In his PBS special The Age Fix, Dr. Anthony Youn, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and one of the country’s foremost experts in beauty and anti-aging says one thing he has learned in the past 16 years of doing plastic surgery is that a healthy lifestyle and diet is the key to being young. “It’s not always what we put on our skin but what we put in our mouths. You are what you eat and what you eat will determine how you look and how quickly you age.” He introduced us to his beautiful mother in the audience who at the age of 70 has never gone under the knife but has taken advantage of the advice that he is sharing with us. He presents what he calls “The Age Fix Diet”, that consists of the following three types of foods for eating to look younger.
ONE. Antioxidants- from Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Antioxidants are substances that prevents cell damage from free radicals. They donate an extra electron to the free radical, neutralizing it and preventing it from damaging our healthy cells including the cells of our skin.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron. They seek to steal electrons from healthy cells. This causes damage to all of our organs including our skin’s collagen which causes our skin to age quickly and look older. Free radicals can be generated by the natural metabolism of our body but they are also caused by pollution, chemicals and exposure to sunlight. Free radicals are also generated by the age wreckers sun damage and smoking, consuming too much salt, sugar and bad fats.
Some Important Antioxidants:
- Vitamin C – fights free radicals as an antioxidant and has an essential role in the production of collagen. That is why vitamin C is so good for our skin whether we eat it or apply it topically. Since it is not stored but is excreted from our bodies, it is important to have vitamin C rich foods every day. Studies have shown that women that regularly ingested high levels of vitamin C each day had less wrinkles and dry skin. Vitamin C degrades quickly especially after cooking so it’s best to get vitamin C through fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as possible after buying them. Try to eat at least two servings a day of vitamin C rich foods which can include citrus fruits, strawberries and bell peppers.
- Vitamin A – a very potent antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. It can decrease inflammation which can cause premature aging. Many vitamin A rich foods also contain large amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol such as eggs, liver, cheeses, milk and shrimp. We know we should limit our consumption of these types of foods. However there a plant source of getting vitamin A by way of beta-carotene.
- Beta-carotene is a pigment that is found in certain plants which our bodies can convert into vitamin A. Beta-carotene also increases our production of collagen and also improves our skin’s ability to retain moisture.
- Look for foods that are a deep orange or yellow color such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, apricots, cantaloupe and the like. Beta-carotene is best absorbed by the body when these foods are cooked and eaten with a small amount of good fat such as olive oil and nut butters.
- Lycopene – this antioxidant is one of the most potent of the free radical destroying antioxidants. Look for red fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, red grapefruits, red bell peppers. Cooked and canned tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene. The process of cooking the tomato breaks down the tomato’s cellular wall structure making it easier for our bodies to absorb the lycopene from the tomato. Also it is best for absorption if eaten with a good oil like olive oil.
- Green Tea – Dr. Youn feels that green tea may be the most powerful source of all the antioxidants. Research from the University of Kansas found that the antioxidants in green tea were over 100 times more effective at neutralizing free radicals that vitamin C. Green tea contains polyphenols which are plant-based molecules that have antioxidant properties, scavenging free radicals and protecting against photo damage.
Ideally for the antioxidant optimum benefit from green tea, drink about 4 cups a day however even 2 to 3 cups a day will be beneficial. Even better switch from drinking coffee in the morning to green tea. You can start off gradually by drinking half of your normal amount of coffee swapping the other half with green tea.
- Dark Chocolate is a very potent antioxidant but it’s only as good as how much raw cocoa it contains. The higher the percentage of raw cocoa the greater the antioxidant activity. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for maximum antioxidants and minimum added sugar. Resist the urge to eat milk chocolate. If it does not have enough cocoa and it will have way too much sugar to be good for you! If you really want to get a hefty dose of antioxidants pair a piece of dark chocolate with a glass of red wine!
TWO. Omega-3 Fatty Acids-Good Fats
Dr. Youn explains these fats are anti-inflammatory which soothe and calm inflamed broken out skin. They decrease redness and the damage associated with UV exposure. Though these fatty acids are not antioxidants, they do fight free radical damage.
Mono unsaturated fats – walnuts, avocados, olive oil, he suggests our almond butter, almonds, peanut butter, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, sesame oil, safflower and canola oils.
Polyunsaturated fats Omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fish such as salmon, fresh tuna and sardines, cod, halibut, mackerel, herring and trout. Other good sources are in nuts, seeds, algae, leafy greens, and krill. One way to get more of these good fats in your diet is to use olive oil (extra-virgin) instead of butter. To get more of the important omega-3 fatty acids, eat fish for your protein at least 2 to 3 times a week.
Zinc is a mineral that helps to create a more efficient turnover of collagen and improves our skin’s rejuvenation rate. Zinc also acts as an antioxidant and many of the fish containing Omega-3’s also contain zinc. Other sources of zinc would be cocoa powder, cashews, lentils, crab, lobster, shrimp, cooked oysters, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and spinach.
Let’s not forget exercise. Dr. Youn says this activity can really vitalize our skin and appearance. There are tons of studies that support this science. Exercise can reverse aging in very dramatic ways. According to Dr. Youn, it triggers chemical processes in the body that builds muscles, burn fat, maintains mobility as we age, increases circulation to our skin, gives our brain a anti-aging biochemical bath and even makes the brain bigger.
One study showed that in people who exercise just three hours a week, their skin was thicker, had a more youthful appearance and even appeared to rejuvenate.
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