Today’s article is inspired by the recently published results of a 15-year long study out of The Journal Of Investigative Dermatology which found that in men and women aged 45+ a diet higher in antioxidants reduced skin photo-aging by ~10% as compared to individuals in that demographic with diet’s low in total antioxidant content.
Translation: Eating more antioxidant rich foods has the potential to significantly slow the skin aging process.
I’ll be the first to admit that the word “antioxidant” does get thrown around quite a bit and perhaps is misused or misunderstood in some circles, but even so the fact of the matter is that the antioxidant content of someone’s diet is considered a pretty reasonable indicator of diet quality and correlates well with other scales that measure this type of thing.
The goal of today’s article is to introduce you to a few foods that have an above average antioxidant content in the hopes it might inspire you to incorporate them into your routine, which would improve your prospects in terms of both skin and overall health.
Before we get to that though, let’s briefly discuss the topic of skin photo-aging and identify why it is an antioxidant-rich diet even has a role to play in slowing it down.
Skin Photo-Aging & UV Exposure
UV exposure is a significant external driver of skin aging because it stimulates the creation of what are known as reactive oxygen species (ROS).
These ROS compounds can damage the skin in multiple ways:
- Increasing inflammation
- Dampening the immune response
- DNA & cell damage
- Degradation of collagen & skin fibres
This process, often referred to as “photo-aging”, is characterized by an increased presence of wrinkles and potentially slight discolouration of the skin ( referred to formally as “atypical pigmentation”).
Antioxidants help fight back against these processes which is why the best available evidence suggests that an increased presence of dietary antioxidants is an effective strategy to reduce UV-induced skin aging.
So where are all these wonderful compounds found?
Let’s explore that next.
Eat The Rainbow: My Top Antioxidant-Rich Foods
The top contributors of antioxidants in the average American diet tends to be tea, dietary supplements, fruit and fruit juices – with vegetables contributing a very limited amount likely as a result of their limited consumption.
Generally speaking higher fruit and vegetable intake is a primary marker for high antioxidant intake, this is especially true of all fruits/veggies that are purple, red or blue in colour.
If you wanted a single take away from today’s post, eating more fruits and veggies that fit that description would not be a bad one.
There are, of course, many other options to consider.
Here are some examples of the foods which deliver the most antioxidants per serving, based on work out of the BMC Nutritional Journal in 2019:
Herbs/Spices – Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, oregano, basil
Fruit – All types of berries (especially black/blue), pomegranate, plums
Vegetables – Beets, kale, red baggage, artichoke, bell pepper, spinach, bell peppers, asparagus
Beverages – Coffee, Green Tea, 100% orange juice
Nuts –Walnuts, pecans, pistachios
Legumes – Red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans
Misc – Dark Chocolate, olive oil
If nutrition for better skin health is on your radar, I highly recommend mulling the inclusion of foods from the list above.
Don’t particularly like what you see there?
There may be other dietary/supplemental options too.
My former writing Intern Kat Durston put an exceptional piece on skin aging together for me last year and I’ve summarized the findings below.
You can click through any of the images to read the full piece, it’s a great piece and exceptional compliment to today’s learning.
Andy De Santis RD MPH