Skin starts to matter right around those teen years when acne becomes a thing. By the time you reach 50, though, your skincare goals change. Suddenly, you are more worried about wrinkles and fine lines than pimples and blackheads. The fear of damage from free radicals and aging skin takes over, making diet much more important when you reach middle age. What does that diet look like though?

What You Need to Know About Free Radicals

Damage from free radicals is a phrase you hear a lot once you reach age 50, but what does it mean? Molecules strive to pair their electrons in a way that creates balance. Unfortunately, things like environmental toxins, sun damage and just getting older will rob one or more of these electrons of their mate, leaving them alone. These unpaired electrons are called free radicals.

Free radicals are the major culprit in the aging process because they damage structures around them by stealing their electrons  — this is a process called oxidation and it’s not good for skin. The right foods provide nutrients that can attach to the free radicals, preventing oxidation.

Free radicals are just part of the healthy diet equation as you get older. You want foods that help prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure, too, because a disease will affect your skin health. Consider 10 foods that are right for the 50+ person trying for younger looking skin.

1. All That Orange Stuff

What do orangish foods like pumpkin, carrots and butternut squash have in common? They are rich sources of vitamin A. Add to the vitamin A list some other not-so-orange foods like:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cantaloupe
  • Swiss chard
  • Papaya
  • Vegetable juice

Vitamin A is one of the major antioxidants that help stabilize those ornery free radicals. They pair up with the electrons making them whole again. In addition, vitamin A is good for your eyes.

2. Vitamin C

Like vitamin A, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a powerful antioxidant. You might also associate it with helping to prevent the common cold by boosting the immune system. Foods that contain lots of vitamin C include:

  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Peppers
  • Cantaloupes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale

As an aside, both vitamins A and C are found in topical skin treatments designed to reduce the signs of aging.

3. Green Tea

Green tea contains phytochemicals and polyphenols that offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. There is some evidence that polyphenols can protect collagen, the stuff that gives skin its structure. As a person ages, the body stops making as much collagen. When it starts to break down, it leaves gaps that become wrinkles. Drinking green tea supports collagen so it says strong.

3. Salmon

Salmon is an oily fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods that contain omega-3s are not only good for your skin but for your heart and digestive tract, as well.

Salmon also contains carotenoids antioxidants — that’s what makes it look pink. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods found that people with a diet that included these antioxidants had improved skin elasticity and hydration.

4. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is one of those superfoods that does your body good in a lot of ways. Not only is it beneficial to skin health, there is evidence that it may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Foods rich in vitamin E include:

  • Vegetable oils like safflower
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus

You can also take vitamin E as a supplement with your doctor’s approval.

5. Flaxseed

Flaxseed is another superfood worth adding to your diet. These tiny seeds contain lignans, which are associated with lowering blood pressure, improving blood sugar and insulin levels and protecting your skin from the damaging rays of the sun. In addition, studies show that women who eat flaxseed or flaxseed oil have smoother, better-hydrated skin.

6. Avocados

Avocados are rich in what nutritionists call “healthy fats.” In the world of food, fat gets a bad rap. Healthy fats are plant-based and provide fuel to your brain. Avocados also have polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols that protect your skin from the sun and repair cell damage.

7. Tomatoes

Tomatoes offer a powerful carotenoid called lycopene —  it’s the pigment that gives them that brilliant red color. Lycopene has a variety of health benefits. Adding more of it to your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and certain kinds of cancers. It also does wonders for your skin including protecting it from the sun.

9. Pomegranates

Another food that offers some of those wonderful antioxidants. Pomegranates provide a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. If you eat the seeds you’ll also benefit from the extra fiber.

You don’t often see people just chomping on a pomegranate, but they do make flavorful additions to fruit smoothies and even some kinds of soups. The juice of the pomegranate provides some of the best nutrition. It has polyphenols and tannins along with all the other good stuff you find in this very unique fruit.

10. Spicy Foods

The spicier it is, the better it is for your skin. Look for recipes that specifically use:

  • Cinnamon
  • Chili
  • Ginger

Each one of these spices offers some benefit to skin health. For example, cinnamon may increase skin firmness and elasticity. Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

What to Eliminate From Your Diet

What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do. Try to ignore cravings for foods that are processed like the ones you heat up in the microwave or pick up at the drive-through. Home cook your meals as much as possible, so you know you have fresh, healthy ingredients.

If you want to keep that supple skin, you also need to cut way back on sugary foods like:

  • Soda
  • Candy
  • Baked goods

Generally speaking, foods that are good for you in other ways tend to help make your skin look younger, too. Focus your diet on fruits, vegetables and foods that are heart healthy. Your skin will thank you.

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