Turn back time

Kathryn Danzey looks at some of the best foods to eat to look and feel younger

Nature has given us an abundance of amazing fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses to promote health, and beautiful skin is a reflection of this. These foods may be relatively simple, at least in terms of their packaging, yet they actually contain all sorts of goodness, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

However, before we delve a little further, I want you to try to remember this important piece of advice: when it comes to our diet and our lifestyles, there is no one size fits all, and there is no one food that may work wonders.

We’re all individuals, and what suits one person may not suit you. If you feel unsure, try to take a step back and listen to your body, seeing how you respond to different foods.

We also need to remember that, while our diet is important, the foods we eat are just one aspect of our wellbeing. Health is also interlinked with our stress levels, choice of career, fitness and the relationships in our life.

Superfoods for youthfulness

The first step is to load up on superfoods for youthfulness. These are the ones to add to your shopping list:

Green, leafy vegetables

Green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, have earned their superfood status for a good reason. The water, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in these highly nutritious foods boost blood circulation throughout the body, including the skin.

Our favourite green friends are also packed with antioxidant-rich vitamins that protect against oxidative stress. Eating a diet rich in greens will not only give you beautiful, clear skin, but will also help to balance out blood sugar levels, too.

Swiss chard

One of my favourite greens is Swiss chard, which is high in the antioxidant beta carotene, as well as vitamins A, C and vitamin K, which protect the brain and nourish the skin. It also contains at least 13 polyphenols, while the beautiful, deep red colour of its stalks and leaves comes from a potent antioxidant. It’s also full of indole-3-carbinol, which has attracted great interest for its nutrition density. Because of this, try dosing up on Swiss chard one or two times a week.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a powerhouse of antioxidants with flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamins and minerals. Together, these work to fight off nasty free radicals to slow down skin ageing. One particular ingredient found in these leafy green trees, glucoraphanin, helps to renew skin cells and repair skin damage. However, to maintain as many of the nutrients as possible, you should steam broccoli and, when buying, choose the deepest green florets. This is because the darkest, greenest stalks contain higher levels of carotenoids than the paler branches.

Berries

Berries may be tiny, but they pack a pretty hefty punch. In fact, these delicious, juicy fruits are nutritional powerhouses. All dark-skinned berries contain large amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, including quercetin. Quercetin is particularly powerful and fights inflammation throughout the whole body. Wherever you can, try to eat fresh, organic berries. However, if cost is an issue, the freezing process does little to damage their potency, and they work out far kinder to our wallets! Goji berries have been used in India for thousands of years to boost energy levels, support vision and improve sleep and kidney function. Blueberries have been shown to help with concentration and energy levels. Raspberries are high in vitamin C, quercetin and also gallic and ellagic acid. Both of these acids help to fight cancer and are powerful anti-inflammatories.

Celery

Celery has been shown to reduce blood pressure, and is also a fantastic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Recent studies show that it can even help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. What’s more, it has mild diuretic properties, which can help to eliminate puffiness in the eyes and jaw line. Say goodbye to a tired, weary face! If you’re not eating celery raw or juicing it and blending into smoothies, then steaming is the best method to prepare. I also recommend planting celery seeds, since the seedlings make an amazing addition to salads.

Salmon

Salmon is renowned for being a fantastic source of omega-3, which is thought to reduce inflammation in our joints and prevent heart disease. These same omega-3s make it an excellent skin food, and it’s also rich in DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) to naturally firm the skin. As well as this, salmon contains special bioactive peptides which are beneficial for our bones and joints. By enjoying fish or seafood once a week, we can even lower our risk of cognitive decline as we age.

Mushrooms

Marvellous mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, copper, niacin, potassium and phosphorous. However, their cell walls are indigestible until heated, so make sure you cook your mushrooms first to really reap the rewards. Another clever thing about these funny little fungi is that they can mop up excess oestrogen in the body, which make them potential warriors in the fight against breast cancer. In fact, an early stage tissue culture study published in November 2010 in the Experimental Biology and Medicine Journal found that white button mushrooms, along with four other varieties, significantly suppressed breast cancer cell growth and reproduction. Of course, there needs to be more work carried out in this area before we can really sing their praises. Yet, mushrooms are also rich in beta-glucans, which gives our immune system some muscles to fight off colds, flu and viruses, and they also contain a polysaccharide that can hydrate and plump the skin.

Nuts

Nuts are one of your complexion’s best friends! They are packed full of body-loving fats which are amazing for keeping our skin super nourished. In fact, reaching for a small handful of nuts at snack time can also do incredible things for your body by improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels. And, really, you can take your pick of nuts – they all have benefits and are rich in vitamin E and magnesium. They’re also a fantastic source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. And, as an extra top tip, if you find nuts difficult to digest, try soaking them in water overnight. While all nuts are good for us, my favourites include walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 for brain, heart and skin health. Meanwhile, almonds are high in vitamin E, arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium, which are all key nutrients for heart health. They also support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Finally, Brazil nuts give us the richest source of selenium, which is hard to find in other foods. Selenium helps to balance out our mood and is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Research has also shown that there is a link between a thyroid metabolism and selenium deficiency.

Top tip!

Use turmeric alongside a sprinkling of black pepper, which can slow the liver’s metabolisation of turmeric, meaning it stays in the blood stream longer. Black pepper can even increase the availability of turmeric by up to 2,000 per cent!

Turmeric

Turmeric is wonderful for adding earthiness, colour and vibrancy to your dishes. Yet this super spice is also an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory and comes with heaps of health benefits. In fact, turmeric has been used for centuries as a natural remedy since it has many healing properties, which are often credited to its high levels of curcumin. However, studies have shown that even without curcumin, turmeric can work its healing magic. You see, turmeric is also high in natural fatty acids, which slow down the speed the liver processes them at by 7–8 per cent (curcumin is lacking in these fats). Studies have shown that, as well as being antibacterial, a generous sprinkling of turmeric can help with: the immune system, healthy blood sugar levels, liver function, cognitive function, skin health, inflammation, brain health, joint health, a healthy lymphatic system, keeping our digestive system healthy, gall bladder function and overall wellbeing.

Ginger

Spicy, delicious ginger is part of the same plant family as turmeric, and can work small miracles on our digestive system. The amazing thing is that there are 115 different chemical components hiding in the ginger root, and we can get some pretty impressive benefits from its antioxidants called gingerols. These aptly-named antioxidants help to prevent blood clots and can protect us from both heart attacks and strokes. Want to reap the rewards? You can easily get a ginger fix – and, no, you don’t need to reach for a gingernut biscuit! The best way to enjoy this spice is by drinking ginger tea, or by grating fresh ginger root into a stir fry or smoothie.

Seeds

We should all be sprinkling versatile super seeds, including chia, sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds, into our diet. These tiny little wonders are all rich in omega-3s and phytonutrients, so they’re important for both super skin and even our wellbeing. Sunflower seeds are delicious mixed into homemade granola or sprinkled over our morning bowl of porridge, and are high in vitamins B and E, copper, phosphorous and selenium. They also hide pretty hefty amounts of vitamin E, which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease. Similarly, pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and vitamin E. Clever chia seeds are rich in zinc, potassium, fibre and omega fatty acids. They’re also a wonderful source of plant-based protein, which makes them a great addition to vegan or vegetarian diets. Finally, flax have all the benefits of other seeds, but are also incredibly high in lignans, which helps to promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Garlic

Garlic comes a pretty close second to turmeric in terms of body-loving, health-boosting properties. Allicin is just one of garlic’s marvellous medicinal components and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It can even increase the body’s level of antioxidants!

The large amount of allicin found in garlic also means that it is anti-fungal and full of anti-ageing, smoothing goodness for the skin. Other studies have revealed it can protect us against heart disease, cancer, strokes and infections.

Adapted from The Youth Plan: Look Younger, Feel Great. Here’s How. by Kathryn Danzey. For more information, visit www.rejuvenated.co.uk

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