Aging is a natural part of life that can’t be avoided.
However, the foods you eat can help you age better, both inside and out.
Here are 7 foods that can help you look younger.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats on earth.
Research has shown that it may help prevent many common diseases associated with aging.
It lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps prevent metabolic syndrome and may be effective in fighting cancer (1, 2, 3, 4).
Olive oil may also help your skin look younger. Animal and lab studies suggest it has strong anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and may protect it from sun damage (5).
Additionally, nearly 73% of olive oil consists of monounsaturated fat, which is associated with increased skin elasticity and firmness (6).
Two studies looked at food records and questionnaires completed by middle-aged and older adults. They found that those with the highest intake of monounsaturated fat from olive oil were least likely to have severe sun damage (7, 8).
2. Green Tea
Green tea is high in antioxidants, which can protect against free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that form during metabolism and in response to stress. Antioxidants change their structure so they’re unable to cause damage.
Green tea is particularly high in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can fight diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation and heart disease (9, 10, 11).
Polyphenols may also help protect collagen, the main protein in your skin. This may reduce and even partly reverse some signs of aging (6, 12, 13, 14).
In one study, women with sun-damaged skin who were treated with green tea cream and supplements for 8 weeks had modest improvements in skin elasticity (15).
Bottom Line: Green tea has strong antioxidant properties that protect your skin’s collagen from sun damage and may reduce signs of aging.
3. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is truly an anti-aging food.
Its long-chain omega-3 fats are beneficial against heart disease, inflammation and ulcerative colitis, among many other diseases (16, 17, 18).
Studies suggest that they may also protect against inflammation and damage that occurs during sun exposure (19, 20).
Salmon, one of the most popular types of fatty fish, has an additional component that may keep your skin looking younger.
It contains a carotenoid antioxidant called astaxanthin, which is responsible for the pink color of salmon.
In one study, people with sun-damaged skin who were given a combination of astaxanthin and collagen for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in skin elasticity and hydration (21).
Bottom Line: Fatty fish may provide protection from skin damage that occurs in response to inflammation and sun exposure. The astaxanthin in salmon may also improve skin elasticity and hydration.
4. Dark Chocolate/Cocoa
The antioxidant profile of dark chocolate is second to none. It is even more powerful than acai berries, blueberries and cranberries (22).
Research suggests it may reduce blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity and improve arterial function and elasticity (23, 24).
Chocolate contains antioxidants called flavanols, which protect the skin from sun damage. However, the amount of flavanols varies significantly among different types of chocolate (25).
One study showed that high-flavanol dark chocolate doubled the amount of time people could stay in the sun before turning red. This didn’t occur in people who ate chocolate with less flavanols (26).
In other studies comparing high-flavanol and low-flavanol cocoa on skin function, people in the high-flavanol groups experienced better blood flow to the skin and improvements in thickness, hydration and smoothness (27, 28).
Remember, the higher the cocoa content, the higher the flavanol content. So make sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.
Bottom Line: Dark chocolate with a high flavanol content may protect against sun damage. It may also improve skin hydration, thickness and smoothness.
Vegetables are extremely nutrient-dense and very low in calories.
They contain antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease, cataracts and cancer (29, 30, 31).
Many vegetables are also high in carotenoids like beta carotene. These can protect against sun radiation and free radicals, both of which can lead to skin aging (32, 33).
Some of the best sources of beta carotene are carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes.
Many vegetables are also rich in vitamin C, which is important for collagen production and has strong antioxidant effects.
In one study, when people were given 180 mg of vitamin C daily for 4 weeks, their skin’s antioxidant activity increased by 37% (34).
Vegetables with the highest vitamin C content include leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes and broccoli.
In another study, researchers measured elasticity and other skin qualities in more than 700 Japanese women. They found that those who ate more green and yellow vegetables had fewer wrinkles (6).
Flaxseeds have amazing health benefits.
They contain lignans, which can lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, while decreasing the risk of breast and prostate cancer (35, 36, 37, 38).
They are also a great source of an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA, which protects your skin from sun radiation and may reduce sun-related skin damage .
In controlled studies, women who consumed flaxseeds or flax oil for 12 weeks showed improved hydration and smoother skin
Pomegranates are one of the healthiest fruits.
Their antioxidant activity appears to be even higher than that of green tea (43).
Pomegranates decrease inflammation, help prevent damage from high blood sugar levels and may improve outcomes in patients with colon cancer (44, 45, 46).
They also help protect the skin from sun damage (47, 48).
What’s more, researchers suggest that different parts of the pomegranate may work together to repair damaged skin and increase collagen production (49).