Added sugar is the number one item on the foods to avoid for anti-aging, as it's widely used in a variety of processed and packaged foods.
Foods to avoid for anti-aging can be consumed on special occasions.
Eating highly nutritious foods that positively affect your skin is a form of skincare.
Eating an unhealthy diet over a long period often triggers premature aging.
If you consistently eat unhealthy foods, you’re sabotaging your anti-aging efforts and heading full speed ahead to premature aging. Living young means consistently making choices to keep you looking and feeling better. One way to actively do that is to identify some foods to avoid for anti-aging.
The great news is that the healthy eating habits dermatologists recommend for healthy skin are the same as what doctors, health associations, and registered dietitians consider healthy eating.
This article discusses what not to eat if you want to maintain smoother and younger-looking skin and offers suggestions on how to limit or avoid these foods.
Kudos to you for being willing to change! This is a huge step in the right direction.
Eating Right Is as Effective as an Anti-Aging Serum
The two different types of aging are extrinsic and intrinsic. Environment and lifestyle choices impact extrinsic aging – things people have control over. Intrinsic aging (genetics) is beyond your control and part of the natural aging process.
When it comes to skincare, it’s easy to focus on anti-aging products and forget about how much your diet matters. What you put in your body is just as important as what you put on your skin.
Using anti-aging products like creams or serums in addition to healthy eating turbocharges your efforts. This helps you better achieve your anti-aging goals. To learn more about highly effective anti-aging serums, look for researched-based information.
Foods To Avoid for Anti-Aging
The following foods contain very little to no nutrition and work against your anti-aging efforts by triggering a chain of events that promote premature aging.
The aim isn’t to avoid these foods all the time. That’s not very realistic. Everyone has their weaknesses and it’s okay to cheat here and there.
Experts say it's important to distinguish between the two different types of sugars: added and natural.
Added sugar is a refined form of sugar. It’s something nutritionists and doctors advise limiting, but it can be addicting, and most people consume too much daily.
Sugars in fruit and milk are not considered added sugars because they occur naturally.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains “added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared.” They’re taste enhancers for most low-fat foods.
Removing fats from foods also removes some of the flavor, so companies mix in sugar – a product that contains no fat – to improve the taste. It’s hard to eliminate this one but knowing the worst culprits helps you limit these foods and decrease your intake.
Added sugars go by about 17 different names other than sugar! It’s important to know all of them, so you know how to identify these on the nutrition labels. Sugar's aliases include brown sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit nectar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.
The CDC shares that 10 percent of your total calories for the day is the maximum amount of sugar recommended by dietary guidelines. For example, if you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, you should consume no more than 200 calories (or 50 grams) of added sugar each day.
Below is a list of the most common added sugars people consume:
Desserts and sweet snacks (cookies, cakes, pies, pastries)
Beverages (sodas, energy drinks, sweetened tea and coffee, fruit drinks)
While delicious, these foods are absolute villains when it comes to anti-aging efforts!
Consequences of Too Much Added Sugar
Bad news: Too much sugar might cause wrinkles. Some researchers named this effect the “sugar sag.” Having too much sugar contributes to other health issues like type two diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Sugar elevates the glycation process causing advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs accelerate the aging process. Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Kiran Sethi warns, “sugar is well known to cause glycation of collagen, thereby making them easier to degrade and break down. It’s one of the fastest ways to age your skin.”
AGEs cause elastin and collagen proteins in the skin to stiffen. The results lead to the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging. If you are starting to see wrinkles, though, a little TLC may be just what your skin needs.
Save the sugary treats for special occasions.
When you have a craving for sweets, try reaching for a nutritious natural sugar like fruit. Before purchasing packaged snacks, read the nutrition labels and check to see how many added sugars it contains.
Also, start to track how much sugar you’re consuming each day. This information might shock you! If you’re in the habit of consuming too much, knowing your intake allows you to make adjustments and cut back.
Fast food notoriously contains high amounts of salt, saturated fat, sugar, and many other processed ingredients that aren’t good for you.
The worst offenders contain very little nutrients. The excessive calories overshadow any nutrients you get when you eat them.
Fast food leads to binge eating because these foods trigger the reward center in the brain. What the brain likes it wants to repeat. This is one of the reasons you often crave more and want the large fries instead of the medium or small.
Eating fast food also starts to train the palate to prefer high-fat foods and decreases your desire for healthy whole fresh foods. Not good.
Consequences of Too Much Fast Food
Too much fast food is likely to cause chronic inflammation, a weakened immune system, increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and obesity. If all that wasn’t enough, it also makes you look older.
Fast foods may cause your skin to look worn and dull. Dr. Deborah Orlick Levy, a registered dietitian and health and nutrition consultant, explains:
“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.”
High-salt foods trigger dehydration and accelerate aging.
Instead of hitting the drive-thru for a quick burger and fries, choose home-cooked meals or less processed take-out options.
Meal prepping and deciding what you’re eating in advance decreases the chances of impulsively eating fast food.
When people are hungry, they crave bad things. Keep a healthy snack at your desk at work in case you get hungry after lunch and need something to hold you over until you get home for dinner.
Binge drinking or heavy drinking are two forms of excessive alcohol consumption.
Binge drinking is approximately four drinks for women and five drinks for men during a single occasion.
Heavy drinking is having eight or more drinks in one week for women or 15 or more drinks in one week for men.
The CDC recommends women have one drink or less and men have two drinks or less in a day.
Consequences of Too Much Alcohol
Long-term excessive drinking increases your risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, many different types of cancer, a weakened immune system, and learning and memory problems.
Liquid courage has the potential to add years to your skin. Your body essentially processes alcohol as a poison and robs the body of key vitamins that are essential for anti-aging. Excessive alcohol causes your skin to be more prone to wrinkles and look dull. It also may cause the skin to look bloated, puffy, and decrease the skin’s elasticity.
Hold off on having too many drinks at happy hour or an entire bottle of wine after a stressful day at work. Try not to exceed the recommended daily amounts.
If you’re drinking to destress, replace drinking with other activities such as going for a walk or meditating.
When having a drink, alternate a glass of alcohol with water to keep you hydrated. Try drinking water, unsweetened tea, or kombucha as healthy alternatives.
If you feel like you might have an alcohol dependency know that support is available. Reach out to your doctor to discuss your options. Another resource is the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) at 1-800-662-4357. They have information about treatment programs available in your area.
Highly Processed Meats
Highly processed meats are flavorful and convenient, but they are also full of sodium, high in fats, and contain many calories. Eat these sparingly.
Limit the bacon or sausage to the occasional brunch with friends or ham during the holidays. The sodium and the chemical preservatives cause inflammation. Too much inflammation is bad for the body both inside and out.
Highly processed meats include:
Deli meats (such as bologna and salami)
While a little bit of processed meat is okay, do not make it your lunchtime staple.
Consequences of Too Much Highly Processed Meat
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared processed meats as carcinogenic to humans. Eating these regularly causes health issues like cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
These foods age you by adding free radicals to your body. The high heat of the oil, the processing, and the preservatives result in the formation of free radicals.
The WHO recommends limiting portions to three servings or about 12 to 18 ounces per week.
A few high-protein alternatives to choose from instead of highly processed meats are fish, canned tuna, canned salmon, roasted chicken, and hummus.
The crispy crunch of deep-fried food might be irresistible, but the effects fried foods have on the body are worth the effort required to resist the temptation. These foods are high in the worst types of fats: saturated and trans fats.
Consequences of Too Much Fried Food
Fried foods increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, gaining weight, and type two diabetes.
How do fried foods affect your skin? Registered dietitian Lisa Hayim explains:
“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.”
Free radicals damage cells, leading to sagging from loss of elasticity, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Ditch the batter and oil and use an air fryer instead to get crispy chicken wings or fries.
You can make homemade fries from scratch in less than 10 min. This is a delicious alternative to fast food fries.
All you need are potatoes – either white or sweet. Leave the skin on for extra nutrition, but make sure to wash them to remove the dirt. Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes into fries. This slicing process is faster than you think. It’s quick and easy and only takes a few minutes.
Season the sliced fries with salt (sea salt or seasoning salt) and add garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper for extra flavor. Toss in a bowl with a little olive oil and put them in the air fryer. Follow the cooking recommendation for fries on your air fryer for the best results.
Arm Yourself With Comfort Food Alternatives
Some people think of the items on the foods to avoid list as comfort food. This emotional connection to these foods might make it more difficult to give them up.
Try adding one of these activities below to keep yourself busy and uplift your mood:
Going for a walk or another form of exercise
Doing a meditation
Talking with a positive friend
Reading a good book
Find what works for you and stick with it!
Six Foods for Younger-Looking Skin
There are plenty of highly nutritious foods out there to keep your skin looking young. The following foods contain the vitamins and nutrients your skin needs to stay smoother and young looking:
Naturally sweet treats like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are great sources of antioxidants. Berries reduce inflammation and prevent collagen breakdown.
Kale is a very popular superfood for nutrition, and it has anti-aging benefits as well. Kale contains carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) that boost your skin’s elasticity.
Drinking water is essential to your health. Water has many benefits such as flushing out toxins, keeping you hydrated, and regulating your body's temperature. Water helps your skin look hydrated and smooth.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat with antioxidants. It contains monounsaturated fat, a good fat, and increases the skin’s firmness and elasticity.
Green tea protects the collagen in your skin because it’s high in polyphenols – a plant compound that offers many health benefits.
Grapefruits contain vitamin C that’s said to be a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C stimulates collagen production in the skin and prevents cell damage.
Salmon is rich in omega-3s and antioxidants that improve skin hydration and elasticity. Consider implementing a Mediterranean Diet, which includes a lot of salmon.
Something To Chew On
Nutrition is a powerful anti-aging tool that often isn’t fully utilized. These healthy foods are good for the body and also contain vitamins and nutrients that address skin aging concerns.
Remember to be gentle with yourself on this journey and try not to judge yourself for any slip-ups you might have when you get off track. Instead, speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a loving friend or family member. The goal is progress – not perfection.
Reach out to your doctor or go see a registered dietitian if you need more guidance and have specific questions about what’s best for you.
If youthful-looking skin is your goal, make note of these foods to avoid and limit them. Eating healthy is a vital part of skincare and dermatologists say it’s never too late to benefit from changes.