Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo, LDN, RD, specialty in nutrition, on March 8, 2019 — Written by Tiffany LaForge
For the record: You don’t have to completely avoid these food.
AGEs form when protein or fat combine with sugar. While these aging culprits aren’t 100 percent in our control, using sunscreen and taking mind of your overall diet can help with how our body protects and heals our skin.
And although minding your diet is easier said than done, it always helps to have a little reminder of how certain foods can affect your skin health. Our list can help with that.
But remember, every person is unique. Not everyone will benefit from eating raw, clean, or whole only. And regularly eating one or two of these foods won’t lead to less collagen and totally damage your skin. It’s straying away from a moderate diet that’s best for you that will change your health, skin or not.
So, go through this list with a grain of salt (pun not intended). Take the information that’s most helpful to you.
French fries can hit the spot — both in the satisfaction department and the AGE production department, as they’re fried and salty.
Foods fried in oil at high temperatures release free radicals that can cause cellular damage to the skin. Exposure to free radicals accelerates the aging process due to an action called cross-linking. Cross-linking affects DNA molecules and can weaken skin’s elasticity.
Consuming too much salt can draw water out from the skin and lead to dehydration. That may make your skin more prone to wrinkling.
If you want: Swap french fries for baked sweet potato fries or fried sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are rich in anti-aging copper which aids in collagen production.
When refined carbs integrate with protein, it causes the formation of AGEs have a direct effect on chronic diseases as well as the aging process.
Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, can cause inflammation in the body, which is directly linked to the aging process.
If you want: Try an alternative to traditional bread, such as sprouted grain breads that contain no added sugar. Sprouted breads also contain antioxidants that are beneficial to the skin.
Sugar is one of the infamous contenders to unwanted skin concerns like acne. As mentioned above, sugar contributes to the formation of collagen-damaging AGEs.
When our sugar levels are elevated, this AGE process is stimulated. It’s sped up even more if sunlight is involved. So, instead of eating ice cream on the beach, opt for refreshing frozen fruit or a popsicle with no sugar added.
If you want: Reach for fruit or dark chocolate when craving something sweet. Blueberries, specifically, prevent loss of collagen (as shown in animal studies.
Take it easy with that butter knife. Older studies have shown that those who don’t consume margarine or butter have less skin damage and wrinkles than those who do.
And the science checks out: Margarine is worse than moderate amounts of real butter due to the fact that it’s high in partially hydrogenated oils. These trans fatty acids make skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation, which can damage skin’s collagen and elasticity.
If you want: Swap butter for olive oil or smear avocados, rich in anti-aging antioxidants, on toast instead. (DELICIOUS!)
Hot dogs, pepperoni, bacon, and sausage are all examples of processed meats that can be harmful to the skin.
These meats are high in sodium, saturated fats, and sulfite, which can all dehydrate the skin and weaken collagen by causing inflammation. For inexpensive protein options, swap processed meats for eggs or beans.
If you want: Opt for leaner meats like turkey and chicken. These meats are packed with protein and amino acids that are essential in the natural formation of collagen.
Got mixed feeling about dairy? Science does, too.
Many people have seen positive skin changes from dropping dairy.
Dairy may increase inflammation in the body, which leads to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the main causes of premature aging.
Diets low in dairy products may protect sun-exposed skin from wrinkling.
If you want: Dairy is a great source of calcium, which is essential to overall skin health. For other sources of calcium, eat seeds, beans, almonds, leafy greens, and figs.
What soda and coffee do to your health have more to do with sleep than skin. First, both are high in caffeine, which, if you drink frequently throughout the day to night, may affect your sleep.
Poor sleep has been linked to increased signs of aging and more dark eye circles, wrinkles, and fine lines.
If you want: If you’re concerned about the sugar content, take a look at how much you’re drinking. See if you can decrease the amount or make swaps, like having golden milk instead of coffee. Turmeric, the main ingredient in golden milk, is rich in antioxidants and one of the most powerful anti-aging compounds around.
It’s no secret that alcohol can cause a host of problems when it comes to the skin, including redness, puffiness, loss of collagen, and wrinkles.
Alcohol depletes your nutrients, hydration, and vitamin A levels, all of which have a direct impact on wrinkles.
Vitamin A is especially important in regards to new cell growth and the production of collagen, ensuring that skin is elastic and wrinkle-free.
If you want: Drink in moderation. That’s one drink per day for women and two for men. Make sure you’re well-hydrated with water. Try experimenting with some fun and creative mocktail recipes as well.