Unless you’re under 21 and trying to get into a bar, no one wants to look older than they are. The way our bodies function and how well we feel physically surely depends on our age. But did you know your body could be showing signs of aging that don’t align with the number of candles you blew out on your last birthday? While chronological age is something we’re all familiar with, biological age is a little harder to determine. It represents the amount your body has aged due to lifestyle factors like smoking, sun exposure, environmental hazards, and diet, and your body may be older than you consider yourself to be. By the same token, this is good news! It means you have some control over the aging process, and can also end up offsetting the wear and tear that naturally comes with age by eating better, exercising, and quitting bad habits like smoking or excessive tanning.
We hope you ditched this butter substitute years ago. But if not, listen up! “Not all fats are created equal, and margarine—more often than not—seems to give [other] fats a bad rep,” shares Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD, also known as “Dr.Taz,” a weight loss expert and author of What Doctors Eat and The 21-Day Belly Fix. “The culprit in margarine is trans fat, which destroys hydration. The less your skin is hydrated, the faster the wrinkles appear.”
2. Energy Drinks
Your grab-and-go Red Bull habit isn’t going to your future 60-year-old self any favors. “Energy drinks are very high in sugar and very acidic, which can damage teeth and leave them more prone to stains that will age your smile. Plus, their high caffeine and sodium content can lead to dehydration, especially if you are drinking them instead of water, offers Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a Nashville-based nutritionist and author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week. “Since dehydration is one of the main factors that contributes to older looking skin, aim to drink the recommended 8-10 glasses of water per day…and even more if you’re consuming alcohol or working out.”
3. Bacon, Ham And Sausage
That sizzling strip of bacon may be calling your name come brunch, but swap it for tempeh bacon instead. “Preservatives used in processed meats may create free radicals within the body,” says Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, and founder of The WellNecessities. “Free radicals lead to oxidation of your cells and DNA, and they can cause enough damage to lead to cancer or other health conditions.” No thank you!
4. High Fructose Corn Syrup
This icky additive is commonly slipped into processed foods and snacks and is something you want to steer clear of as much as you can. “Although excessive sugar intake is detrimental to looking young altogether, high fructose corn syrup is believed to be the worst kind for your skin (and overall health),” shares Deborah Orlick Levy, M.S., R.D., Carrington Farms health and nutrition consultant. “The sugar in your diet can damage your skin’s collagen and elastin, making you look wrinkled with skin that is no longer firm,” she adds.
5. High Glycemic Index Carbs
Pasta aficionados, you might want to start swirling zucchini strands on your fork. “Foods such as bagels, oatmeal, pretzels, pasta, and cereal, have been proven to accelerate the skin’s aging process and wreak havoc on the skin, causing acne and rosacea,” shares Dr. Taz. “Even the self-proclaimed ‘healthy’ cereals with whole grains, which are lower in glycemic index, can be stocked full of wrinkle-inducing glucose.”
6. Sugary Cocktails
Pina Coladas? Margaritas? Mojitos? Yup, they’re all part of the same crew that you don’t want to invite into your life on a regular basis. “When simple sugar is consumed in excess, the sugar molecules combine with proteins in the body and form compounds that can damage the skin’s collagen. This, in turn, has an aging effect,” explains Bedwell. “These sweet drinks can have over 50 grams of added sugar in a single cocktail! Plus, the alcohol in the drinks can dehydrate you, making fine lines and wrinkles more apparent.”
“The occasional glass (or two) of wine is no harm to you or your skin, but drinking to excess, especially sugary drinks [see above], causes free radicals. Alcohol also robs the body of vitamin A, an antioxidant that’s essential for cell renewal and turnover,” offers Dr. Taz. “If you do drink, reach for drinks without added sugars, such as wine, champagne, or a vodka soda with lime. Also, be sure to drink in moderation and alternate each alcoholic drink with water,” advises Bedwell.
You might use it as a seemingly “better” option than sugar for baked goods, oatmeal, or even smoothies, but think twice before reaching for the bottle of sticky, sweet stuff. “Agave is often mistaken as a healthier alternative to sugar, but this sweet syrup is packed with fructose. Once the liver meets fructose, it not only turns it into fat but also breaks down collagen, making fine lines more noticeable,” says Dr. Taz.