There are a number of factors that play a huge role in the way we age: genetics, smoking, sun rays, the environment and even food. While we can take certain precautions like avoiding bad habits, exercising and wearing sunscreen, there are also other measures we should take, and that includes keeping an eye on our diets, because who wants to wake up and realize they’ve aged overnight? Yikes!
Top nutritionists revealed to Eat This, Not That the foods that speed up the aging process and cause wrinkles, dull skin, and aches and pains. Prepare yourself, as you might find your favorites on the list below.
We’ve all heard to avoid butter and use margarine, then we were told to avoid this butter substitute! What’s the best move? “Not all fats are created equal, and margarine, more often than not, seems to give [other] fats a bad rep,” said Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD, known as Dr. Taz, a weight loss expert and author. “The culprit in margarine is trans fat, which destroys hydration. The less your skin is hydrated, the faster the wrinkles appear.”
19. Microwave Dinners
It’s no crime to eat microwave dinners. We’ve all done it and will probably resort to it at some point in our lives due to busy schedules. But it’s wise to do so sparingly, as microwave dinners can also cause you to age. “Frozen meals are notoriously high in sodium. Sodium contributes to water retention and an overall ‘puffy’, aged appearance,” said Kayleen St. John, RD at Natural Gourmet Institute.
18. Energy Drinks
They’re the go-to drink on the days when we’re not doing so good on energy levels. But save yourself (and your future self) the trouble of premature aging and leave them alone! “Since dehydration is one of the main factors that contributes to older-looking skin, aim to drink the recommended 8-10 glasses of water per day…and even more if you’re consuming alcohol or working out,” said Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a Nashville-based nutritionist and author.
17. Baked Goods
You must’ve seen this one coming, right? Unfortunately, for those of you with a sweet tooth, this is yet one more thing you must set aside. “Baked goods and other sweets are often rich in added sugars and fat, which can lead to weight gain and poor dental health,” says Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, Corporate Dietitian at Medifast. “Sugar promotes an unhealthy microbiome and it is also pro-inflammatory. All of these characteristics can accelerate the aging process,” she added.
16. Bacon, Ham and Sausage
Crispy bacon, cooked ham and fried sausage taste great, but those meats can be contributing to your early aging. “Preservatives used in processed meats may create free radicals within the body,” said Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, and founder of The Well Necessities. “Free radicals lead to oxidation of your cells and DNA, and they can cause enough damage to lead to cancer or other health conditions.”
15. High Fructose Corn Syrup
We’ve all heard how incredibly horrible high fructose corn syrup can be and the many things it can do to our bodies, so it’s no surprise that this is one ingredient you should avoid. “Although excessive sugar intake is detrimental to looking young altogether, high fructose corn syrup is believed to be the worst kind for your skin and overall health,” said Deborah Orlick Levy, M.S., R.D, Carrington Farms health and nutrition consultant. “The sugar in your diet can damage your skin’s collagen and elastin, making you look wrinkled with skin that is no longer firm,” she added.
“While there have been countless studies arguing back and forth on whether or not sugar can cause breakouts, the case remains that sugar is simply harmful to your body as a whole,” says Dr. Taz. “Sugar causes inflammation, which is a major inhibitor to having clear, beautiful skin. To make matters worse, sugar also damages collagen and elastin, which keep the skin looking soft and supple.” While it might be tempting, you should steer clear of too much sugar consumption.
13. High Glycemic Index Carbs
Calling all you pasta lovers! You might want to start eating zoodles (zucchini strands) instead of traditional pasta. “Foods such as bagels, oatmeal, pretzels, pasta and cereal have been proven to accelerate the skin’s aging process and wreak havoc on the skin, causing acne and rosacea,” mentioned Dr. Taz. “Even the self-proclaimed ‘healthy’ cereals with whole grains, which are lower in glycemic index, can be stocked full of wrinkle-inducing glucose.”
12. Sugary Cocktails
Are you a fan of pina coladas? Or how about a margarita and a mojito? Yeah, you guessed it, time to wave goodbye to these drinks for the sake of your skin. “When simple sugar is consumed in excess, the sugar molecules combine with proteins in the body and form compounds that can damage the skin’s collagen. This, in turn, has an aging effect,” said Bedwell. “These sweet drinks can have over 50 grams of added sugar in a single cocktail! Plus, the alcohol in the drinks can dehydrate you, making fine lines and wrinkles more apparent.”
“The occasional glass (or two) of wine is no harm to you or your skin, but drinking to excess, especially sugary drinks, causes free radicals. Alcohol also robs the body of vitamin A, an antioxidant that’s essential for cell renewal and turnover,” said Dr. Taz. “If you do drink, reach for drinks without added sugars, such as wine, champagne, or a vodka soda with lime. Also, be sure to drink in moderation and alternate each alcoholic drink with a water,” added Bedwell.
10. High Salt Foods
It’s best to let go of that salt shaker if you want a young complexion. “Foods that are high in sodium cause you to retain water and feel bloated. The water retention can make the skin look puffy and tired,” added Orlick Levy. “[High salt foods] trigger dehydration, and some early studies show it damages DNA, shortening telomeres and accelerating aging,” commented Dr. Taz.
9. Deep-Fried State Fair Food
While you might be tempted to reach for that corn dog, onion ring or even deep fried Oreos, there’s a reason why doctors, nutritionists and probably everyone else recommends you stay away from these fatty foods. “When we deep fry foods, we expose the oil and fat to extremely high temperatures. When this happens, free radicals, the primary culprit in aging, are formed,” says Hayim. “These foods not only cause damage to our waistlines but to our organs and insides as well.”
8. Fried Fast Foods
You might be craving those French fries, but it’s best to set them aside. “Restaurants will typically use corn oil, one of the unhealthiest oils,” says Orlick Levy. “When consumed, it releases free radicals in the body. Free radical damage or oxidative stress has numerous effects on health and well-being, including heart disease and wrinkles.”
You’ve probably heard that agave is better than using syrup on your pancakes, but you should think again before reaching for this “healthy” alternative. “Agave is often mistaken as a healthier alternative to sugar, but this sweet syrup is packed with fructose. Once the liver meets fructose, it not only turns it into fat but also breaks down collagen, making fine lines more noticeable,” said Dr. Taz.
6. Trans Fats
The trans fats you’re consuming can be causing you more problems than just not being able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans. “Fats that have been artificially hydrogenated are some of the most inflammatory substances out there,” says St. John. “Trans fats may even make us more susceptible to UV damage to our skin.”
It was your favorite as a kid, and probably still is now. Whether you reach for sour gummies or lollipops, candy is one thing you should stay clear of. “Processed sugar is quickly processed in the body and can lead to a high insulin response and fast weight gain,” says St. John. “Plus, high intakes of [candy] can negatively affect dental health, and nothing ages you faster than a discolored–or missing–smile.” Instead, try eating dark chocolate!
4. Charred Meats
You might enjoy a plate of charred meat, but you should consider limiting your consumption of your favorite burnt meats. “Meat that has been cooked to a ‘blackened’ status is very inflammatory to the body,” explained St. John. “Inflammation may actually break down collagen levels in the skin, leading to an aged appearance,” she added.
Crepes, bananas, cheese! Yes, all the fine things in life. But not so fast, as alcohol, which is a prime ingredient in flambé, starts a whole series of problems. “Increased consumption of alcohol leads to the production of ROS (reactive oxygen species)”, Haymin warned. “High levels of ROS result in oxidative stress, which can cause severe damage to our bodies. While it is easy to identify alcohol when it’s in a beverage, it’s not so easy to monitor its consumption when we are eating it. The USDA warns that “foods flamed with alcohol appear to have all the added alcohol burned off, but the food actually still retains 75 percent of the added alcohol.”
2. Potato Chips
If you’re craving something crunchy or crispy, instead of reaching for a bag of chips, try reaching for whole grain crackers or roasted veggies like zucchini sticks or even raw veggies like celery. “Consuming trans fatty acids stimulates interleukin 6 within the body,” says Hayim. “Interleukin 6 is a marker of inflammation, which is associated with aging. In addition, fried and deep fried oils, even those made with vegetable oils, can impair cell respiration and reduce immune functions within the body.”
1. Pepperoni Pizza
A slice of pepperoni pizza is probably one of the best comfort foods around, but it can cause some serious problems in your body. “The nitrates and other compounds in processed meats, such as pepperoni, are known to be pro-inflammatory. Inflammation causes aging from inside out,” said Bedwell. “Plus, the saturated fat in it ages the heart. Opt for a meatless pizza–feel free to load on the veggie toppings–whenever possible, or make the pizza yourself using pepperoni that is made without nitrites or nitrates.”