12 Anti-Aging Foods to Make Your Skin Look Years Younger
When it comes to beautiful skin, we often lean heavily on what we can put on—or in (hello, injectables)—our skin, like face and eye creams or sunscreen. Turns out, what you put in your body as part of your daily diet can help keep you looking youthful, too—as well as help fight inflammation, which plays a role in physical ailments such as psoriatic arthritis and diabetes.
Related: 7-Day Meal Plan for Healthy Skin
Here are 12 foods to help fight wrinkles and inflammation, as well as boost collagen and hydration for healthy, younger-looking skin.
Pictured recipe: Kale Salad with Beets & Wild Rice
This leafy green has already reached nutrition superstardom, but now you can add anti-aging skin powers to its list of accolades. Kale is brimming with lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that, according to research published in the journal Clinics in Dermatology, can boost your skin's elasticity and hydration, as well as the fat under your skin, which acts as a "measure" of youthfulness. Lutein specifically also appears to be able to shield your skin from a particularly harmful wavelength of light (and one that sunscreen isn't very good at protecting against) called blue light. Don't like kale? Try avocados instead—they're also full of lutein and zeaxanthin.
2. Dark Chocolate
Pictured Recipe: Chocolate Nut Bark
Great news, chocolate lovers—dark chocolate offers some serious anti-aging benefits. Cocoa beans, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, is packed with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation from UV exposure, increase circulation and help your skin better retain moisture. This is a winning formula for glowing, healthy skin.
Dark chocolate is also rich in magnesium, another inflammation-fighting nutrient. Magnesium reduces stress and improves sleep duration and quality, which plays a role in skin aging. Just be sure to check the added sugars content of your favorite dark chocolate bar—too much sugar could wreak havoc on your skin. Research from Baylor University College of Medicine shows sugar has a negative affect on collagen fibers and can cause skin to appear more stiff and less elastic.
Pictured Recipe: Mascarpone & Berries Toast
Thankfully, eating to age gracefully doesn't have to mean cutting out all types of sugar. Some fruits play a major role in keeping skin looking youthful and vibrant. Berries are packed with vitamin C—a common ingredient in anti-aging skin products—and antioxidants that fight off free radicals aging the skin.
Pictured Recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Golden Tonic
Turns out, your spice cabinet is your next great anti-aging tool. Certain spices, like oregano, cinnamon and cloves, contain lipoic acid—a compound that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Lipoic acid helps stiumulate antioxidant production throughout the body and removes heavy metals responsible for oxidative stress. While lipoic acid is naturally present in the body, you can boost your intake through certain foods (like these aromatic spices).
We can't talk about inflammation without mentioning turmeric. Turmeric has been used medically in other cultures for centuries to combat and prevent inflammation, and has recently become a popular supplement of choice in the Western world. This pungent spice can also help protect against depression, arthritis and certain cancers.
Pictured Recipe: Watermelon Salad with Crispy Prosciutto, Feta & Mint
Everyone's favorite summertime fruit deserves a spot in your anti-aging diet all year long. Watermelon is packed with vitamins A, C and E—which all show to boost skin health—and powerful antioxidants like lycopene, making it the ultimate food for youthful skin. Watermelon is also seriously hydrating, as it is 92% water. Staying hydrated is essential for keeping your skin glowing and vibrant.
Pictured Recipe: Mocha Overnight Oats
Walnuts have the most antioxidant power of any nut and are an excellent source of omega-3 fats. This combination makes them a great inflammation-fighting snack for better skin (and health in general). Walnuts are also great for boosting your gut health. The health of our microbiome is closely related to skin health, and proper gut health helps the skin stay in homeostasis for optimal protection, temperature regulation and water retention.
Pictured Recipe: Chicken, Fennel & Grape Quinoa Salad
Grapes contain resveratrol (yes, the antioxidant found in red wine) that is known to boost heart health. This antioxidant also protects collagen from free radicals and blood vessels. Collagen helps to protect the skin's elasticity, so you can stay glowing and vibrant for years to come. We'll cheers to that!
Pictured recipe: Pomegranate, Cranberry & Brie Bruschetta
Pomegranates—and raspberries—are packed with ellagic acid, a compound that research shows could naturally help prevent wrinkles from forming. A study published in Experimental Dermatology found that ellagic acid prevents the breakdown of skin-firming collagen, and also prevents some UV-induced inflammation. Thus, ellagic acid can slow the chain of skin-aging reactions that occur as a result of that inflammation.
Pictured recipe: Homemade Kimchi
Newer research suggests that some probiotic strains can help prevent or minimize UV-induced skin damage. Other strains have been shown to help maintain a lower skin pH (aging skin has a higher pH) or scavenge for harmful free radicals. But, as with most research on probiotics, specific strains are required to see benefits, and they aren't always ones that can be found in actual food products. That said, there are so many potential benefits of consuming probiotics in the form of yogurt or kefir, fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi, soy sauce or miso, etc., that adding them to your diet for skin health won't hurt, even if it's too soon to say they'll make a significant difference for your skin.
Your cup-a-day habit could help ward off skin cancer and fight rosacea. In one study in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, women who drank one cup of coffee a day reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. It had to be caffeinated, though, as decaf wasn't associated with the same protective benefits. Also, the more coffee the women drank—up to about 6 cups or so per day—the lower their skin cancer risk. Coffee drinkers were also less likely to get rosacea, according to another study. A perky mind and better skin from our favorite morning ritual? Sounds good to us.
11. Bone broth
Bone broth contains plentiful collagen, and that's why you'll want to add it to your diet for a more youthful glow. Although most of the research is on animals, not humans, studies show that consuming collagen may increase some types of skin collagen, and also decrease an enzyme that breaks down collagen. Consuming collagen may also help lessen sun-induced dry skin. Meat is also rich in collagen, and be sure to include vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus, kiwi and bell peppers, since vitamin C is important for collagen production.
Read more: Should You Eat Collagen?
Pictured recipe: Cajun Salmon with Greek Yogurt Remoulade
Those good-for-you omega-3s in salmon and other fatty fish like tuna and sardines (plus some shellfish like oysters and mussels) could help you stay looking young and maybe even save you from a sunburn. Don't ditch the sunscreen altogether, but research indicates that omega-3s quell inflammation that flares up in your skin after UV exposure, and also act like a natural sunblock, helping to prevent sunburn. And don't forget: those omega-3s aren't only beneficial to your skin, they're also good for your heart.
Learn more: Foods to Prevent Skin Cancer