Sixteen years ago I had a series on radio called Turning Back the Clock, which I presented in response to listeners in their 50’s and 60’s looking for rejuvenation and tips on staying young. Like me they were exasperated by the claims of the cosmetic industry that the various ingredients in their products could knock ten years off their age. I was asked to design a diet that would help reverse the signs of aging and this developed into a weekly challenge that was undertaken by nearly 100 listeners. The series became a book in 2010.
I try to practice what I preach! And certainly so far I have managed to maintain healthy key indicators such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol without medication, much to the surprise of my doctor!
In my opinion the answer to turning back the clock by several years is to consider and address a number of factors which include physical, emotional and mental age markers.
Link to part to Part Eight and how flexibility and exercise can stave off old age: Here
Taking care of the way we present ourselves to the world
We have concentrated, up to now, on the internal aspects of aging. But we also need to take a look at our external presentation. Not just healthy eating for skin, hair and nails but also the way that we show them off. At the moment I am sporting a lockdown haircut which is a collaboration between my husband who tidies the back, and me with my scissors to the front and sides. I also cut his hair every few weeks too, and we are getting quite good at it!!
We would all love to possess radiant and glowing skin, thick and stunningly coloured hair, beautifully manicured nails and eyes with a twinkle in them.
There is no doubt that eating plenty of fresh vegetables and lean protein, combined with drinking sufficient fluids will assist your body to make positive changes in all those areas.
Lack of fluids causes blotchy and dull skin and spots so drinking the 2 litres of fluid a day will give your skin improved tone and texture. Dehydrated skin is very flaccid and flat and a simple test to determine how hydrated you are, is to pinch some skin on the back of your hand and let it go. The longer it takes to return to its former shape, the more dehydrated you are. It should spring back immediately.
Apart from fluids, what else do we need to ensure this glowing skin and shiny hair?
We need a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, with the right amount of the essential nutrients to ensure that all the body systems, such as waste management, are working efficiently. If you are not eliminating waste then it will accumulate and cause tissues such as skin and even the hair to become lifeless and dull.
I have covered the importance of proteins earlier and how we are essentially made up of water and protein. Both the skin and hair need sufficient protein in the diet and this does not mean eating 5lbs of prime-rib every day.
Protein is present in lots of plant foods as well and these would include all types of beans, sprouting seeds and beans, cheese, milk, whole grains. Live yoghurt is great as it also contains the friendly bacteria to keep your intestines healthy. If they are working efficiently then of course you will be eliminating toxins efficiently.
Some of the foods that you should remove or reduce in your diet can cause acne such as too much sugar. Alcohol in particular can cause bloating and refined, white carbohydrates get stored as fat and increase the lumpy and uneven texture to our skin.
We need a certain amount of healthy fat, not only for the B vitamins that it supplies but also because it assists in circulation and improves the suppleness and softness of skin. Extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, coconut oil are good options.
Vitamin B – complex is very important for skin tone and the B vitamins are also great for the immune system – keeping us clear of infections.
- Vitamin B1 – Pineapple, watermelon, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, oats, brown rice, lentils, beans, eggs, lean ham and pork.
- B2 – All green leafy vegetables, fish, milk, wheat germ, liver and kidney
- B3 – Asparagus, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, wholegrain bread and cereals. Turkey, Salmon, tuna, and cheese.
- B5 – Corn, Cauliflower, Brewer’s yeast, avocado, duck, soybeans, lobster and strawberries.
- B6 – Walnuts, bananas, lamb
- B9 (folate) – nuts, beans and dark green vegetables.
- B12– offal, dairy, marmite,
Other vitamins that we should be including in our diet for our skin health are Vitamin A, which strengthens and repairs the tissues and prevents spots. It is a powerful anti-oxidant, which keeps your skin clear of toxins.
- Vitamin A – carrots, red peppers, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe melon, nectarines, peaches and spinach. Cashew nuts.
Vitamin C is vital for wound healing and repair and maintenance of the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin and can be used in creams on the surface to help stabilise the collagen and help prevent fine lines appearing.
- Vitamin C – virtually all fruit and vegetables already mentioned but also blackcurrants, blueberries, kiwi, cherries, grapefruits, oranges and watercress.
Vitamin E is definitely a great anti-oxidant and has an anti-inflammatory effect when applied directly to the skin. It helps keep the skin soft and smooth and has a mild sunscreen effect.
- Vitamin E – almonds, eggs, maize, apples, onions, shell fish, sunflower oil.
Zinc works like the vitamin C and E and is great for wound healing and in a cream is great for mild rashes etc.
- Zinc– seafood, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, egg yolks and tofu
So, if you include foods providing these in your healthy eating programme, you should be getting all of the nutrients necessary to keep your skin youthful.
What about expensive skin creams?
Like most women on the fast track to wrinkles, I have tried most of the face creams that are advertised. I know deep down that I pursuing a photo-shopped pipe dream but you never know!!! However, in my explorations, I have found that there are some great products in the lower end of the price scale. I now use a combination of creams including Nivea soft cream, E45 as a body lotion and Aloe Vera cream after being in the sun. I rarely spend more than £5 a large pot that lasts at least a couple of months.
My mother washed her face at night with soap and water, with a cold water rinse followed by some Ponds Cold cream cleanser and moisturiser from the age of 15 until she died and had great skin at 95. In fact I wrote to Ponds just before her 90th birthday and they sent her six jars free which she thought was a little optimistic.
Men as well as women need to moisturise and care for their skin from the inside and the outside. There is nothing effeminate about a man putting cream on his face, neck and hands. Men need to glow as well as women and there is nothing more attractive than a clean-shaven, slightly bronzed older man with radiant skin. Fragrance free ranges are available and very inexpensive.
Is smoking a leading cause of skin aging?
When you smoke cigarettes, you inhale hundreds of dangerous chemicals into your body, which have a harmful effect every organ including the skin. These toxins help to breakdown the structure of the skin, destroying the collagen fibres, which keep the skin taut and smooth.
The result is premature aging of the skin, with thinning and the early development of lines and wrinkles. Women also seem more prone to wrinkles developing around the mouth as fine lines radiating outwards. There is also a genetic reason that smoking and obesity can cause premature aging and a Professor Spector printed some recent research in the Lancet.
Every time a cell divides, and as people age, their telomeres get shorter. The loss is associated with aging which is why telomeres are thought to hold the secrets of youth and the aging process.
The investigators measured concentrations of a body fat regulator, leptin, and telomere length in blood samples from 1,122 women between 18 and 76. Telomere length decreased steadily with age, and telomeres of obese women and smokers were much shorter than those of lean women and those who had never smoked.
There was a difference between being obese and lean, which corresponded to 8.8 years of aging. Being a current or ex-smoker equated to about 4.6 years and smoking a pack a day for 40 years corresponded to 7.4 years of aging.
Apparently if you stop smoking before 40 this process can be stopped and the effects minimised.
What are the areas of our skin that give away our age most of all?
Most of us as we get older tend to cover up certain bits of our body unless we are very brave and don’t give a fig leaf. If you take care of your face you must make sure that you also moisturise and take care of your neck and your hands. Both these areas are forgotten very often and the face will look great but the crinkly neck and dry and chapped hands will give you real age away.
What about hair and the effects of aging?
We need a nutrient rich diet and plenty of fluids for a healthy head of hair. My favourite foods, salmon and walnuts with their Omega fatty acids are perfect in the diet to prevent the hair looking dry and lifeless.
- Omega 3– flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkinseeds, avocados, dark green vegetables, poultry and salmon.
- Omega 6 –olive oil and some of the above.
- Omega 9– avocado, olives, almonds.
Some of the other nutrients are also necessary
- Copper (mushrooms, sunflower seeds, crab, lobster and oysters).
- Zinc (barley, oysters, crab, chicken, whole wheat, lamb, beef and turkey).
- Selenium (brown rice, chicken, shrimp, sunflower seeds, tuna, Brazil nuts, walnuts and eggs) can help promote hair growth and slow down the loss of hair over time.
- There is another substance found in food called PABA (Para aminobenzoic acid) which may protect the hair follicles and prevent hair loss in men and women. The best food sources for this are barley, oysters (the real reason men eat them) crab, chicken, whole wheat, lamb, beef, turkey, brown rice, mushrooms, eggs and milk.
How about the way that we present our hair and the age it reflects?
This is purely a personal opinion but I find that older men with balding, grey hair look fantastic with a neat haircut and a shiny, slightly tanned, bald head. Long grey hair with baldness or combing long strands of hair over a bald spot are not really sexy. I have seen years taken off men who have gone to the groomed look.
For women it is easy to stick with a style that you have worn for years. You certainly do not need to dye your hair. In fact if not done properly it can look aging. Go and get some advice about your style. A stunning cut can frame your face in the right way and knock years off you. Also, if you are a mottled grey then think about going the whole way and have a silver rinse or go completely white – with the right cut this can look stunning. I am sorry to say that most perms and stiff hairdos can be aging and today it is about light, soft and flattering hairstyles.
Word of warning – look at your hairdressers cut and colour – if it is bright green and looks like a poodle cut – go somewhere else.
Do be careful about what you put on your hair. It is a billion pound business and not all products are produced to the same height standard. Choose the simplest shampoo and conditioner possible. Do a final rinse with cold water and that will bring a shine to any colour hair.
NB. One of the most used words on a label for hair products is ‘Repeat’ do remember the label is written by the marketing department!
How about our nail health and how should we present them?
This is not just for the girls as we all need to make sure that our nails are healthy as they can reflect our inner state of wellbeing too. Healthy nails should be strong, smooth and translucent in colour. Nail health can be compromised not only by poor diet but also exposure to toxins, too many prescription drugs, or by fungal infections. A trained practitioner can tell if a person has health problems such as heart disease or lung problems from the state of the nails.
Taking in the right nutrients for your nails will also benefit your hair. Calcium is important but do remember that if you are taking any supplements of calcium that they should be accompanied by Vitamin D or Magnesium so that it is absorbed. To get the right balance through diet include foods that provide adequate amounts of these nutrients.
- Calcium – dairy, sardines, canned salmon, green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin D – Eggs, tinned salmon – fresh and tinned herrings.
- Magnesium –dairy, seafood, apples, apricots, avocado, brown rice, spinach
If you are deficient in iron this can cause brittle nails, as can a lack of zinc.
- Iron– shellfish, prunes, spinach, meats, cocoa.
- Zinc– seafood, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, egg yolks and tofu.
The essential fatty acids that I included above are also necessary. I will include all the foods again in the Anti-Aging Eating programme in the last post.
So as long as you are eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, moderate intake of dairy foods, sardines, canned salmon (with the bones) spinach and soy products
What about how our hands – does this affect the age we look?
Again this is only a personal preference. Men can often neglect their hands and they need to be moisturised and also have neatly trimmed and rounded nails. I am sorry but men with long nails turn me right off. Also fellows, do remember that you may be touching parts of our bodies that Heineken never reaches so having soft and manicured hands is much more sensual.
A tip for men – women look at a man’s eyes and his hands when they first meet them – short of shoving them in your trouser pockets – get the moisturiser out and the nail file.
For women – long curly nails are a turn off. The fashion for very long false nails may be fine for party night but if you have ever stood in a queue at a check out whilst the cashier pecks at the buttons on her machine you understand that they are not very practical.
I think that smooth soft hands with neat rounded and moderately long nails are lovely on a woman. I like nail varnish and it should always match fingers and toes. (That goes for men too).
Healthy feet are also very important and as much care should be taken with them as with your hands. Unfortunately as we get older our feet can begin to look a little gnarled and ragged around the edges and with all the walking that everyone is now doing, taking that bit of extra care is essential. Treat yourself to a pedicure every few weeks and it will be wonderful.
Make sure that shoes fit correctly and a good soak in some hot salty water with a dash of fairy liquid works wonders for relaxing the whole body.
©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021
Thank you for dropping by and I would love to read your comments…please join me next week for a post on how taking care of our brain as early as possible may prevent some of the dementia related issues later in life.