Looking younger is something we don’t worry about until we’re getting older, and it’s too late to undo some of the damage. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything that can be done though. Certain anti-agin foods can fight the free-radicals that are implicated in wrinkles and the other chemicals that cause the visible signs of aging.

In this excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A Duke and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors identify anti-aging foods, and discuss how they can help your skin to look younger.


When I tour the Green Farmacy Garden, I hide my wrinkles under a broad-rimmed sombrero since it’s too late for me to avoid them. I should have worn that big sombrero when I was a sun-worshiping kid.

Like most young people, in those days, I wasn’t worried about worry lines or wrinkles. I was living for today, not tomorrow. Now I’m a worry wart, worrying more about tomorrow than today.

In general, I rarely offer prescriptions, but I feel safe with this one: Don’t you do that. Worrying is unhealthy. Take up stress relief—or else. Time has a funny way of catching up with you, and wrinkles are one of its calling cards. The more you fret and worry, the more you’ll wrinkle.

As we age, four main factors conspire to etch lines and furrows into our skin. First, as you get older, the process of cell turnover slows down. New young cells aren’t produced as quickly, and old ones hang on longer. Second, your body is assaulted by free radicals—unstable oxygen molecules from pollution, stress, and the sun—that cause cell irregularities and discoloration. Third, your body slows down its production of collagen, the protein that helps keep your skin plump and elastic. And fourth, your skin loses moisture and dries out.

That’s a lot to deal with, I know. But before you throw in the towel along with your moisturizer, take heart from the fact that certain nutrients can help minimize the appearance of—or even prevent—wrinkles and enhance your skin’s natural beauty. Below are some food remedies to try—but take it from me, wearing a big ol’ sombrero won’t hurt either.

Healing Foods for Wrinkles

Soy foods. Researchers in Japan conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to determine the effect of the soy isoflavone aglycone on the skin of women in their late thirties and early forties.

Twenty-six women were divided into two groups. The women in one group ate foods containing 40 milligrams of aglycone each day for 12 weeks, and the women in the other group ate foods with no known anti-wrinkle effect. As the researchers evaluated the women’s wrinkles along the way, they found that the women who ate the soy showed a statistically significant improvement in skin elasticity after eight weeks and an improvement in fine lines after 12 weeks compared with the control group. You can get soy isoflavones in many soy-based foods. For example, 1⁄2 cup of miso contains 59 milligrams, one cup of soy milk has 30 milligrams, and 1⁄2 cup of boiled edamame (green soybeans) offers 12 milligrams.

If soy isoflavones can help wrinkles as this study suggests, then so can most bean isoflavones. As a matter of fact, you can get “soy” isoflavones in almost all edible beans. Soy is good, but it isn’t necessarily better. Researchers analyzed 75 varieties of beans and found that many of them had more of the isoflavones genistein and/or daidzein than some varieties of soybeans. Other terrific beans to add to your diet include yellow split peas, black turtle beans, baby limas, anasazi beans, and red kidney beans, all of which, according to the study, contain more genistein than soy beans do!

Carrots. I’ll spare you any jokes about Bugs Bunny not having any wrinkles even though he’s in his seventies. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, the vegetarian precursor of vitamin A, as well as the vitamin itself, offering you double the wrinkle protection.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School conducted a study to determine how well vitamin A applied topically improved the look of aged skin. Thirty-seven senior citizens applied a lotion containing vitamin A to one arm three times a week and applied a lotion without vitamin A to the other arm. Neither the researchers nor the volunteers knew which arm got which lotion.

After 24 weeks, there were significant differences in wrinkling between the two arms. The researchers think that vitamin A protects the skin from injury and improves its appearance in general.

Want to try this at home? Buy carrot oil, which is high in vitamin A, and apply it to your skin. I’ve never tried the oil, but I have mashed carrots in a blender and applied them to my face as a mask. If you try it, wash the mask off after 15 to 30 minutes.

Chocolate. I’ll pause while you cheer. Yes, it’s true: Not only does chocolate not cause acne, it’s actually good for your skin. In a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, researchers divided 30 people into two groups. They both ate chocolate every day, but one group ate dark chocolate rich in the antioxidants called flavanols, while the other group ate chocolate low in flavanols. At the start and the end of the 12-week study, the participants were exposed to UV light, and researchers measured the time it took until their skin reddened (minimal erythema dose, or MED). In the high-flavanol group, the MED doubled after 12 weeks. The low-flavanol group had no change. “…regular consumption of a chocolate rich in flavanols…can be effective at protecting human skin from harmful UV effects,” concluded the researchers.

Fish. Fatty fish contain essential fatty acids called omega-3s. And omega-3s make up an integral part of the membranes that surround our skin cells, and they’re key components of the lubricating layer that keeps skin supple. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from fish oil is a COX-2 inhibitor, increases collagen and elastic fibers, and even has potential as an anti-skin aging agent. In clinical studies where people were exposed to skin-dam aging ultraviolet light, people who had increased their intake of omega-3s prior to the exposure had less skin inflammation and immune suppression.

Problem is, your body can’t make omega-3s, so you have to get them from food or supplements. Experts recommend eating fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, or albacore tuna twice a week.

Green tea. Several clinical studies show that green tea, green tea extracts, or topical green tea formulations can help protect your skin. German researchers found that drinking three cups a day of green tea improved the “radical scavenging activity” of the skin by up to 29%—in other words, green tea helped limit the oxidation that damages and ages skin cells. In a study published in Microvascular Research, scientists from England found that drinking green tea improved the flow of nourishing oxygen and blood to the skin. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, drinking green tea for 12 weeks improved skin elasticity, roughness, scaling, thickness, and hydration. And a combination of vita min C and green tea extracts protected the skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Topical green tea is also good for the skin—in a study published in Rejuvenation Research, a topical green tea formulation improved skin roughness, scaliness, smoothness, and wrinkling.

Pineapple. This tropical fruit has been known as a symbol of welcome, but besides being a great welcome gift, it’s great for your skin and health. Pineapple is a good source of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are used in a great many skin care products.


Pass up foods containing white flour and white sugar. A diet high in these two ingredients can create chemical reactions between molecules in your skin that sap its collagen and make it less elastic, leaving your skin looking much older.

Researchers in the land of the rising sun suggest that AHAs help the outer layer of skin shed old skin cells and grow new ones, so they are useful for rejuvenating sun-dam aged skin. In a study, people applied a lotion containing AHAs to one arm and a placebo lotion to the other. After about six months, the skin on the arm that received the AHAs had increased its thickness by 25 percent. It was also more elastic and contained more collagen. All of this led the researchers to conclude that the AHAs significantly reduced the effects of photo-aging.

If I should ever decide to do something about my wrinkles, I’ll start by liquefying the peel and core of a whole pineapple in my blender and applying the mash to my face to help remove the surface layer of dead skin cells. Then I’ll put my feet up and relax with a good book for 15 to 30 minutes before rinsing it off.

Bear in mind that some people are allergic to pineapple. If you develop itching or a rash when trying this remedy, stop using it immediately.

Not in love with pineapple? Other good sources of citric acid include lemon, tamarind, and black currant.

Pomegranate. Can a bite of the “apple” of the Garden of Eden have an antiaging effect? I believe that the pomegranate was that apple, and I know that it contains three reportedly antiaging phytochemicals: apigenin, caffeic acid, and quercetin. It’s true that these chemicals are more abundant in many other herbs, but pomegranate is uniquely rich in phytoestrogens. Clinical trials involving a type of phytoestrogen from pomegranate concluded that seven months of hormone replacement therapy can help the skin in several ways. Skin elasticity, skin hydration, and skin thickness were all measurably improved. The authors concluded, “While skin aging is no indication for systemic hormone supplementation, a positive effect on aging skin can be observed.”

Candidly, I think that both eating pomegranate and putting it on your skin can help. If I wanted to whip up a facial peel for wrinkles, I’d add lemon, pineapple, roselle, and tamarind to meld with those dozen or so reported estrogenic compounds in pomegranate.

Red bell peppers. If you take a stroll around a department store’s cosmetics department, carefully dodging those women wielding perfume atomizers, you’ll see many products containing vitamin C. That’s for good reason. Your body needs this vitamin to produce collagen, which is a building block of healthy skin. Research has shown that when lab animals eat vitamin C–fortified food, their skin becomes more resistant to wrinkling and discoloration.

Before you reach for a carton of orange juice, though, consider this: Red and yellow bell peppers contain more C, cup for cup, than oranges. For skin health, experts suggest eating at least 500 milligrams of vitamin C each day; one bell pepper contains nearly 285 milligrams. Other great sources include camu-camu, bitter melon, and guava.

Sunflower seeds. Here’s a little bit of irony: The seeds from a flower named for the sun can help protect you against it! Sunflower seeds are one of the better sources of vitamin E, which, besides protecting you against heart disease, colds, flu, and skin cancer, can prevent wrinkles. Researchers in Korea discovered that mice that ate vitamin E (along with a cocktail of other antioxidants) were less likely to get wrinkles.

If you don’t like sunflower seeds, you can get a healthy vitamin E boost from buck wheat, purslane, wheat grains, and corn.

Tomatoes. Red and orange foods are rich in two carotenoids—beta-carotene and lycopene—that protect your skin. These antioxidants actually protect the plants from sunlight, and that protection then extends to you when you eat their fruit.

Beta-carotene and lycopene settle into the outer layer of your skin, where their antioxidant action helps repair cells damaged by sunlight. Researchers in Germany found that eating foods rich in carotenoids may contribute to lifelong protection against harm ful ultraviolet radiation. While many fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene and lycopene, tomatoes are a source of both.

My granddaughter Cena would turn orange just from eating some baby food squash or sweet potato, and I’d have thought they were the richest beta-carotene sources around. Now, more than a decade later, I go to my phytochemcial database and find that those two vegetables are by no means tops on the beta-carotene hit parade. Other things being equal, I think Cena could have turned more colorful had she eaten the same amount of carrots, spinach, watercress, or nasturtium flowers, each of which contains more beta-carotene than sweet potatoes, most squashes, and pumpkins.

Honey. The average woman begins to notice lip lines at age 35. Eating honey, how ever, could help keep those lines at bay. Honey contains natural sugars that tend to stick to your lips, increasing their ability to attract and maintain moisture—and look younger longer. Get two food remedies for the price of one by sweetening your green tea with a bit of honey.

Shortening. Folklore suggests that Crisco is an excellent skin moisturizer. Use it on your face every night before bed.

From the Herbal Medicine Chest

A few plants in the Green Farmacy Garden can offer some help with those pesky worry lines.

Aloe (Aloe vera). I have had good experience with an alpha-hydroxy facial cleanser smoothing out my wrinkles a bit. The first ingredient listed on its label is aloe. Cleopatra is said to have massaged aloe gel into her face daily. It probably can’t hurt to give it a try. Simply break open a leaf and smooth the gel on your skin each night before bed.

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.). New studies suggest that antioxidant protection against sun damage to collagen may also be a good sunburn preventive, which in turn may protect against wrinkles. Several compounds in echinacea diminish destruction of collagen.

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