Even if you live a fairly healthy life—not smoking, avoiding too much sun, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax and let go of your stress—there’s almost no way to evade the effects of time on your body. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to slow it down.
These healthy habits are only part of the equation when it comes to keeping your appearance youthful. The other, more overlooked habit, is sticking to a healthy diet.
The right diet can do more than just lead to weight loss. It can turn back the hands of time, as well. If finding eternal youth is on your to-do list, try adding these healthy foods to look younger, from preventing greying hair to de-puffing dark circles, to your daily diet. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, you won’t want to miss these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
A study in the Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour showed eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables gives a healthier, and more attractive, golden glow than the sun. Researchers found people who ate more portions of red and orange fruits and vegetables per day had a more sun-kissed complexion than those who didn’t consume as much. It’s hypothesized that this improvement in skin health is the result of disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids that give those plants their colors. Few foods are as rich in beta-carotene—which is converted to vitamin A in the body—than sweet potatoes; a medium sweet potato with the skin contains 156 percent of your daily recommended intake.
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Almond butter is one food that contains a wide variety of nutrients—including protein, healthy fats, and potent micronutrients—that have all been linked to hair health. It’s the vitamin E content in the nuts that research finds is particularly good for keeping your locks thick and lustrous. One eight-month trial found men who supplemented daily with vitamin E saw an increase in hair growth by as much as 42 percent. One two-tablespoon serving of almond butter provides more than 50% DV for fat-soluble vitamin E.
While there are foods that support your body’s natural collagen production, studies show that taking collagen supplements works to specifically target and impact your skin health. A study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found that those who took collagen peptides once daily for eight weeks showed a significant improvement in skin’s elasticity. Add hydrolyzed collagen to your smoothies, coffee, or even homemade protein bars.
Grey hair is beautiful when it’s age-appropriate but unfair for folks who start to salt-and-pepper before they’ve finished life’s main course. One cause of early greying: a lack of copper. A study in the journal Biological Trace Elemental Research found premature-graying individuals had significantly lower copper levels than a control group. Your body requires copper to produce pigment for your skin and hair, and shiitake mushrooms are one of the best dietary sources. Just a half-cup provides 72 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper—and for only 40 calories!
Good news, politicians: Cheesy smiles may be good for you. One study in the journal General Dentistry of people who didn’t brush their teeth for 48 hours (don’t try that at home), found snacking on cheddar cheese raised their mouths’ pH to freshly-brushed levels. (Like cavities, discoloration is increased when you have an acidic environment in your mouth.) Plus, compounds in the cheese that adhere to tooth enamel, like a white strip, help to fend off acid.
Puffy, dark circles under the eyes may indicate you had too much fun the night before, but it can also indicate another more common, less exciting issue: dehydration. Salty foods, alcohol, exercise, hot weather and just plain not drinking enough water can create inflammation, which results in the Rocket Raccoon complexion. Start replenishing your body right away: Cut up some citrus fruits (rind included) and soak them in a pitcher of ice water. Now drink copiously.
Weekly manicures can keep your nails in tip-top shape, but so can Sunday’s top round roast dinner. Researches say a diet rich in protein, iron and zinc are the key to long, strong, beautiful nails. And you’ll get a healthy serving of all three nutrients from a small portion of lean red meat. A recent study in the Journal of The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology that looked at nail growth over the past 70 years found that dietary protein was the difference between spurts and lags in nail growth. It’s perhaps no wonder, considering nails are made from protein—keratin, specifically. Nail it with a small 3-4 ounce portion of top round or sirloin, which are the leanest cuts of red meat, one to two times a week.
New research has found that the reason melanoma rates are so low in regions like the Mediterranean—where going topless on the beach is all part of the summertime fun—has to do with the Mediterranean diet. Foods high in antioxidants, particularly deeply colored fruits and vegetables, can help fight the oxidizing effect of UV rays. One study in the British Journal of Dermatology found participants who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste (a highly concentrated form of fresh tomatoes) daily showed 33 percent more protection against sunburn than a control group. And tomatoes work double duty to boost beauty: While the carotenoids and antioxidants help the body fight off oxidation that ages skin cells, they also boost pro-collagen—a molecule that gives skin its taut, youthful structure. For more anti-aging tips, don’t miss these 20 Subtle Signs Your Diet Is Shortening Your Lifespan.