Stop right there before you go slathering on the wacky anti-ageing serum that cost you your arm, leg and a small house deposit; the key to younger, brighter skin is likely lying at the bottom of your shopping trolley.
Clearly not if your trolley is full of crisps and cola, but the right kind of supermarket sweep could have a profoundly positive influence on your skin, hair, body and state of mind. The following 10 foods aren’t time machines, but they will make you look and feel the best you possibly can for your age. Combine them with SPF and a beauty routine that works for you and you’ll never resent another candle on the cake again.
Unfortunately cake isn’t on the list. Chocolate on the other hand…
Dark green veg
Popeye is likely silky smooth of skin and wrinkle free if his penchant for the green stuff is anything to go by; dark green vegetables are as close as you could get to an edible elixir of youth. In her book Future Proof Your Skin! , dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams has high praise indeed for the dark stuff:
“A recent study revealed that increased vegetable and fruit intake benefits our skin colouration in a way that looks more attractive to other people! In this study these dietary changes were confirmed to have a perceptible impact on skin colouration within a few weeks. Most amazingly, this had a greater impact than tanning. The researchers went on to suggest that these changes in skin colouration may even make us more sexually attractive [...]. With regards to green vegetables, the darker the green, the better.”
More spinach, more sex appeal; we’re sold. Spinach isn’t the only green veg that deserves to be in the spotlight, as Dr Stefanie highlights:
“Broccoli and kale are two of my favourites, as they are ultra-longevity foods and also full of anti-cancer ingredients (sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol can be found in broccoli). Sea vegetables such as kombu, wakame, other seaweeds and algaes are also great.”
On the green theme, Dr Stefanie is an advocate for turning your tea green too:
“Unsweetened green or white tea is great for our skin and for our general health. I cannot praise these highly enough and I start every day with them [...]. Green tea only contains minimal caffeine, but maximum flavonoids (catechins, a common group of polyphenolic compounds). These are known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-ageing effects (and also help with weight loss). These effects are highly beneficial to our skin and have been shown to reduce the sun’s harmful effects.”
“A 12 week placebo-controlled study confirmed that drinking green tea can not only provide sun protection and increase blood flow and oxygen delivery into the skin, but even improve skin elasticity and roughness, thus improving overall skin quality.”
Optimum skin benefits could depend on how you make your brew; heed Dr Stefanie’s preparation advice:
“When preparing green and white tea, avoid pouring boiling water over the tea bag as this greatly reduces the heat sensitive antioxidants. Let the water cool for a few minutes before pouring it over the leaves.”
Another way to up your antioxidant hit is to switch to matcha green tea . It packs in more free-radical fighting power than regular green tea.
The world has gone avo-crazy, and for good reason, as nutrition and wellbeing expert Chris James attests:
“Avocados lower cholesterol and contain a nutrient called glutathione, which blocks at least 30 different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that elderly people who had high levels of glutathione were healthier and less likely to suffer from arthritis.”
The good old avocado pear won’t just keep your joints well oiled; it’s vitamin E content is quite the skin saviour.
“Avocado is high in vitamin E, which is key at a micro level (our bodies can’t produce it). Eating foods high in vitamin E can help prevent premature ageing of your skin and damage to your DNA.”
Include in your diet and you’ll be giving all the other good stuff you ingest a boost too:
“The healthy fat in avocado keeps you satisfied and helps you to absorb other nutrients. for a twist, brush a halved avocado (pit removed) with olive oil and grill for a minute. Serve with red onion, sliced grapefruit and balsamic vinegar.”
Bon appétit my beauties.
The globe has also seemingly gone coco-loco, and the humble coconut is another healthy fat hero. Dr Stefanie lists virgin coconut oil as a ‘shopping essential’, despite the fact that it’s part of the much slandered saturated fat brigade. Not all saturated fats are to be feared, as Dr Stefanie clarifies:
“The saturated fat in coconut mainly comes from the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) lauric acid and myristic acid. MCFAs have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and prevent metabolic syndrome. These coconut fatty acids can also provide instant energy, as they are easily digested. best of all, they have been shown to reduce fat deposition and increase metabolic rate through heat generation.”
As for the effects on your skin?
“A thought-provoking study confirmed that higher intakes of total fat, monounsaturated fat (such as olive oil) and even saturated fat are significantly associated with increased skin elasticity and decreased wrinkling of the skin.”
For a skin-beautifying breakfast, stir up a bowl of Chia Co Oats+Chia . Along with fatty acid-rich chia seeds, it contains virgin coconut oil for additional anti-ageing kudos. It also takes about two seconds to make and is an ideal option for breakfast al-desko. Croissants have nothing on mighty coconut oil.
Dr Stephanie advises adding two servings a week to your shopping list, as ‘by far the best source of omega-3 is oily, cold-water fish’. Here’s why omega number three is so key:
“Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, have been shown to be beneficial for our skin as they are anti-inflammatory. They support healthy skin and also immune function. In a recent study, omega-3 was shown to prevent sun-induced immunosuppression in our skin.”
To limit your exposure to toxins, adopt a sizeist approach:
“In general, the bigger this fish (i.e, the higher in the food chain), the higher the toxin levels seem to be.”
Avoid eating the big catches too frequently and buy the best you can afford; wild farmed is always preferable. Your skin will thank you.
If fish doesn’t float your boat, put omega-3 rich chia seeds in your basket instead. The highest plant source of the skin-softening omega, the humble chia seed also boasts a host of antioxidants to support and protect skin cells from oxidisation. As Project Bikini nutritionist Zoe Stirling notes, it’s a brilliant skin-soothing anti-inflammatory, and the copper, calcium, magnesium and iron content help to boost hair growth.
Tomato, tomato; however you say it, it’s good for your skin. Stock up on the advice of Dr Stefanie:
“Tomato contains lycopene, which has proven anti-ageing benefits for our skin. That’s why many anti-ageing supplements contain lycopene as one of their main ingredients. Lycopene from food is surprisingly better absorbed from cooked tomatoes rather than raw tomatoes.”
Get a lycopene hit by whipping up this simple Healthy But Tasty frittata .
In particular, berries, which according to Dr Stefanie are ‘high in antioxidants while not containing disastrous amounts of sugar’. Don’t go to town on tropical fruits, as they’re often high in sugar, and for an additional antioxidant helping include a teaspoon or two of baobab fruit powder in your daily diet. Nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik thinks it’s as integral to your anti-wrinkle campaign as any night cream…:
“While you might not immediately think of baobab as part your beauty regime it really should be. This deliciously tangy African fruit packs a serious vitamin C punch; one of the most important nutrients when it comes to getting glowing, radiant and youthful skin.”
“Not only does this help support collagen formation, keeping skin nicely plump and springy, but it’s also a potent antioxidant, which means it counteracts free radical damage from environmental factors such as pollution. This is essential for helping to keep all of our cells, not just skin, from ageing and allowing them to function more efficiently. Since we don’t really store vitamin C in the body we need to make sure to get plenty in through our diet and that’s where adding in baobab can be so easy- sprinkle it over coconut yogurt or add to your morning smoothie.”
Sweet treats aren’t totally off the skin food menu, but keep it as pure as possible with high cocoa content dark chocolate to not only give you a kick but ensure that your skin benefits too. Dr Stefanie lays out the cocoa commandments:
“Cocoa is very high in antioxidants (cocoa flavanols), which are very beneficial for our skin.”
Dr Stefanie even went on a cocoa crusade to unearth its natural skin preserving capacity, performing a study to explore the pros and cons:
“In our study, we looked at the antioxidant effects of flavanol-rich dark chocolate. Our study demonstrated that regular consumption of a chocolate particularly rich in flavanols can protect skin from harmful UV effects. Conventional chocolate, however, had no such effect, because the high antioxidant capacity of fresh cocoa beans is often greatly reduced during the manufacturing process.”
“A different 12 week study confirmed that women who consumed a high flavanol cocoa drink benefited not only from reduced sun sensitivity, but also showed a measurably better blood flow in the skin, increased skin hydration, decreased skin roughness and improved skin thickness.”
Treat yourself to a steaming mug of the dark stuff or up to four squares of 85% cocoa chocolate.
For more advice or to book a consultation with Dr Stefanie Williams, visit her website
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