Virginia Woolf may have been ahead of her time when she famously quipped, “One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well.” But there’s one thing she forgot: Without the right food, your skin may not age well either.
As a person gets older, skin begins to lose its ability to fight off unstable oxygen molecules known as free radicals, and a lifelong accumulation of damage begins to show up on our face in the form of wrinkles, loss of elasticity and a dull uneven skin texture, according to New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman. While much of this intrinsic aging is inevitable, extrinsic factors like sun exposure and diet play a huge role in how fast — and aggressively — this process plays out.
“Certain foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, which triggers a cascade of inflammation,” says dermatologist and certified nutritionist Nicholas Perricone, who popularized the now widely accepted theory that inflammation is one of the driving forces of the aging process. In his Meriden, Connecticut-based practice, Perricone puts all his patients on a low sugar, anti-inflammatory diet, which is rich in essential fatty acids and free radical-scavenging antioxidants. “Our skin is a perfect barometer for what is going on inside us,” he says. “Within just a few days of changing their diet, I can see a marked aesthetic difference in dark circles, fine lines and skin radiance.”
Here are 7 powerhouse superfoods to add to your grocery list if you want to eat your way to younger skin.
Superfood No. 1: Wild salmon
High in protein and loaded with skin-plumping essential fatty acids and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, this fatty fish is one of Perricone’s favorite anti-inflammatory foods. In addition to helping neutralize free radicals, those volatile molecules that accelerate inflammation (and thus the aging process), salmon is a good source of readily absorbable protein. Protein is broken down into amino acids, which provide the building blocks for all cellular repair.
“I’ve had so many female patients come into my office and say, ‘Why am I not aging as well as my partner?’ says Perricone. “After speaking with literally hundreds of patients, it became clear to me that many of these women were consuming about half as much protein as their male partners.” Experts say you should aim for 2-3 servings per week (3-4 oz. per serving). And make sure to always choose wild salmon; farmed salmon is often contaminated with PCBs, a “probable carcinogen” according to the EPA.