Back away from the fancy face cream and open your fridge instead if you want to turn back the hands of time. Because it's not just expensive beauty products that can make you look younger — eating certain foods can, too. But just as there are foods that help keep you looking fresh-faced, there are some that do quite the opposite. Check out the list of dos and don'ts when it comes to maintaining your youthful good looks.
Let's start with the best foods for your hair, skin, nails and overall youthfulness.
Say cheese! Cavities and unhealthy teeth can make you look years older than you are. So while we wouldn't encourage gorging on mounds of cheese every day, a 2013 study from the Academy of General Dentistry suggests nibbling on cheese after a meal can bring some bling to your pearly whites.
How? First, the calcium in the cheese helps build strong teeth, and second, a bit of cheddar can counteract the acid left behind after a meal, making it the perfect choice for an after dinner snack.
A youthful complexion isn't just a product of regularly using sunscreen, but by eating plenty of tomatoes, too. These healthy fruits are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant with natural sunscreen properties.
A 2010 study from British Journal of Dermatology found tomato paste is actually one of the best sources of find lycopene, and eating a tablespoon's worth a day — add it to pasta sauce or pizza topping — can make a big difference to your skin.
3. Olive Oil
What isn't olive oil good for? It's been shown to help boost your memory and keep you looking youthful. The Olive Oil Source website suggests moisturizing your skin with it and using it on your hair as a conditioner and dandruff controller. The problem is, when it comes to eating olive oil, people often err on the side of caution, as they worry about gaining weight.
"Many people still avoid fat for fear of 'extra' calories, yet fat is an important nutrient for healthy skin,"says Rachael Hartley, registered dietician and author of The Joy of Eating blog. "It helps keep skin moisturized and reduces inflammation. Fats like extra-virgin olive oil are rich in antioxidants, to help protect skin from damage."
Smoked, steamed or baked, salmon is certainly a superfood when it comes to your body and your looks. "Fats in the diet are essential for healthy and nourished skin," says registered dietician Nicola Ludlam-Raine. "However, be sure to choose the healthy ones (mono-unsaturated fats)."
Your best bets? Oily fish, nuts (Brazil nuts especially), seeds and avocados are fantastic for a healthy complexion, Ludlam-Raine says. "And they contain essential omega-3 as well as antioxidants such as vitamin E and Selenium. Antioxidants protect against free-radicals (pollutants) which can have a damaging/aging effect on the skin."
Watermelon might be 93-percent water, but it's still packed with vitamins and antioxidants to help you ward off premature aging. Watermelon is rich in vitamin A which can help prevent acne and keep skin moisturized.
It has a very high level of lycopene, which (as pointed out with tomatoes) fights off the free radicals that age your skin. Plus, watermelon contains carotene that's been shown to help reduce oxidative stress, which ages your skin. And on top of all that, it's good for the waistline, too, as it's low in calories.
Now for the not-so-good news: These are the five worst offenders when it comes to making you look older.
Sweets don't just wreak havoc on your teeth; they can age your skin, too. Collagen production naturally depletes as you age, but consuming excess sugar speeds this process up.
Naturopathic doctor Trevor Cates writers in her book Clean Skin from Within, "Sugar increases glycation's collagen-damaging effects and accelerates skin's aging." She adds that eating too much sugar can also trigger acne. The good news is, it's not too late, and if you begin curbing your sugar habit, collagen production can be ramped up again.
Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Sugar
The caffeine in your coffee might put a spring in your step and wake up your brain, but if you drink too much of it, you run the risk of a few extra wrinkles. "Caffeine has an effect on aging because of the fact that it triggers cortisol release," says Melissa Lorch, sports and exercise scientist and Fit4mum founder. "Cortisol is a stress hormone that can contribute to fat gain and aging."
But don't worry, you don't have to kick your coffee habit entirely. Stick within the recommended government guidelines of 300 milligrams a day and drink plenty of water. "The key is balance and everything in moderation," says Lorch. "Drink small amounts of water every hour too — rather than gulping huge amounts just a few times a day — and your body is more likely to absorb it and keep you hydrated and looking young!"
3. Charred Food
Put down that blackened steak. Black chars on barbecued meat contain pro-inflammatory hydrocarbons that can cause the collagen of your skin to be damaged. "If you want a glowing complexion, limit barbecued meats," Dr. Cates says. You don't have to chuck your grilled dinner in the trash, though, simply scrape off the blackened areas once cooked and scrub the BBQ to avoid future contamination.
Alcohol causes dehydration, leaving your skin dry and prone to premature wrinkles. But in addition to the damage it can do to your skin, it can also hinder you getting a decent night of sleep, and your ZZZs are imperative to keeping you looking fresh faced. "Alcohol disrupts your sleep and actually makes it more difficult to get quality rest," says Kara Lydon, registered dietician and author of Nourish Your Namaste.
There's no denying salt is an essential ingredient for lots of dishes, but consuming too much (more than the recommended 2,300 milligrams per day) of it can be harmful not only to your body — think raised blood pressure and edema — but for your skin, too.
A 2019 study published in Science Translational Medicine found that consuming too much salt triggered an inflammatory response from the immune system, which can trigger or worsen eczema. So if you wake up with puffy eyes and a dry, flaky complexion, the packs of salty potato chips from the night before could be to blame.