You are what you eat, so they say, and the foods you eat can have a big impact on the aging process, including the degree to which you appear to have aged. The good news is that a few simple adjustments to your eating habits can do wonders for your appearance. By eating the right foods, you can ensure that your body is healthy and your skin looks great.

How does your diet influence your aging process?

 Obviously our bodies need food, but like all bodily efforts, metabolism — the process of deriving energy from food — contributes to the aging process.

Eating too much can cause undue stress on the body, which is why people suffering from obesity tend live shorter lives. Even if you live to a ripe old age, if you overeat you are likely to experience health problems such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Food also has a profound effect on the brain. Our diet can affect the health of our brain as well as our mental function. If you eat well you may be able to enhance brain function, protect your brain from unnecessary harm and offset the negative aspects of aging.

What foods should you eat more of?

Consumption of “superfoods,” or foods containing certain vitamins and compounds, can contribute to the health of your skin, and thus your appearance. For example, eating foods rich in antioxidants can forestall or even prevent damage to healthy cells. Antioxidants are present in colorful, bright vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, greens and blueberries.

Vitamin C, which is present in yellow and green and vegetables is a good example of an antioxidant that contributes to youthful looking skin. The results of at least one study suggest that consuming such vegetables can stave off wrinkles.

Antioxidants also help to slow the degeneration of our vision. Vitamin C, beta-carotene and zinc can help to prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older.

Another beneficial antioxidant is resveratrol, which is found in grapes and wine. Many medical experts believe that consumption of resveratrol helps lower the risk of heart disease and cancer — and premature aging.

What are the top superfoods? Here is a partial list:

  • Spinach
  • Blueberries
  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Oranges
  • Turkey
  • Pumpkin
  • Soy
  • Broccoli
  • Tea (green or black)
  • Walnuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Yogurt
  • Salmon

What foods should you avoid?

Food containing certain unhealthy components can lead to inflammation, which is one of the main characteristics of the aging process.

Foremost among these components is sugar, too much of which can wreak havoc on your skin. According to medical experts, consuming too much sugar over time can wrinkle the skin and turn it dull. Sugar destroys collagen and elastin, two of the most important components of healthy skin. Collagen and elastin maintain the skin’s firmness and elasticity. When they are damaged, they become brittle, and the result is wrinkles.

Here are some other things to avoid consuming in excess if you want to fend off the aging process:

  • Alcohol
  • Fatty meats
  • French fries
  • Potato chips
  • Pastries
  • Doughnuts
  • Bacon
  • Hot dogs
  • Pepperoni

But Don’t Deprive Yourself of “Yummy Food”

Now that we’ve scolded you for indulging in too much junk food we should mention that consuming a little bit isn’t going to kill you. The key, as ever, is moderation. Only a few things, such as trans fats, should be avoided at all costs. But most “bad” foods are fine to eat every once in a while.

The fact is that depriving yourself of all unhealthy foods all the time in order to be healthy, lose weight or keep the effects of aging at bay can actually backfire. Why? Because, over time, this deprivation may give you cravings or cause you to binge or overeat, which would nullify all your well-meaning attempts to be healthy. Depriving yourself of the food you like may even make you start to despise foods that are healthy and nutritious, further encouraging you to engage in unhealthy eating habits.

Take the middle road. To be healthy and ward off the effects of aging, follow a diet rich in superfoods, but don’t be afraid to cheat from time to time.