above).
#6 Pomegranate Seeds
Pomegranate seeds have been consumed for centuries as well as being used prevalently in traditional healing practices. The most well-known encounter with pomegranate is that of the Greek goddess Persephone who was taken to the underworld by Hades. When she finally escaped, it was revealed that during her imprisonment, she ate pomegranate seeds from Hades’ orchard, and, for eating the “forbidden fruit”, Persephone was forced to return to the underworld for a certain amount of time each year (which was how the ancient Greeks explained the changing of the seasons, in part).
Western civilization lessons aside, the pomegranate has endured since the time of the ancient Greeks and continues to be a valuable source of high-quality anti-aging nutrients, including potent polyphenols and antioxidants, such as ellagitannins, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids. In fact, a recent study found that supplementation with pomegranate extract helped reduce wrinkles and decrease sebum secretion in the forehead. Another polyphenol in pomegranate, punicalagins, has also been found to reduce breakdown of type-II collagen.
#7 Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are a family of plant foods, including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. They’re loaded with antioxidants, key vitamins, and other assorted micronutrients that help the body protect itself from all manner of stressors and toxins, including those that accelerate skin aging. As an added bonus, cruciferous veggies are also high in water and fiber while being low in calories, making them a great option for those looking to suppress hunger and cravings while dieting.
Tip: While some cruciferous vegetables can be eaten raw, cooking them (at least a little bit) will improve the bioavailability and ease some of the GI distress that can sometimes accompany cruciferous vegetables.
Coffee is simply sublime. It’s heralded for its energy, focus, and mood-enhancing properties (thanks largely to its caffeine content), but there are a bounty of other bioactives present in coffee, including polyphenols and chlorogenic acids, that offer myriad benefits, even in the realm of anti-aging. In fact, research has noted an link between coffee consumption and improved skin appearance. Other studies have found an association between regular coffee intake and increased lifespans.
#9 Red Bell Pepper
Red bell peppers are loaded with antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which are renowned for their ability to combat oxidative stress and support anti-aging benefits. In addition to vitamin C, red bell pepper also contains carotenoids -- pigments in plants that are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow colors seen in various fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids offer a plethora of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that may help protect against environmental toxins, UV damage, and other stressors.[7,8]
Red bell pepper can be sliced and eaten raw, used as a vehicle for enjoying hummus or guacamole, and sauteed to be included in fajitas, omelets, pastas, jambalaya, and other assorted culinary concoctions.
#10 Fatty Fish
Salmon, sardines, mackerel and other types of fatty fish packed with omega-3 fatty acids that support a healthy inflammatory response, aid cardiovascular health, and may help promote anti-aging benefits. More specifically, omega-3 fats may help defend against UV damage as well as promote stronger, healthier hair growth.[9,10]
Unfortunately, significant portions of the population simply don’t consume fatty fish on a regular basis, for a variety of reasons (cost, taste preferences, etc.). Omega-3 supplements offer a convenient and affordable option to obtain the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
A healthy diet is the foundation of the “fountain of youth” that keeps your body feeling naturally energized, vibrant, and youthful looking across the years. In addition to consuming a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, adding the right supplements to your diet can further support healthy aging and improve the body’s ability to resist the effects of environmental toxins and stressors.
A few of our favorite supplements to support healthy aging, include:
- Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1;4(3):298-307. doi: 10.4161/derm.22876. PMID: 23467449; PMCID: PMC3583891.
- Polcz ME, Barbul A. The Role of Vitamin A in Wound Healing. Nutr Clin Pract. 2019 Oct;34(5):695-700. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10376. Epub 2019 Aug 7. PMID: 31389093.
- Chakkalakal, M.; Nadora, D.; Gahoonia, N.; Dumont, A.; et al. Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Pomegranate Extract on Skin Wrinkles, Biophysical Features, and the Gut-Skin Axis. J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11(22): 6724. DOI: 10.3390/jcm11226724
- Jean-Gilles, D., Li, L., Vaidyanathan, V. G., King, R., Cho, B., Worthen, D. R., Chichester, C. O., & Seeram, N. P. (2013). Inhibitory effects of polyphenol punicalagin on type-II collagen degradation in vitro and inflammation in vivo. Chemico-Biological Interactions, 205(2), 90–99.https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbi.2013.06.018
- Fukushima Y, Takahashi Y, Hori Y, Kishimoto Y, Shiga K, Tanaka Y, Masunaga E, Tani M, Yokoyama M, Kondo K. Skin photoprotection and consumption of coffee and polyphenols in healthy middle-aged Japanese females. Int J Dermatol. 2015 Apr;54(4):410-8. doi: 10.1111/ijd.12399. Epub 2014 Jul 11. PMID: 25041334.
- David Chieng, Rodrigo Canovas, Louise Segan, Hariharan Sugumar, Aleksandr Voskoboinik, Sandeep Prabhu, Liang Han Ling, Geoffrey Lee, Joseph B Morton, David M Kaye, Jonathan M Kalman, Peter M Kistler. The impact of coffee subtypes on incident cardiovascular disease, arrhythmias, and mortality: long-term outcomes from the UK Biobank. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2022; DOI: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwac189
- Fiedor J, Burda K. Potential role of carotenoids as antioxidants in human health and disease. Nutrients. 2014 Jan 27;6(2):466-88. doi: 10.3390/nu6020466. PMID: 24473231; PMCID: PMC3942711.
- Stahl W, Sies H. β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Nov;96(5):1179S-84S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.034819. Epub 2012 Oct 10. PMID: 23053552.
- Rhodes LE, Shahbakhti H, Azurdia RM, Moison RM, Steenwinkel MJ, Homburg MI, Dean MP, McArdle F, Beijersbergen van Henegouwen GM, Epe B, Vink AA. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, on UVR-related cancer risk in humans. An assessment of early genotoxic markers. Carcinogenesis. 2003 May;24(5):919-25. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgg038. PMID: 12771037.
- Kang JI, Yoon HS, Kim SM, Park JE, Hyun YJ, Ko A, Ahn YS, Koh YS, Hyun JW, Yoo ES, Kang HK. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Sep 14;19(9):2770. doi: 10.3390/ijms19092770. PMID: 30223485; PMCID: PMC6164340.