By switching up a range of foods and ensuring you consume powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients and beneficial compounds, you can create an anti-aging diet that supports a youthful radiance, from the inside out.
According to New York dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad, your diet has a significant influence on your skin. “Nearly every disease process, along with cell death and cell destruction starts with inflammation,” he says. This includes the process of aging.
This concept of inflammation in the cells of the body has now become so popular in scientific research that it’s termed “inflammaging.” While inflammation is a normal and natural response of the immune system, modern lifestyles have driven up the amount of negative stimulus that the body is subject to fighting. For instance, poor diet, chronic stress, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to environmental pollutants — all drive inflammation in the body higher.
While some of these aging factors are out of your control, your diet is one way to negatively gear this inflammaging process. In terms of your skin, Dr. Ostad suggests that “a high fat, high sugar diet increases systemic inflammation and results in an increase in a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is responsible for destroying collagen and elastin, the protein that holds your skin together and keeps it looking supple.”
Santa Monica dermatologist Dr. Tanya Kormeili agrees, saying, “sugar infused, artificially flavored, processed garbage ruins the entire body, including the healthy skin cells. Therefore, these types of foods should be avoided.”
Dr. Kormeili also suggests that alcohol and coffee should be minimized as they acidify the body, leading to more rapid aging.
As for supporting your skin from the inside out, there are many different things you can do.
Creating Your Anti-Aging Diet Plan
Control blood sugar
Dr. Ostad advises that the easiest anti-aging diet tip is to control your blood sugar naturally. Essentially, increased blood sugar equals increased inflammation.
High blood sugar also drives the formation of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). AGEs promote cellular dysfunction, consequently promoting more rapid aging and the onset of disease.
In terms of diet, the consumption of carbohydrates, especially sugar and refined grains (all the white stuff) leads to higher blood sugar levels. Dr. Ostad suggests you should choose healthy complex carbohydrate sources like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and steel-cut oats, along with ample amounts of fresh vegetables and a little fruit.
“I prescribe a diet that includes controlling your blood sugar with fat and protein,” he says. “For instance, when you eat a carbohydrate, always combine it with a protein source (chicken, nuts, fish or eggs) and/or a fat source (avocado or nuts) to blunt the insulin response.”
Eat leafy greens daily
Dr. Kormeili suggests you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables for their high nutritional profile. The skin is the largest organ of your body and it needs ample nutrients to look its best.
According to a recent study published by the Center for Disease Control, green leafy vegetables are the gold standard in nutrient density, containing the widest array of vitamins, minerals and beneficial compounds.
The ten most nutrient dense green leafy vegetables include:
- Chinese cabbage
- Beet greens
- Leaf lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
Drink plenty of water
Everyone agrees that hydration is very important. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of filtered water every day.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day, and about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day for women.
Favor quality protein
“Amino acids, found in protein-rich foods, are the building blocks that help increase collagen and elastin production,” says Dr. Ostad. “These can be taken orally through amino-acid supplements or ingested by consuming meat and eggs — and don’t forget the yolks!”
Despite commonly held assumptions about egg yolks being bad for you, they’re actually the most nutritious part of the egg — containing vitamins A, B12, D and folate, choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, and arginine.
Steer clear of unhealthy fats
“I’d recommend people stay away from margarine, lard, and solid fats,” says Dr. Kormeili. “Instead, avocados, olive oil and fish such as salmon, constitute good fats for the body and the skin, so these should be included more frequently in your diet.”
Load up on antioxidant-rich foods
Free radicals are rebel cells that cause havoc to healthy cells in the body and increase the rate of aging. To bring these radical cells back in line, you need large amounts of antioxidant nutrients.
“To help combat free-radicals, vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants you can consume,” says Dr. Ostad.
High levels of vitamin C are found in:
- Sweet yellow, red and green peppers
- Tomato juice
- Orange juice
- Brussels sprouts
- Kidney beans
- Sweet potato
Vitamin C is also found in many other fruits and vegetables.
Get your daily dose of fiber
That the digestive system plays an important role in one’s overall good health and influences the aging process has been a scientifically established fact for decades.
But more recently researchers have actually determined that your gut bugs — also known as gut microbiota, gut microbiome or gut bacteria — determine your rate of aging.
There are some some 10 trillion of these bacteria in your gut and when you keep a good balance between the good and bad bacteria, your inflammaging time clock slows down.
A healthy diet rich in fiber promotes healthy gut bacteria. Fiber can be found in many of the foods already mentioned — vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes and whole grains.
Anti-Aging Dietary Supplements
Fish oil supplements
Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, essential nutrients with potent anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, studies have shown that omega-3s can help protect your skin against ultraviolet (UV) light damage (also called photodamage). Photodamage is a major contributing factor to aging skin.
The protection capacity of Omega-3 is so potent it’s even been shown to help skin resist sunburn.
And that’s not all. Like protein, omega-3s support the formation and maintenance of collagen. What’s more, they help provide superior moisture protection for the skin, locking in much needed moisture in the innermost layers of the skin.
“I always recommend my patients take 500 mg of Niacinamide twice a day to combat sun damage and promote cell turnover and repair,” says Dr. Ostad. “This important and often overlooked vitamin (B3) puts energy back into skin cells to help repair damage.”
And one last tip…
Relax while you eat
Dr. Kormeili suggests “you deserve a little me time, so if possible, eat with pleasure: relax and enjoy!”
Anti Aging Diet Menu Sample
Ryan Whitcomb, registered dietitian, nutritionist and certified LEAP therapist (CLT), provides the following anti-inflammatory, anti-aging diet menu sample.
Oatmeal cooked in unsweetened almond or cashew milk, topped with raspberries, and/or blueberries and blackberries. To help control blood sugar, add a nut butter of your choice (almond, peanut, cashew) and finish with a sprinkle of chia or ground flax seeds, for added fiber and omega-3s.
Food selection tips:
- Certified gluten-free oats are preferable.
- Look for brands that do not contain carrageenan, gums (xanthan, guar, locust bean, etc.) or natural flavors.
Roasted chicken or turkey with asparagus sautéed in oregano and olive oil. Pair this with garlic quinoa cooked in either filtered water or low sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Add a little sea salt to taste.
Food selection tips:
- Lean, skinless chicken is preferable.
- Add garlic at the very end of cooking.
If you have digestive issues, substitute the quinoa with a baked sweet potato instead.
Salmon baked with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, basil, parsley and a spritz of lemon. Accompany the salmon with brown rice cooked in either filtered water or low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, with a side of steamed broccoli.
Food selection tips:
- Wild caught salmon is preferable; though salmon is generally low in mercury, it’s still a good idea to limit your intake to 1-2 servings per week. Other proteins to include are turkey, chicken and lean meats.
- Long grain rice is preferable.
- Fresh vegetables are preferable, but frozen is fine; take care not to overcook the broccoli, 5 minutes or less is all the steaming it takes.
Filtered water, black, white, oolong or green tea (limited to 1-2 cups per day due to the caffeine content), and unsweetened nut and seed milks.
Whitcomb also notes that while the above foods are considered the least likely inflammatory foods, he cautions that different individuals can potentially react to any food in an inflammatory way.
If you notice specific skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, redness, dryness, or even more rapid aging, there is a specific test that can uncover potential food sources that may be irritating your system. It’s a blood test known as Mediator Release Testing (MRT), which any registered dietitian who is also a certified LEAP therapist (CLT) will be able to provide.