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10 of the most ageing foods

Daniel Couglin / 27 July 2016 ( 08 November 2019 )

Did you know certain foods can actually speed up the ageing process and add years to your complexion if you overindulge? Here are the 10 worst culprits.

Iced doughnuts
Doughnuts are high in saturated fat – several studies have linked diets high in saturated fat with increased wrinkling.

What you eat can have a big impact on the ageing process and how youthful or wrinkled you look.

Experts tend to agree that a varied, balanced Mediterranean-style diet, rich in antioxidant-packed fruit, veg, oily fish and wholegrains can help reduce inflammation, prevent sagginess and minimise lines.

Top 10 healthy Mediterranean foods

Likewise, a poor diet can cause or worsen inflammation, wrinkles, dryness and saggy skin according to the Association of British Dietitians.

Top 10 wrinkle-busting foods

Need to talk to a GP from the comfort of your own home? Saga Health Insurance customers can talk to a qualified, practising UK GP 24 hours a day by phone. Find out more about our GP service.


We all know that sweets rot our teeth and spike our blood sugar. But a growing body of evidence indicates that the white stuff forms harmful molecules in the body called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

AGEs have been shown to break down collagen and elastin in the skin, accelerating the ageing process.

10 ways to cut down on sugar without even noticing

Fried bacon

AGEs are also formed outside the body. Exogenous glycation, to give the process its scientific name, occurs when the sugars in meats caramelise at high temperatures, forming high levels of AGEs.

As well as containing excessive AGEs, bacon and other processed meats are high in sodium nitrate, which studies show, can weaken collagen and elastin, triggering premature ageing.

Is it time to give processed meat the heave-ho?

Flame-grilled burgers

If you're a fan of red meat, a juicy barbecued burger can be hard to resist. Sadly, this is another tasty treat that does your complexion zero favours.

Burgers don't just contain high levels of wrinkle-inducing AGEs. They also tend to be coated with pro-inflammatory hydrocarbons – the yummy burnt bits – which have been shown to deplete collagen levels and cause lining of the skin.


Fond of a doughnut or two? You may want to quell your habit if you value your complexion. The deep-fried treats are brimming with skin-ageing sugar. And that's just for starters.

Doughnuts are also high in saturated fat – several studies have linked diets high in saturated fat with increased wrinkling – not to mention refined carbs, which are treated like sugar by the body and contribute to ageing of the skin.

Fats: the good, the bad and the ugly

Spicy foods

If you're prone to flushing or rosacea, spicy foods can trigger flare-ups and actually make the skin look older by causing broken capillaries aka spider veins.

Broken veins can be tricky to treat, and apart from expensive laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) procedures, there's not a lot you can do about them.

As per the NHS advice, it's a good idea to cut down or eliminate spicy foods from your diet if you flush easily or have rosacea.

On the other hand, some spices can be good for your health – learn more about those


Chowing down on salty snacks is super-satisfying but they can wreck havoc on your skin.

A diet high in salt promotes water retention and can make you look puffy, bloated and older than your years.

Your eye bags especially will appear more pronounced if your diet is overly high in sodium – not a good look.

Keep tabs on your salt intake by checking labels as most of the sodium in our diet is hidden in processed foods. Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day.

Beat bloating with these food swaps

Rice cakes

The only food in our round-up that masquerades as a healthy option, the seemingly virtuous rice cake isn't as angelic as it appears.

Rice cakes have a high glycaemic index (GI) and are broken down by the body in much the same way as sugar.

Excessive levels of sugar in the body deplete collagen, exacerbating the signs of ageing, so try to go easy on those rice cakes.

Foods that aren’t as healthy as you think

White 'plastic' bread

Like rice cakes, sliced white bread, the bog-standard stuff you get in the supermarket, is high GI and rapidly absorbed by the body.

The refined carbs it contains are speedily converted into glucose, which as we know, breaks down collagen, causing wrinkled and sagging skin. Swap your white loaf for lower GI wholemeal if you're keen to stave off the ageing process.

The truth about carbs

Sugary soft drinks

Sugar-laden fizzy drinks can contain many teaspoons-worth of the dreaded white stuff, which are almost instantly absorbed by the body, spiking blood sugar and breaking down collagen in the skin.

Fruit juices can be just as bad so, if you can, drink water to quench your thirst and keep the sweet drinks to a minimum.

The hidden sugar in your diet

Alcoholic drinks

Booze is one your skin's worst nightmares when it comes to ageing. “As well as causing bloating and dark circles under your eyes, alcohol dries out skin and can lead to wrinkles and premature ageing,” says GP Dr Samantha Robson.

Try to stick within the revised government guidelines – no more than 14 units a week for both men and women – and opt for low sugar tipples such as vodka if you can.

Are you drinking more than you think?

Need to talk to a GP from the comfort of your own home? Saga Health Insurance customers can talk to a qualified, practising UK GP 24 hours a day by phone. Find out more about our GP service.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.