Are there really any foods and drinks that can really make us more ‘beautiful’ on the outside? Do they offer any real anti-ageing strategies that are actually noticeable – or do they only benefit us by improving health and wellbeing on the inside?
The answer is that – excitingly – yes, there is a lot that we can do to improve our appearance by harnessing the power of a range of foods and drinks. Of course we all know that a healthy diet and lifestyle will be beneficial overall – and that at some point it may help us to look and feel better – but I really wanted to find out if there were any scientifically proven ‘quick fixes’ that actually make a noticeable difference to our appearance. I’m particularly interested in this because I believe wholeheartedly that it is essential for us to look after ourselves properly – following a healthy natural anti-ageing programme, thus rendering ourselves less susceptible to a wide range of largely avoidable chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more. However, I also believe that “looking as we want to look” on the outside provides an enormous boost to self esteem – and this is crucial to a healthy, empowered mind-set.
So – here are my top scientifically-proven quick fix beauty tips:
Eat more fruits and vegetables: Especially those containing carotenoids – which impart a healthy glow to the skin. Carotenoid-rich produce includes orange coloured fruits and veg such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe melons, however, broccoli is high in carotenoids too. The best news is that eating more carotenoid-rich food is really easy to integrate into a busy lifestyle. Research conducted at the University of St Andrews discovered that the daily servings required to make a discernible difference in looks really isn’t that large: Only 2.9 portions a day enhanced apparent ‘healthiness’ as perceived by observers in the trial and 3 portions per day increased perceived ‘attractiveness’. It is thought that the reason for the perceived attractiveness is because a glowing healthy skin subconsciously equates to ‘health’ – which we are psychologically hard-wired to believe signifies a potentially desirable mate – to carry on our gene pool. Only 6 weeks of eating carotenoid-rich foods makes this difference in our perceived health and attractiveness.
Aside from carotenoid-rich foods, all fruits and veg are fantastically supportive in any natural anti-ageing programme. They contain a vast range of health-promoting phytochemicals and antioxidant compounds which fight damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells). In addition, fruits and veg tend to have low levels of carbohydrate – or have a slow absorption of glucose into the system – this has the advantage of protecting us against the formation of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs). AGEs are formed when glucose cross-links with proteins (such as collagen in our skin) and causes them to stiffen. This has the direct effect of creating wrinkles. However the damage caused by AGEs is far more insidious than mere cosmetic concerns; AGEs are linked to cataract formation, kidney damage, heart disease and more. The key to reducing one’s AGE formation is to keep to a low carbohydrate diet which emphasises high quantities of vegetables and fruit.
Food as a moisturiser: It’s always sensible to drink adequate amounts of water – however the foods that we eat also play a hugely important role in helping our skin to remain supple, moisturised and wrinkle free. Avocado contains high levels of vitamin E and essential fatty acids which are superb for beautiful skin. Don’t forget to include a variety of nuts in your diet – they are extremely healthy and confer enormous nutritional and beauty benefits – however, don’t overdo nut consumption – they are high in calories – and really rather more-ish. My tip is to measure out a portion of nuts into a cup or small bowl and put the bag away – otherwise, you’re in danger of eating the lot – by ‘accident’.
Powerful anti-ageing drinks: Trade coffee for cocoa. Cocoa contains high levels of epicatchin and catechin – these are flavanols which protect skin from sun damage, they enhance blood circulation to skin cells, made skin look and feel smoother and improve hydration. Watch the sugar content of cocoa though – think about using Stevia as a sweetener – it’s a healthy alternative to sugar and chemical sweeteners.
Green tea has enormous skin health benefits – however a particular type of green tea called “Matcha” is particularly beneficial. This has over 20 times more anti-oxidants than the ‘super foods’ pomegranates or blueberries. Matcha beats ordinary green teas hands down when it comes to anti-oxidant levels – with over 137 times higher anti-oxidant value than ordinary green tea. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, I personally love it – but if you’re not too keen, it works really well in green smoothies.