Most of us know that staying out the sun, getting enough beauty sleep, taking regular exercise and stopping smoking – not to mention going easy on the booze and staying hydrated – help stave off tell-tale signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone. But not a lot of people are aware of the important role diet plays in the ageing process.
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“What you eat makes a huge difference in how you age," says registered dietitian Manuel Villacorta.
Top skincare specialists agree. “Only 20 per cent of the way you age is down to genetic factors,” says leading dermatologist Dr Neetu Nirdosh. “The other 80 per cent is governed by lifestyle factors such as smoking and sun damage. A large part of that is diet, which can affect not only wrinkles and fine lines, but also hyperpigmentation and acne.”
Studies show that steering clear of refined sugar and fried meats can help slow down glycation, a process that weakens collagen fibres, exacerbating wrinkles and other signs of ageing.
But exactly which anti-ageing foods should you eat if you want to protect your skin and minimise those pesky lines? We reveal the top 10 youth-enhancing wonders to add to your shopping basket.
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Vitamin C is one of the most potent age-reversing antioxidants on the planet and its rejuvenating effects are well-documented. The humble strawberry is an excellent source, containing more vitamin C than an orange.
Strawberries are also packed with collagen-protecting antioxidants. These powerful chemicals battle free radical molecules that cause oxidative cell damage and premature ageing of the skin.
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Avocados are abundant in skin cell-protecting vitamin E and boast collagen-boosting D-mannoheptulose sugar.
Loaded with healthy fats that help calm inflammation and reduce skin dryness, avocados also contain antioxidant carotenoids such as beta carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin which combat free radical damage and help improve the general appearance of the complexion.
Simple and delicious – avocado on toast
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Nutritional superstars, blackcurrants contain four times as much anti-ageing vitamin C as oranges and are bursting with antioxidant flavonoids called anthocyanins. These youth-boosting miracle chemicals fight age-related inflammation and help protect the collagen in the skin from oxidative damage.
Plus a study published in Japan last year found that increased consumption of blackcurrants can even help minimise dark under-eye circles.
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This refreshing salad favourite is rich in silica, a mineral that has been dubbed 'the beauty supplement' and which many people lack in their diet.
Silica plays an important role in strengthening connective tissues in the skin, preventing sagging and averting the deeper wrinkles.
Cucumbers are also a great source of collagen-friendly vitamin C, and the high water content helps hydrate and plump the skin to make it look more youthful.
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Tomatoes are particularly rich in lycopene, which has all sorts of wonder properties that help fight the signs of ageing. Lycopene is thought to be the most powerful of the carotenoid antioxidants and helps protect the skin from UV damage, strengthening the collagen.
In fact, a diet that is high in lycopene is believed to provide a natural SPF of 4, helping to reduce age spots and wrinkles.
Try our tasty tomato recipes
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Salmon, especially from wild stocks, is an outstanding source of omega-3 fatty acids, which offer remarkable anti-ageing properties. These healthy fats bolster the skin cell membrane, improving skin smoothness and texture, and help reduce excessive inflammation, a key factor in premature ageing.
Salmon also contains a complexion-saving antioxidant called astaxanthin, a carotenoid which gives the fish its pink colour.
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Described by some as the 'elixir of youth' and 'queen of anti-ageing fruits', the pomegranate is an age-defying marvel. Chock-full of vitamin C, the jewel-like seeds contain anthocyanins, UV protective gallic acid and ellagic acid aka pomegranate seed oil, one of nature's most effective line-erasers, as well as punicalagins, turbo-charged antioxidants that mop up free radicals.
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Try our recipe for lamb tagine with pomegranates
You'll be doing your skin a massive favour if you snack regularly on almonds. Jam-packed with beneficial vitamin E, healthy oils and amino acids to nourish the complexion, almonds are also a good source of copper, which stimulates melanin production to offer increased protection against damaging UV rays and helps the body produce more complexion-firming elastin. You can't go wrong.
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Dark leafy greens are a key part of any decent anti-ageing diet for very good reason. Kale may be the trendy leaf du jour but spinach is just as beneficial.
High in vitamin C, Popeye's number one snack is brimming with a variety of skin-supporting nutrients, from vitamin K, which helps maintain the elasticity of the skin, to collagen-stimulating carotenoid antioxidants. And it's fat and sugar-free to boot.
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This gluten-free grain is one of nature's best sources of a bioflavonoid antioxidant called rutin. Rutin has the ability to regenerate vitamin C after it has zapped a free radical, so it acts as a kind of vitamin C supercharger in the body.
Rutin also has capillary-strengthening properties and can help prevent spider veins, which along with deeper wrinkles and uneven skin tone, are classic signs of premature ageing.
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