Healthy Aging Inside and Out

In the quest for longevity and beauty inside and out, there are no miracle cures, but what you put on your plate matters more than you think.  Researchers have found that a plant-based diet rich in folate, antioxidants (vitamin C and vitamin E), vitamin A, vitamin D, and healthy fats are linked to a healthier longer life span.  Many of the compounds found in these nutrients can possibly be beneficial to skin health and suppleness as well, so eat up!


Folate is naturally present in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), fruits, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy products, liver, and grains. Folate is essential as it helps the body produce new healthy cells as well as turn carbohydrates into energy. It also helps prevent neural tube defects in a developing fetus.  


Antioxidants are the “scavengers” of our body by combating the damage caused by free radicals.  An excessive chronic amount of free radicals in the body can lead to cell damage, dry skin and wrinkles, and possibly many chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and vision loss.  Fortunately, antioxidants are found in many foods. One of the benefits of living in Southern California is the availability and abundance of berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries are all chock full of the antioxidant vitamin C.  This vitamin is also abundant in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, and leafy greens. Vitamin E is found in almonds, leafy greens, red peppers, and sunflower seeds.  


Vitamin D.  This valuable vitamin is needed for the absorption of calcium. It may also play a role in the development of osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and the flu and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis.  Interestingly, Vitamin D is synthesized in your skin from sun exposure. Unfortunately, living in Southern California, we are all about sunscreen and covering up so our absorption rate can be limited. Few foods are naturally rich in the vitamin, so the most significant dietary sources are fortified foods such as dairy products and cheese.  You can also find substantial amounts of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel).


Nobody wants dry, flaky skin. So grab an orange, carrot, or slice of cantaloupe. They're loaded with vitamin A. You can also find it in leafy greens, eggs, and low-fat dairy foods. When you use a skin product with vitamin A, your wrinkles and brown spots may look better. Those products, called retinoids, are conventional prescription treatments for acne and other skin conditions. Vitamin A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication.


We’ve all heard of “good” fats and “bad” fats. The fats that positively benefit you are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  They are essential components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body. More specifically, they help promote heart and brain health and may aid in lowering your risk of cardiovascular issues, breast and colon cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.  These fats also help leave your skin smoother and younger-looking. So, where do you find these powerhouses? Fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna) are abundant in them as well as olive oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and avocados.


Healthy aging is a hot topic. Whether you're concerned about weight gain, glowing skin, or chronic diseases, the key to healthy aging is a healthy lifestyle. Eating a variety of nutritious foods, practicing portion control, and including physical activity in your daily routine can go a long way toward promoting healthy aging.


Erika Niedernhofer, Registered Dietitian