By Stephanie Smith
Stop the clock with these delicious superfoods that keep hair, skin, nails, and joints healthy and ageless.
I currently look like a mutant. Before I sat down to with my laptop to write, I threw on a face mask—one of those pre-cut ones with cutouts for your mouth and eyes. A girl has to make time for beauty at some point during the day, right? As it turns out, though, that mask was a total waste. With a bit of planning, I could have been taking care of my skin, hair, and nails every time I sat down to eat. From a tomato-topped pizza to a shiitake mushroom omelet, the options were there.
Before you make the same mistake, dig into this list of foods that are sure to leave your feeling full, pampered, and best of all, ageless. From full hair and smooth skin to white teeth and pain-free joints, these easy-to-find foods will keep you feeling and looking your best. Curious what diet habits may make maintaining your youthful appearance an uphill battle? Don’t miss these 20 Foods That Age You 20 Years.
Best Foods for Age-Defying Skin
1. Olive Oil
Whether you're using it to bake or make homemade dressings, olive oil is likely among your pantry staples. While you may already know it’s good for your ticker, you may not be aware that it’s also a powerful wrinkle-fighter. Unlike omega-6-packed canola oil, saturated fats, and partially hydrogenated oils found in many processed foods, olive oil is a healthy fat teeming with omega-3s, which have been shown to keep skin safe from free radical damage. The antioxidants found in olives may also help reduce skin damage that can lead to wrinkles and blemishes.
V8 had it right from the start. With its high water content and plethora of vitamins, tomatoes are a prime produce pick. What really makes them shine, though, is their lycopene—a strong antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that age skin and cause wrinkles. One study even found that eating tomato paste could help against sunburn and sun-related skin aging. To get the full skin-boosting benefit, throw your tomato on the grill before eating them. Your body can use lycopene more effectively when it’s heated. For even more foods that can help keep your skin radiant and young, don’t miss these 18 Health Foods with Big Beauty Benefits.
The next time you’re looking to mix a chopped salad, pass on the iceberg and reach for watercress instead. Although you might shrug it off as a bitter plant, when picked young it’s tender, more mild, and perfect for eating raw. Because it’s rich in minerals and antioxidants—including vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K—it’s great for skin, too. In fact, daily consumption of watercress has been associated with an increase in antioxidant levels that aid in skin health.
You may have heard that eating a nightly square of dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure—but the good stuff doesn’t end there. Turns out, cocoa has beauty benefits, too. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that regularly eating chocolate rich in flavanols could help protect skin from harmful UV rays. Just beware: Kit Kats don’t count. Overly processed candy bars have fewer flavanols than the pricier stuff. To get the most bang for your caloric buck and reap all of the skin protection, reach for a small square of dark chocolate that contains 70% cacao and is non-alkalized. Nibmor Extreme Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs fits the bill (you can buy it online for $3 here), as do many of these 7 Best New Healthy Chocolates.
Boost your skin's ability to stay firm as you age by swapping meat for tofu. Although research is not yet conclusive, some suggests that soy may help keep wrinkles at bay. A form of soy isoflavone, aglycone is to thank. A 2007 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology found that eating 40 milligrams of soy aglycones over a 12-week period improved skin. Not sure where to find it? Whole, less processed forms of soy like tofu and edamame contain the compound.
6. Wild Salmon
Consider omega-3-rich wild salmon your skin’s best friend. The fatty acids in this tasty fish help keep wrinkles and fine lines away by keeping skin supple and moisturized. Omega 3s may even boost your skin's defenses against UV damage. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a little more than 5-ounces of omega-3 rich fish per week decreased the development of pre-cancerous skin lesions by nearly 30 percent. Need another reason to feast on the freshwater fish? The Vitamin D in salmon helps maintain healthy bones and teeth.
7. Plain Greek Yogurt
Protein is your pal, especially when it comes to maintaining firm, wrinkle-resilient skin and warding off crow's feet. "It's rich in B vitamins, which help to detox skin," says Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou, a cosmetic dermatologist. But remember: not all yogurts are created equal. Flavored yogurt is one of these 32 Health Halo Foods to Stop Eating Immediately for a variety of reasons—one being that it can wrinkle your skin!
Grapefruit is more than just a diet food—it’s a citrus-based blessing for your skin; specifically, stretch marks. Each half contains 59 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, which is essential for the protection of skin cells. Even more importantly, vitamin C is linked to collagen formation, which ties in directly to skin elasticity. The more elastic your skin remains as you age, the more youthful you’ll look.
Mangoes do more than whisk you away on a tropical mental vacation — they protect skin from harmful free radicals. You know, for when you actually go to a warm-weather destination. “The dietary carotenoids in mangoes protect skin against the sun’s UV radiation all summer long,” explains nutritionist Lisa Drayer, RD.
Best Foods For Long, Thick, and Shiny Hair
When hair loss is spurred by a diet that lacks essential vitamins and minerals, oatmeal can help. In addition to keeping you satiated, oats are packed with iron, zinc, and healthy fats—all nutrients that help keep strands healthy and strong. Topping your morning bowl of oats with nuts (for additional healthy fats) or berries (for essential vitamin C) can add even more of a nutritional punch.
11. Almond Butter
Although you might already use almond oil in your hair, smearing some almond butter on a piece of Ezekiel bread or an apple could benefit your mane, too. In addition to being full of healthy fats and rich in protein, almond butter contains roughly 4 milligrams of vitamin E per tablespoon (or about 27% of your recommended daily value). That’s 3 more milligrams than peanut butter! The added vitamin E works to increase growth and keep hair shiny and thick.
Not only are lentils a great source of protein, they’re rich in the essential B vitamin folate, too. Known better as vitamin B9, folate is needed for cell development and tissue growth—and that includes hair. If you’re looking to stave off silver strands, increasing your intake of the nutrient can help. A deficiency can lead to both premature graying and hair loss—two things that make you look older than you actually are.
Cinnamon is a pantry staple that can be found in nearly everyone's kitchen. And that’s good news! Not only does it add aromatic warmth to just about any dish, it also improves circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles. Cinnamon paste or oil can also help to prevent hair breakage.
14. Grass-Fed Beef
If your hair is thinning, an iron deficiency may be to blame. What’s the connection? Iron helps to transport oxygen through the blood to all the cells in the body. When iron is lacking, hair follicles don’t get enough oxygen, and they go into something called a “resting stage.” When this occurs, hair is released and falls out. Thankfully, adding more iron to your diet can help reverse the effects. Steak, burgers and other red meats are high in iron. Vegetarians, fear not—eggs, beans, and iron-fortified breads and cereals are just a few meat-free iron options. Looking to make a real difference? Pair iron-rich foods with those containing vitamin C for better absorption.
Foods That Keep Your Bones&Joints Pain-Free
Don’t duck out on dark, leafy greens. When it comes to building and maintaining strong bones, vitamin-K-rich spinach earns a spot on our plates. Just one cup has more than 1,000 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, which lowers and controls the activation of the cells (they’re called osteoclasts) that aid in the breakdown of bones. And added benefit: Vitamin K promotes the protein synthesis, which is essential for bone strength and density.
Turmeric is the reigning champ of functional foods for good reason: it’s teeming with antioxidants like curcumin. Curcumin carries powerful anti-inflammatory properties that have been found to help alleviate joint pain from exercise and arthritis. Another gift is its ability to disrupt the growth and spread of cancer cells. To reap the benefits, combine the spice with coriander, cumin and cayenne and sprinkle over chicken breasts, or whip up a breakfast smoothie filled with pineapple, banana, turmeric, ginger, yogurt and coconut water. Yum!
17. Bone Broth
Bone broth is made by slowly cooking animal bones in water until their collagen is broken down into gelatin and dissolves into the water. When you ingest it, that gelatin can act as an intestinal Band-Aid, healing the lining of the digestive tract, which aids digestion and helps us absorb more nutrients. This same gelatin may also help strengthen bones and joints in a way that can relieve pain brought on by age-related arthritis and joint deterioration.
Best Foods For Healthy Nails
Let’s skip the chicken and egg argument and agree on one thing: the latter is a beauty must. Packed with biotin, whole eggs help strengthen aging, brittle nails. Still not convinced the protein source deserves a place in your diet? Don’t miss these 12 Reasons to Eat More Eggs.
The antioxidants in blueberries help protect your body against the damage of free radicals—which damage and age hair and nails. “Blueberries give a huge dose of beauty-boosting antioxidants to protect against the signs of aging,” Drayer says. “Anthocyanins, the bluish pigments, keep skin soft and supple.”
It might seem strange to have beer on a healthy food list, but according to research in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, beer is one of the richest sources of the trace mineral silicon, which is thought to increase circulation in the scalp. A daily 10-milligram silicon supplement was shown to strengthen brittle hair and nail after just 20 weeks. A single beer contains about the same amount so sipping some can help you grown more lustrous hair. Just don’t have more than that if you’re looking to maintain your trim waist.
Best Foods For a Bright, Youthful Smile
It might sound counterintuitive and leave you with bad breath, but onions are a bacteria-fighting food. A 2010 study in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research found that chewing raw onions for 2 to 3 minutes is enough to kill all bacteria in the mouth. That sounds like a good reason to throw a few slices on your burger or salad if you ask us!
22. Shiitake Mushrooms
Fight tooth decay with fungus! The natural sugar in shiitake mushrooms, lentinan, can help reduce bacteria growth and plaque formation in the mouth. Shiitake mushrooms also help fight against the bacterial biofilm that causes the gum swelling and bleeding associated with gingivitis, a condition that’s most prevalent in the over-35 set.
23. Green Tea
Every so often, swap out coffee for green tea to give your teeth a break. According to a study in the Journal Of Preventative Medicine, regularly sipping on one cup of green tea per day can prevent tooth loss in older adults. The antioxidative ingredients in green tea—catechins—are known to kill mouth bacteria and prevent gum disease. One catch: For your mouth to benefit, you’ll have to go sugar-free.
It might be the picked-over vegetable on party spreads or the unwanted garnish to your basket of wings, but celery has its benefits. Its high water content and stringy texture help it act like a toothbrush, scraping leftover food and bacteria from your teeth.
An apple a day might not keep the doctor away, but it can keep the dentist at bay. The high water and fiber content work in your favor. Because it involves a good amount of chewing, eating an apple forces you to salivate, rinsing away bacteria. The fibrous texture also stimulates the gums.
There’s a reason we say it in pictures—cheese makes for a good smile. It’s low-sugar, high-calcium content helps protect teeth’s enamel. Cheese also contains casein, a slow-releasing protein that works to fortify the tooth’s surface—a benefit if you’re prone to cavities.
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