Is Your Diet Aging You?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” No doubt, the foods we ingest have a big impact on what we see in the mirror — and we’re not just talking about a few extra pounds around the mid-section. I’m just going to give it to you straight. Plain and simple, your diet could be (prematurely) aging you. But, here’s the good news. A few changes to your eating habits now can help to keep your skin looking youthful, and your body healthy for many years to come. It all starts with making better choices.

Want to look like a million bucks? You have to eat better.

Experts say poor quality foods (like trans fats) cause inflammation. And aging is basically a chronic inflammatory state, says Dr. Timothy Harlan, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tulane University, in an interview with Web MD. You can absolutely look older because you are eating crap.

Too much sugar and processed carbohydrates like pasta, bread, and baked goods — you know, everything we love — can actually damage your skin’s collagen. (Collagen is what keeps your skin springy and resists wrinkles.) These foods can also affect your overall health. They have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. If you want nice skin (and good health), you’re just going to have to eat more fruits and veggies.

This means you will need to eat less of these…

  • Anything deep-fried in oil can create (or add to) inflammation in your body. Trans-fats can raise your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lower your HDL (“good” cholesterol). This can increase your risk for heart disease. So stay away from the French fries and potato chips! They aren’t just bad for your skinny jeans…
  • Sugary pastries and sweets (like donuts and cookies) are packed with sugar, which may cause wrinkles, and can even lead to acne. Who wants to deal with that?
  • Fatty meats are high in saturated fats. Try to choose something leaner, like a tenderloin cut when you can. Look for ground beef that is at least 95% lean. Or better yet, choose ground chicken or turkey breast. You should also try to stay away from the processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and pepperoni.
  • Moderate drinking might be good for your heart (the jury is still out on this), but heavy drinking revs up the aging process. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women, and two drinks for men.

Instead, choose a heart-healthy, Mediterranean-style diet.

This means eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. These foods help fight (rather than cause) inflammation and keep you looking young and fresh. Experts say we should eat whole foods, closest to their natural state. Greens like romaine lettuce, broccoli, spinach, and arugula are all great options. Tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, and asparagus are also good, not to mention delicious! Fish like salmon and tuna make the grade, as well as black beans, chickpeas and oatmeal.

“All foods in moderation are part of a healthy lifestyle. It is essential for your intake to be balanced. Too much or too little of anything is unhealthy and can result in decreased immune function,” says local Registered Dietician Pam Neumann, MPH, RD, LD. “Those gaps and lack of balance — combined with inadequate physical activity — can become problematic as we get older.”

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