7 Foods That Make You Look Older

And what to eat instead.

March 20, 2017
Bacon
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If there's one inescapable fact in life, it's this: We're not getting any younger. But that doesn't necessarily mean you have to look as old as your driver's license says you are. While genetics has a lot to do with how fast we age, there are things you can do to slow down the appearance of growing older—particularly when it comes to your skin and teeth, which is where signs of age often first show up.

"Your teeth naturally get yellow as we get older. Part is aging, but part is what you eat," says Kim Harms, D.D.S., a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. As for your skin, anything that could impair collagenases—the process of producing collagen, the protein in your body that makes your skin tight and bouncy—may make your skin appear older. 

So which noms are to blame, exactly? We asked the experts to point fingers:

White wine
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Nothing screams old like a set of yellow, stained teeth—and alcohol is a prime cause of staining. "Alcohol dries out your mouth. It decreases saliva, which is what washes away bad bacteria, leading to cavities and staining," says Brian Kantor, D.D.S., a dentist in New York City. And while you might think that red wine is the culprit behind most staining, white wine is generally more acidic than red wine and thus can cause more damage. "The acid in white wine causes your enamel to become more porous, so that later, you accumulate more stains," he says. 

The good news: Your teeth are constantly reforming enamel, so they can recover after the occasional glass of chardonnay. That said, if you can't brush right after drinking, Kantor suggests vigorously swishing water in your mouth to wash away the sugars and acids. 

Related: 7 Dentists Share the Most Horrifying Things They've Ever Seen at Work

Yogurt
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Sure, yogurt has lots of good-for-you nutrients like bone-building calcium, protein, and vitamin D. But manufacturers often add extra sugars to low-fat varieties to compensate for loss of flavor. Eating too much sugar, in turn, may make your skin look older. "If you eat a high-sugar diet, in theory, it interferes with your collagen production," says Bruce Robinson, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. That's because sugar can damage collagen fibers, making them unable to repair themselves, according to a 2010 study—although Robinson thinks there's still room for debate on this theory.

Still, it's not a bad idea to skip the added sugars where possible, so opt for plain yogurt sweetened with fresh fruit instead. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women's Health's Bone Broth Diet.)

Dried fruit
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While dried fruits serve up more nutrients than chewy candies like caramel, they have lots of the same downsides. They serve up loads of sugar (23 grams per quarter-cup serving, according to the FDA) and tend to get stuck in your teeth. And when sugar sticks to your teeth, bacteria forms, causing discoloration and eventually plaque and cavities if it's not removed, explains Kantor. One more downside to dried fruits: They're also high in sulfites, which preserve food but aren't all that great for your skin. "Sulfites may increase free radicals, which impede collagen growth," says Robinson. So opt for whole fresh fruit instead, which is high in digestion-slowing fiber and lower in sugar per serving. If nothing but dried apricots will do, brush your teeth right after eating or chew sugarless gum, which can help increases saliva flow to wash out your mouth, Kantor suggests.

Related: 6 Things That Happened When I Stopped Eating Sugar

Lemonade
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Lemons are chock full of acids—making them one of the worst foods for your teeth. "If the acid sits on your teeth for a long period of time, it can wear through your enamel to where it can't be re-mineralized," says Kantor—meaning the enamel can't reform. Lemonades are doubly risky, because they're not only acidic but are high in sugar: bad for your teeth and your skin. Thinking about swapping the lemonade for a diet soda? Think again. While diet drinks don't contain sugar, they're even higher than lemonade in tooth-rotting acids. So when you can, opt for water. If you need a flavor boost, make it fruit-infused. 

This easy water bottle hack will keep you hydrated all day long:

Margarine
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While many brands of margarine have nixed trans fats, the few remaining solid-stick varieties can still pack up to two grams per tablespoon. "Free radicals formed when you eat trans fats aren't good for skin or complexion in the long term," explains Isabel Smith, R.D. "Trans fats cause inflammation, and inflammation is associated with aging and degenerative age-related diseases like Alzheimer's, osteoarthritis, and heart disease," adds Toby Smithson, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So ditch the margarine and stick with liquid veggie oil or plain ol' butter instead.

Bacon
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Meats that are preserved using salts—think bacon, prosciutto, and salami—not only contain collagen-busting sulfites (see dried fruits), they can also make you dehydrated. And that's not great for any part of your body, including your skin. "When your skin becomes dry, it can look shriveled. It doesn't bounce back as quickly when you pull on it—it's a similar effect to not having enough collagen," says Robinson. Thankfully, Robinson says, our kidneys do a good job of retaining the water that we need. Your best bet is to drink lots of water—aim for at least nine eight-ounce glasses per day—and use a hydrating cream on your skin.

Related: This Is How Much Weight I Lost After Drinking 2 Glasses of Water Before Every Meal for 2 Straight Weeks

Coffee
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"Coffee is a big problem, causing tooth discoloration," says Harms. But it's all in how you drink it: In moderation with a meal is fine, but sipping...not so good. "The worst thing you can do is sip on coffee all day long," says Harms. "It constantly exposes teeth to acid—and if you add sugar, you're also exposing your teeth to bacteria that produces its own acids." Chewing food at the same time produces more saliva—which neutralizes the acid and bacteria, making it much easier on your teeth. 

The bottom line, experts say, is moderation. "As long as you're eating a well-balanced diet, there's nothing that's terrible for your teeth," says Harms. "If you follow the time-tested method of brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing, and seeing your dentist twice per year, you can have young-looking teeth no matter old you are."

Same goes for your skin. Hydration and sunscreen are your best bets for keeping your skin looking young in the long-term; sticking to an overall healthy diet helps, too. "Eating balanced meals is key—eat lots of fruits and veggies, get your minerals and iron, and follow the guidelines for daily supplements to feed your skin and the rest of your body," says Robinson.

The article 7 Foods That Make You Look Older originally appeared on Women’s Health.

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Tags: nutrition