Aging is a natural part of life that can’t be avoided. However, the foods you eat can help you age better, both inside and out. Here are 11 foods that can help you look younger.
1. Extra virgin olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats on earth.
Research has shown that it may help prevent many common diseases associated with aging.
It lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps prevent metabolic syndrome and may be effective in fighting cancer (1, 2, 3, 4).
Olive oil may also help your skin look younger. Animal and lab studies suggest it has strong anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and may protect it from sun damage (5).
Additionally, nearly 73% of olive oil consists of monounsaturated fat, which is associated with increased skin elasticity and firmness (6).
Two studies looked at food records and questionnaires completed by middle-aged and older adults. They found that those with the highest intake of monounsaturated fat from olive oil were least likely to have severe sun damage (7, 8).
Bottom Line: Olive oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties that may protect skin elasticity and decrease the risk of sun damage.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is high in antioxidants, which can protect against free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that form during metabolism and in response to stress. Antioxidants change their structure so they’re unable to cause damage.
Green tea is particularly high in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can fight diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation and heart disease (9, 10, 11).
Polyphenols may also help protect collagen, the main protein in your skin. This may reduce and even partly reverse some signs of aging (6, 12, 13, 14).
In one study, women with sun-damaged skin who were treated with green tea cream and supplements for 8 weeks had modest improvements in skin elasticity (15).
Bottom Line: Green tea has strong antioxidant properties that protect your skin’s collagen from sun damage and may reduce signs of aging.
3. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is truly an anti-aging food.
Its long-chain omega-3 fats are beneficial against heart disease, inflammation and ulcerative colitis, among many other diseases (16, 17, 18).
Studies suggest that they may also protect against inflammation and damage that occurs during sun exposure (19, 20).
Salmon, one of the most popular types of fatty fish, has an additional component that may keep your skin looking younger.
It contains a nutrient in its orange pigment called astaxanthin, which is a powerful antioxidant.
In one study, people with sun-damaged skin who were given a combination of astaxanthin and collagen for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in skin elasticity and hydration (21).
Bottom Line: Fatty fish may provide protection from skin damage that occurs in response to inflammation and sun exposure. The astaxanthin in salmon may also improve skin elasticity and hydration.
4. Dark Chocolate/Cocoa
The antioxidant profile of dark chocolate is second to none. It is even more powerful than acai berries, blueberries and cranberries (22).
Research suggests it may reduce blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity and improve arterial function and elasticity (23, 24).
Chocolate contains antioxidants called flavanols, which protect the skin from sun damage. However, the amount of flavanols varies significantly among different types of chocolate (25).
Related: Is Cacao Good For Your Health?
One study showed that high-flavanol dark chocolate doubled the amount of time people could stay in the sun before turning red. This didn’t occur in people who ate chocolate with less flavanols (26).
In other studies comparing high-flavanol and low-flavanol cocoa on skin function, people in the high-flavanol groups experienced better blood flow to the skin and improvements in thickness, hydration and smoothness (27, 28).
Remember, the higher the cocoa content, the higher the flavanol content. So make sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.
Bottom Line: Dark chocolate with a high flavanol content may protect against sun damage. It may also improve skin hydration, thickness and smoothness.
Vegetables are extremely nutrient-dense and very low in calories.
They contain antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease, cataracts and cancer (29, 30, 31).
Many vegetables are also high in carotenoids like beta carotene. These can protect against sun radiation and free radicals, both of which can lead to skin aging (32, 33).
Some of the best sources of beta carotene are carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes.
Many vegetables are also rich in vitamin C, which is important for collagen production and has strong antioxidant effects.
In one study, when people were given 180 mg of vitamin C daily for 4 weeks, their skin’s antioxidant activity increased by 37% (34).
Vegetables with the highest vitamin C content include leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes and broccoli.
In another study, researchers measured elasticity and other skin qualities in more than 700 Japanese women. They found that those who ate more green and yellow vegetables had fewer wrinkles (6).
Bottom Line: Vegetables provide sun protection and may prevent free radical damage to skin. This is largely due to their strong antioxidant effects.
Flaxseeds have amazing health benefits.
They contain lignans, which can lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, while decreasing the risk of breast and prostate cancer (35, 36, 37, 38).
They are also a great source of an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA, which protects your skin from sun radiation and may reduce sun-related skin damage (39, 40).
In controlled studies, women who consumed flaxseeds or flax oil for 12 weeks showed improved hydration and smoother skin (41, 42).
Bottom Line: Flaxseeds may protect skin from sun damage and improve smoothness, among other measures of skin quality.
Pomegranates are one of the healthiest fruits.
Their antioxidant activity appears to be even higher than that of green tea (43).
Pomegranates decrease inflammation, help prevent damage from high blood sugar levels and may improve outcomes in patients with colon cancer (44, 45, 46).
They also help protect the skin from sun damage (47, 48).
What’s more, researchers suggest that different parts of the pomegranate may work together to repair damaged skin and increase collagen production (49).
Bottom Line: Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants that provide sun protection and may help repair existing skin damage.
Avocados are rich in heart-healthy fat, fiber and several vitamins and minerals that are essential for health (50).
They also taste delicious and are extremely versatile.
Furthermore, avocados contain unique compounds called polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols. These can fight inflammation, protect your skin from the sun and help repair damaged DNA (51).
Their high content of monounsaturated fat and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin provides additional skin and DNA protection (6, 52).
Bottom Line: Avocados prevent sun-related skin damage and may also help protect the DNA in your skin cells.
Tomatoes provide many impressive health benefits, several of which can be attributed to their high lycopene content.
Lycopene is a type of carotenoid that reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke and prostate cancer (53, 54, 55).
Studies show that it may also protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun (56, 57, 58).
In one study, women who ate a mixture of foods high in lycopene and other plant antioxidants had a measurable decrease in wrinkle depth after 15 weeks (59).
Cooking tomatoes with healthy fats, such as olive oil, significantly boosts the absorption of lycopene into the body (60).
Bottom Line: Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which protects skin from sun damage and may help reduce wrinkles.
Spices do more than just add flavor to your food. They also contain various plant compounds that may have beneficial effects on your health (61).
Interestingly, research suggests some spices may even help your skin look younger.
Cinnamon has been shown to increase collagen production, which may lead to increased skin firmness and elasticity (62).
It may also reduce the skin damage that occurs as a result of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which are formed when blood sugar levels are high (63).
Additionally, research suggests that capsaicin, which is found in chili peppers, may limit a portion of the age-related changes that occur in skin cells (64).
Furthermore, ginger contains gingerol. This compound has anti-inflammatory effects that may help prevent the age spots that develop due to sun exposure (65).
Bottom Line: Certain spices contain plant compounds that boost collagen production, protect cells from high blood sugar levels and help prevent sun damage.
11. Bone Broth
Bone broth has recently become very popular among health conscious people.
It’s made by cooking bones from meat, poultry or fish for an extended period of time. This releases minerals and other beneficial components.
One of these components is collagen, which has been credited with beneficial effects on muscle and bone health (66, 67, 68).
Although there is no published research on bone broth itself, there’s evidence suggesting that the collagen in it may help reduce signs of aging.
When cooked, collagen breaks down into gelatin, which is rich in the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Your body can absorb these amino acids and use them to form new collagen in your skin (69).
Controlled studies have shown that consuming collagen may improve skin elasticity, moisture and firmness, while reducing wrinkles (70, 71, 72).
In one study, wrinkle depth was significantly reduced in postmenopausal women who took a collagen supplement along with other skin-supporting nutrients like vitamins C and E for 12 weeks (72).
Bottom Line: Bone broth’s high collagen content may improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Take Home Message
Unfortunately, there’s no way to actually turn back the clock.
However, the foods on this list can improve the function of your skin and help you look younger.
They will also help you remain healthier and younger-looking as you age.