By Julie Upton, RD
My girlfriends and I are constantly sharing our expensive lotions and potions to ward off wrinkles, but research suggests that no matter how much product you put on your face, hair, and body, you have to be putting the right nutrients in your diet in order to look your best and have great skin, a super smile, and luxurious locks.
Chronic, low-grade inflammation in our body may be one of the factors that lead to premature aging of our skin and other tissues. Inflammation isn’t just linked with an increased risk for heart disease; it may also exacerbate wrinkles and the negative effects of the sun’s UV rays when they hit our skin.
The good news, however, is that chronic inflammation can be controlled with diet and exercise. Here’s what to pile on your plate for smooth skin, shiny hair and a brighter smile.
Help banish wrinkles
Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants help decrease inflammation and improve blood circulation, giving you a healthy glow. And there’s research to prove it: A recent study in Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that elderly people who had eaten more omega-3s and veggies over their lifetime had fewer wrinkles.
The antioxidants found in colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other plant-based foods are the best defenses against free-radical damage. And research suggests that certain antioxidants—vitamins C, E, selenium, and beta carotene—help to nourish and extend your skin’s youthful appearance and reduce visible wrinkles. Eating at least seven servings a day is one of the best ways to help S-L-O-W down the aging process of your skin and will probably help you lose weight (if you need to) at the same time.
Healthy hydration is also important to help stave off wrinkles and improve the appearance of your skin. A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight (in pounds) in half; that is the minimum amount of fluid, in ounces, you should drink in a day. For a 125-pound woman, for example, that would be 62.5 ounces fluid per day. Antioxidant-packed beverages like tea, 100% fruit juices that are dark in color (pomegranate, concord grape and cranberry), and even coffee all count toward your fluid requirements.
Things that fuel inflammation in the body include a diet rich in sugars and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. A diet rich in meats and dairy products is associated with more chronic inflammation, while a plant-based diet has less. Regular exercise and adequate sleep will also help squelch inflammation.
Get a super smile
Keep those pearly whites healthy by ensuring that your diet has enough calcium and vitamin D. These bone-building nutrients work together to create cavity-resistant tooth enamel; when you’re an adult, it maintains the integrity of the enamel, so teeth stay strong. Research shows that people who get enough calcium and vitamin D are less likely to have severe gum disease. In addition, calcium is a vital nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones for life.
Foods rich in both nutrients include nonfat and low-fat dairy products. However, there are many foods now formulated with added calcium, like 100% orange juice.
Shiny, healthy hair
Spending a small fortune of shampoos, conditioners, and serums to keep your hair looking good? Remember it’s what you put inside that really counts! Hair is a great marker of overall health and what you eat is critical to keeping hair healthy and shiny. Nutrients for lustrous hair including lean sources of protein, B-vitamins, selenium and zinc. Some of the best foods for your hair include nuts and seeds; seafood; fortified cereals; avocados; and nonfat and lowfat dairy products.