Aging gracefully and looking younger than ever requires you to stick like glue to several habits: regular exercise, at least seven hours of nightly sleep, and a meticulous skincare regimen. But the single most important has less to do with what you put on your body than what you put in it.
Yes, we’re talking about your diet. By choosing the right foods (and giving up the wrong ones), you’ll nourish not only your body and brain but also your skin, your hair, and your overall demeanor—for years to come. Here’s how to get things on the right track. (And best of all: every food herein is downright delicious.)
To maintain healthy bones for life, increase your sesame seed intake. Packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and fiber, they’re are essential to keeping your bones healthy and strong, says Annie Kay, lead nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Bonus: they’re delicious—and not uncommon. Next time you’re at a poke spot, just ask for a sprinkling.
Nuts are one of the best foods on the market for fighting off aging—as long as you consume them with regularity, says Julieanna Hever, a plant-based dietitian. In order to gather the most benefits from this common anti-aging snack, be sure to consume at least one to two ounces of mixed nuts every day, preferably of a mix that contains almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios, which pack a punch of essential vitamins like phytosterols, protein, and cholesterol-reducing fiber.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Immunology, regular consumption of dark chocolate has many positive effects on your body, especially in the anti-aging realm. Cocoa and dark chocolate polyphenols (the polyphenols being compounds found in plants) have the power to “switch on” certain signaling pathways that exert antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that simultaneously work to make your body and skin healthier. Further, cocoa polyphenols were shown to induce the release of nitric oxide that is proven to protect your heart and promote heart health in general. When picking out your next dark chocolate bar, opt for those with a higher percentage of cocoa, as they contain less sugar than other varieties.
While every variety of berry provides a generous supply of antioxidants, blueberries truly give you the most bang for your buck, says a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. According to the research, blueberries contain a variety of phytochemicals that can limit “the development and severity of certain cancers and vascular diseases including atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases of aging.” So, while blueberries won’t necessarily prevent cancer or strokes from occurring outright, they do possess the ability to lessen the severity of disease or to greatly diminish the chances of developing cancerous cells.
To truly safeguard your skin (and, well, entire body) from aging, regularly indulge in fresh pineapple, says a study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal. In fact, pineapple turns out to be one of the best anti-aging foods out there, containing generous amounts of key nutrients like fiber, magnesium, vitamin B, testosterone, vitamin C, and phosphorous, that all work together to support the heart, brain, immune system, colon, lungs, and bones. Not bad for one fruit.
Lemons and Limes
If you’re looking to steer clear of excessive wrinkles and keep your skin smooth throughout your golden years, regularly ingesting water packed with lemons and limes is a great place to start, according to a study out of the United Kingdom. Increasing the amount of Vitamin C-rich citrus in a diet (namely: lemons and limes) was shown to greatly improve the appearance of wrinkles and dull skin in middle-aged women. For an easy way to get more of this anti-aging food, drop a few slices into your water.
To boost your body’s collagen production the natural way, increase the number of oranges you eat on a regular basis. According to Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames of The Nutrition Twins, oranges contain collagen, which makes the skin more elastic, dewy, and younger-looking. Even better, oranges also contain plentiful amounts of vitamin C, which has the ability to boost your immune system and give you relief from any current cold symptoms.
To greatly boost your intake of water in the yummiest way possible, reach for a few slices of watermelon. Water on its own has the power to keep your skin looking young and fresh, simply by supplying water to the cells that make up your skin, says the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. As an added bonus, watermelon is also packed with a phytochemical called lycopene, which works to protect the skin from ultraviolet rays that can cause sun damage.
Olives provide a plentiful resource of polyphenols and phytonutrients that actually help protect your DNA and give you more energy, according to the book The DNA Restart, by Dr. Sharon Moalem, a scientist specializing in genetics and aging. However, be warned: you can only find the beneficial nutrients in fresh olives, as those available in the canned variety are actually stripped of these vital ingredients in the pitting process.
While all varieties of mushrooms contain essential key vitamins, shiitake mushrooms are especially plentiful in copper, which, according to a report in the journal Development, could help delay or partly counteract your hair’s graying process. In fact, the report pointed out that a copper deficiency is relatively common, but can be an essential nutrient impacting the health of your hair follicles. So, to delay the inevitable graying process, snack on shiitake mushrooms on a regular basis, as just one cup holds more than a 100 percent of your daily recommended consumption of copper.
This tasty variety of potato is chock full of vitamin A, a nutrient that has proven to revitalize collagen production in the skin, ultimately banishing fine lines and wrinkles and brightening your skin’s complexion. It’s also one of The 10 Healthiest Carbs That Won’t Derail Your Six-Pack.
That’s right—tomatoes actually contain more anti-aging properties when cooked, according to Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The Well Necessities and TWN Collection.”Cooked tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant that protects the skin from damage. While raw tomatoes still provide the body with lycopene, the cooking process [makes it] easier to be absorbed,” she told Redbook magazine.
Packing twice the amount of protein of regular yogurt, this low-fat snack contains vitamin C and D, which are essential for maintaining strong bones, especially after menopause, according to Harvard Medical School. For a healthy afternoon snack that counts as a third of your daily suggested calcium consumption, eat an eight-ounce portion of greek yogurt. And for a super-charged anti-aging bonus, sweeten your dish with a handful of blueberries.
If you weren’t already aware of this fact, your teeth will be happy to hear it—turmeric actually has the power to peel back just the right amount of enamel to strip your teeth of its surface stains. So, to literally peel back the stains of time on your teeth, brush with a turmeric-and-coconut-oil blend every now and then (three days in a row every three months) instead of using your typical toothpaste.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cilantro contains a wide variety of active phytochemicals that help to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease by suppressing cholesterol synthesis and tumor growth. In short: get the fully souped-up guac next time.
Ghee, a form of clarified butter that’s a staple in Indian cuisine, can contain a multitude of healthy fats that work to keep your skin soft and smooth—when it’s made from high quality, organic butter, that is.
While you may not have heard of this particular kind of honey, you’ve likely crossed its path in natural skin care products, as it boosts cytokine production which in turn fights off pathogens and protects you from infections. When it’s applied to your skin directly (or even just consumed along with coffee or tea), this kind of honey rejuvenates skin and boosts immunity to harmful pollutants in the air, according to Hayim.
If you’re not already taking advantage of the many benefits of consuming saffron on a regular basis, you’re missing out. According to research out of Universiti Putra Malaysia, saffron possesses the carotenoid phytonutrients crocin and crocetin, which have been proven to limit excessive eating and improving the symptoms of depression and PMS. Bonus: these nutrients have major anti-tumor effects on the body.
For your next breakfast, make yourself a bowl of oatmeal—or, more specifically, steel-cut oatmeal, since it has less sugar (an anti-aging no-no) than your bowl of standard oatmeal. Oatmeal is loaded with zinc and iron, which are known to boost hair and nail growth.
Beans and lentils
Lentils might be the saving grace that your hair truly needed at this stage in your life, since their abundance of vitamin B9 has the power to both prevent gray hairs and balding. Aside from that, beans and lentils are both excellent sources of protein that fuel your body and give you a much-needed energy boost in a natural, crash-free way.
To keep your mind as sharp as it was in your younger days, you should be consuming much more broccoli, says a study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Scientists involved in this study actually found the plant pigment lutein in the vegetable, which, when consumed more frequently, led to better mental cognition and performance of tasks that require intelligence.
Not only does research suggest that carrots contain incredible cancer-fighting properties, but, according to Hayim, they’re also great for your skin. This is due to the fact that carrots are rich in vitamin A, which restores your skin’s elasticity and regenerates skin cells as it works to restore and regenerate collagen. (And no, eating too much of this vegetable will not turn your skin orange).
Listen up: for those wishing that they could hop into a time machine and transport themselves back to a time when their skin was more soft and less wrinkle-prone, edamame is the answer to all of your skin care prayers. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, consuming unprocessed soy, like edamame, every day can actually help improve your skin’s fine lines and wrinkles. To see real changes, you’ll have to stick to this diet for at least three months, though, say the study’s authors.
Yes, it’s time to embrace millennials’ favorite food. Avocados work with your body to combat aging (and avoid the common cold) by fighting inflammation to boost your immune system, brain, and entire body.
Add these beneficial seeds to your salads and smoothies more often to reap the benefits of compounds that work to increase your body’s ability to preserve collagen, which will keep your skin looking younger for years to come.
To further the replenishment of your skin’s naturally occurring anti-aging chemicals, add watercress to your salads (and nearly every other food, if you’re willing) to stock up on vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K that keep your skin plump and smooth.
Red bell pepper
Red bell peppers, along with their high content of vitamin C (great for collagen production), also, according to a study in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, contain powerful antioxidants, called carotenoids, that carry a variety of anti-inflammatory properties that can help your skin protect itself from sun damage, environmental toxins, and pollution.
Papain, an enzyme found in papaya, is actually found in many exfoliating products, as it assists your body in shedding dead skin cells. Aside from this enzyme, papaya also contains vitamins A, C, K, and E, along with calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins that, according to a study in Acta Informatica Medica, may actually delay signs of aging in your skin.
For even more ways to renew your aging skin, start adding spinach to your diet. With regular consumption, the vitamins A, C, E, K, magnesium, plant-based heme iron, and lutein all come together to keep your skin and hair hydrated.
As you age, the skin-cell membranes that used to keep the moisture trapped in your skin start to lose their power. That’s where cold-water fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel come into play. According to Fitness magazine, consuming these fish—which are full of omega-3 fatty acids—more often actually strengthens these weakening membranes, in turn reducing skin inflammation and redness.
While this calorie-heavy oil (120 in just one tablespoon!) should be consumed in small portions, recent studies show that those who indulge in olive oil on a more frequent basis have been able to prevent blemishes and wrinkles caused by old age. Further, the abundance of “nitro fatty acids” in olive oil can actually stabilize your blood pressure.
Because figs are rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, they can help to remove the free radicals from your skin cells, significantly slowing down the aging process of your skin.
Eating red meat in abundance isn’t great for your heart—but sticking to just a few servings of lean beef per week can do wonders on the anti-aging front. A diet rich in protein (of which beef is an excellent source) can work to maintain the collagen that keeps your skin looking young and healthy.