Food is one of your best defenses against the hallmarks of aging. Read on to discover what causes aging, and the top nine anti-aging foods to eat every day.
To help prevent aging, it helps to understand how and why your skin ages in the first place. Below are several factors that cause your skin to age:
Breakdown of collagen. Collagen fibers make up a large percentage of our skin. As we age, these fibers break down, causing skin to wrinkle and sag. Many things can cause collagen breakdown, such as chronic stress, inflammation, environmental toxins, and, of course, age.
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UV radiation. As you’ve heard before, too much sunlight and getting sunburned increases skin aging. This is because UV radiation also breaks down collagen, as well as producing “cracks” in the elastin fibers that keep skin supple and flexible. (1)
Oxidation. When our bodies are exposed to stressors like solar radiation, environmental pollutants, and other toxins, they generate free radicals. These are unstable molecules that can damage DNA, which in turn causes symptoms of aging. (2) “Anti-aging” foods have compounds that fight free radicals, which we’ll discuss more below.
Glycation. This is bad news for all you sugar lovers out there. Consuming excess sugar initiates a process in our bodies called glycation, which causes skin proteins like elastin and collagen to break down. (3)
What Makes Foods “Anti-Aging”?
The main factor that makes any food “anti-aging” is its antioxidant content.
Remember we spoke of oxidization being one of the main causes of skin aging because it generates free radicals? Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals before they can damage DNA, which results in fewer signs of aging.
Common antioxidants include beta carotene, glutathione, vitamins E, C, and A, and many classes of polyphenols and flavonoids. You can tell that a natural food is rich in antioxidants by its coloring: foods that have high antioxidant levels are often very bright or richly colored. Think dark purples, greens, reds, oranges, and even black.
Another factor that makes any food anti-aging is its ability to help boost and/or repair collagen levels. These foods provide the building blocks of collagen or supply more collagen for your body to use, which can reduce physical signs of aging.
The Best Anti-Aging Foods
Below are nine of the best anti-aging foods to eat every day to keep your body looking and feeling young.
Blueberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants called polyphenols. These compounds are present in many plants, fruits, and veggies to protect them during times of environmental stress.
Research shows that polyphenols stop cellular and DNA damage in our own bodies by neutralizing free radicals. In addition, polyphenols have also been shown to play a role in reducing the risk of developing age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. (4)
One study showed that blueberry polyphenols were actually able to extend lifespan in animals and, interestingly, increase resistance to heat stress. (5)
To reap the benefits of blueberries, add in a cup daily to your diet.
As we spoke of earlier, collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in your body and skin. Research shows that supplementing with marine collagen peptides protects skin from aging by increasing the activity of antioxidants, while also helping repair skin collagen damaged by toxins. (6, 7)
Other studies show that consuming bovine collagen improves skin laxity, repairs collagen fibers, and increases collagen content. (8)
Try adding a cup or two of homemade bone broth to your daily diet, or a serving of bovine or marine collagen protein in smoothies or soups.
3. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like kale and spinach are rich in antioxidants like carotenoids, lutein, and vitamin C. One study showed that daily consumption of an extract with these antioxidants increased collagen and elastin in the skin. The extract even enhanced the amount of antioxidants in the skin. (9) This is essential for slowing down aging, since the more antioxidants you have present in your skin, the more you have available to get rid of damaging free radicals.
Be sure to add leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, and arugula to all of your meals. Add some to your scrambled eggs, eat a large salad for lunch, then sauté greens as a side for dinner.
4. Dark Chocolate
Cacao is ranked among the highest in antioxidant-rich foods. Raw cacao, which is present in most forms of dark chocolate, is filled with flavonoids, catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins, which all fight free radical damage.
Studies show that dark chocolate can protect your skin from oxidative damage from UV radiation when applied topically, and even have positive effects on satiety, cognitive function, and mood. (10)
Indulge in a square of 75-85 percent dark chocolate nightly for dessert to reap its antioxidant benefits.
5. Wild-Caught Salmon
Wild salmon contains a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin, which has a protecting effect on the skin. One study showed that participants who were undergoing skin-damaging UV radiation and supplementing with astaxanthin had significantly fewer wrinkles and better skin moisture retention than the placebo group. (11)
Be sure to have wild salmon at least three times a week to reap its anti-aging benefits. Try adding about two ounces of cooked salmon to a fresh salad or served over roasted veggies.
Nuts contain high amounts of antioxidants like vitamin E, which help preserve telomere length. Telomeres are the “caps” at the end of our chromosomes that are a major marker of biological aging. By preserving their length, you can, in essence, delay biological aging. (12)
Almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts are great nut choices for vitamin E. Add a small handful (about ¼ cup) to your daily diet as a snack.
If you want to have younger-looking skin, look no farther than an avocado. These fatty fruits are rich in vitamins C and E: powerful antioxidants that help fight signs of aging. Studies show that vitamin C and E help boost collagen synthesis, mop up damaging free radicals, and even provide protection from UV radiation. (13)
Top your salads with half of an avocado daily, or indulge in some homemade guacamole with raw veggies as a snack.
While prunes (dried plums) don’t receive much press, it’s worth nothing that they contain a higher amount of antioxidants than most berries! (14) The drying process used in making prunes increases the amount of some of their antioxidants, like polyphenols, which partly explains their high antioxidant content. (15)
Indulge in 4-5 prunes daily (you can eat them with your nuts as a trail mix).
9. Chaga Mushroom
Chaga mushroom is an edible medical mushrooms that flourishes in northern climates and is traditionally brewed as a tea. Studies have shown that chaga extract can help protect cell components from free radical damage, and also have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects. One study showed that cells pretreated with Chaga extract showed over 40 percent reduction in DNA damage versus a control. (16)
Drink a daily cup of fresh chaga tea to cash in on its potent antioxidants.
The Best Anti-Aging Recipes
Adding these foods to your daily diet can be as simple as eating them plain, or you can whip up some delicious recipes that feature them! Check out the recipe list below for some ideas:
- Blueberry Dream Night Night Gummies with Magnesium
- Easy Baked Avocado and Egg Recipe
- Healthy Honey Bunches of “Oats” Cereal Recipe
- Gut-Healing Bone Broth Recipe
- Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Mousse
- No-Stress Shroom Iced Mocha
- Salmon Bites with Sweet Potato “Buns”
(Read This Next: 10 Ways to Slow Aging Naturally)