The secrets to youth and vitality may be closer at hand than you think—in fact, you need only stroll through your local grocery store, or better yet, take a look in your pantry.
Each year, people across the globe collectively invest trillions of dollars in the wellness market—purchasing beauty products, anti-aging treatments, and nutritional supplements—in hopes of maintaining their inner and outer juvenescence.
In the United States alone, men and women spent over $16.5 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2018, with wrinkle treatment injections reported as the most frequently performed minimally invasive procedure (about 7.4 million) and facelifts reported as the most expensive ($7,655).
Consider also that the average US adult will likely spend just over $40,000 on dietary health supplements over the course of a lifetime, equating to nearly $56 per month.
While this growing global consciousness of, and dedication to, health and wellness is positive, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Let’s take a closer look at some dietary must-haves that can keep you looking and feeling young and fresh over the long term—and at a fraction of the price of a facelift.
Capsaicin is an active compound found in chili peppers that has numerous health benefits. In some studies, capsaicin has been shown to have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties, and may even be protective against some neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. In one review, researchers suggested that dietary capsaicin may also have anti-obesity effects and play a protective role in metabolic health. Capsaicin may limit some age-related changes that occur in skin cells as well, according to a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous Pathology. In another study, published in Appetite, researchers found that the compound can increase satiety and fullness when added to the diet, and may thus prevent overeating.
Blueberries are often referred to as a “superfood,” and for good reason. They are rich in antioxidants, folate, and polyphenols, which all work together to boost your mood, reduce oxidative stress, and help prevent disease. Blueberries also contain flavonoids—compounds that possess antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and anti-carcinogenic properties—which have been shown to inhibit amyloid beta production in Alzheimer’s disease. In one study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, blueberry consumption resulted in improved cognition in older adults.
Avocados are abundant in monounsaturated fat and have been touted to positively affect lipid profiles. In one meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, researchers assessed 10 studies representing 229 individuals to investigate the impact of avocado-enriched diets on plasma lipoprotein concentrations. They found that avocado consumption significantly decreased total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
In another study, published in Archives of Dermatological Research, investigators noted that polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols found in avocados reduced ultraviolet (UV)-induced cellular damage and inflammation in human skin.
Researchers have suggested that the antioxidant activity of pomegranate juices may be actually be higher than those found in red wine and green tea, and may thus offer protection from UV rays and help to heal skin damage. Pomegranates have also been hailed as “cosmeceuticals” due to their collagen-stimulating properties. In addition, compounds found in pomegranates—including punicic acid, methanolic seed extract, and pomegranate peel extract—have been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose levels, which could help to manage or even prevent type 2 diabetes in some individuals.
Made from cooking the bones of meat, poultry, or fish for a prolonged period of time, bone broth is rich in collagen, which can help to reduce the signs of aging. Collagen has also been shown to exert beneficial effects on bone health. For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, researchers found that collagen peptides may serve as therapeutic agents for the management of osteoarthritis. In another study, investigators found that simultaneous resistance training and collagen peptide supplementation improved body composition and muscle strength in elderly men with sarcopenia.
Cinnamon has been shown to promote skin firmness and elasticity via collagen production, and reduce skin damage caused by advanced glycation end-products. The spice may also have positive effects on serum glucose levels, according to the results of one recent systematic review and meta-analysis.
Purple sweet potatoes
Though they may be a bit harder to find in your local supermarket, purple sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition. Also known as Okinawan sweet potatoes, these tubers are high in vitamin A—which is an essential micronutrient for eye, immune, and reproductive health—and anthocyanin, a flavonoid pigment found in plants that has been shown to have cancer-preventive properties. In some studies, mice that were fed a diet consisting of purple sweet potatoes demonstrated a reduction in hyperuricemia and kidney inflammation as well as overall renal damage.
This member of the daisy family, which grows in much of Europe and North America, has long been used as an herbal remedy to treat a myriad of health ailments ranging from headaches and arthritis to inflammation and menstrual cramps. According to some studies, feverfew may also help to reduce damaged skin cells and inflammation, alleviate dermatitis and psoriasis, and improve skin appearance. The medicinal plant is rarely sold in grocery stores; however, you can find fresh and dried forms in many farmers' markets.
Olive oil is perhaps one of the healthiest fats known to man, and is an integral component of the oft-praised Mediterranean Diet—which has been consistently ranked as one of the best diets to follow due to its plethora of associated health benefits. Like avocados, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, and its consumption—especially the extra-virgin variety—has been associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
Whether you consider them to be fruit or vegetables, tomatoes boast an array of impressive health benefits that are largely attributed to their high lycopene profile. Lycopene is a type of bright red carotenoid with antioxidant properties found in some red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, watermelon, and papaya. Researchers have shown that incorporating ample quantities of tomatoes into the diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and prostate cancer; offer dermal protection against UV rays; and reduce wrinkles caused by sun damage.
Can we turn back time?
Aging, unfortunately, is just a natural part of life that we must all contend with. While there’s no way to turn back time, as Cher once lamented, it is possible to improve your inner health and outward beauty. Regularly incorporating some or all of these listed food items into your diet can help you to age gracefully, and look and feel younger for longer.