Food & Nutrition

10 Foods You Should Avoid to Look (and Feel!) Younger

Along with increasing your risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, these ten foods can cause inflammation, aches and pains, wrinkles, and accelerate the aging process, making you look and feel older than your are.

French fries


They are the perfect accompaniment to a burger or your favorite sandwich, but French fries, chips, or anything crispy and deep-fried in oil that has been reused or is too hot—fried fish, chicken, or shrimp–can age you, says Ginger Hultin, RD and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Frying can be a good way of cooking if the oil is fresh and it is done correctly at the right temperature,” she says, “but too often the oil is reused many times and the food is being dipped into a damaged and even dangerous product that contains trans fat and free radicals from cooking at too high a temperature.” Research has proved that eating fried food at least once per week increases a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and that risk increases with the frequency of consumption of fried food. “Chronic diseases associated with the aging body can appear at younger ages with the intake of these types of foods,” says Hultin, “and the presence of inflammation can make a person feel tired, swollen, and run down.” If you crave that crispy crunch, try alternatives to French fries or baking instead of frying, says Hultin. “Coat potatoes, veggies, and meats in cornmeal or panko and bake them. This is a lower-fat option that doesn’t risk exposure to the damaged oil that can be used in frying.” Finally, there’s a vitamin that can make your blood vessels younger and help fight heart disease.

Caramel color


Drinking cola, root beer, or iced tea may seem harmless, but the artificial color 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), used to give these beverages their brown color, has been shown to cause cancer and inflammation. In California, manufacturers are required to label products sold in the state with a warning if it exposes consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MEI per day, equivalent to drinking one can of soda among some brands. While cola and brown soda are obvious foods that contain the chemical and pose health risks, they are not the only ones, says Hultin. “Caramel color is found in other beverages like beer and whiskey and commercially prepared foods like brown bread, chocolate and chocolate products, cookies, and even cough drops.” To avoid consumption of 4-MEI, check the product’s label and look for “caramel color” or “artificial color” among the list of ingredients. “Choose beverages that are naturally clear or get their color from fruit or vegetable extracts or natural polyphenols like tea, which can add antioxidants derived from those foods,” says Hultin.

Canned soup

soupOvidiu Marian/shutterstock

A cup of soup may seem like a healthy choice, but some soups are packed with unhealthy ingredients. “The high levels of sodium in canned soup can cause dehydration, which can make wrinkles and fine lines more visible,” says Hultin. “Excess salt can also can put stress on the cardiovascular system, causing high blood pressure, which can put a person at increased risk for stroke and death.” The recommended sodium guidelines from the American Heart Association suggest no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults. “Yet one cup of canned soup can contain 800 or more milligrams of sodium, and many people eat larger portions than one cup,” says Hultin. Some canned soups, particularly creamy varieties and chowders, also contain trans fats, which raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. If you must have canned soups, read the label before you buy, says Hultin, and look for partially hydrogenated oils listed among the ingredients. A better alternative to canned soup is to make your own and avoid the excess salt and trans fat. “Use low-sodium broth or stock as the base and increase the amount of herbs and spices to add flavor,” says Hultin. “Soup is a perfect vehicle for high fiber veggies and beans, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.” Adopting these 50 everyday habits will also help you look younger.

Baked goods


Stopping for a coffee and a pastry on your way to work may be part of your daily routine, but if the baked goods you’re consuming contain trans fats, your routine could be aging you by increasing your risk for developing heart disease and diabetes. Trans fats make pies, cookies, cakes, biscuits, and sweet rolls taste good and also make the products more shelf-stable, explains Angel C. Planells, RD and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The downside however is their effect on heart health—a rise in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride counts—which can increase your risk for more health issues, including diabetes.” While many companies are steering away from using trans fats, Planells says that you should still read the label before you buy. “Some companies can round down when it comes to the nutrition label and claim to be trans-fat free,” he says. “If the label lists partially hydrogenated oils, steer clear.” Instead of baked goods try oatmeal and fruit, half a bagel with nut butter or salmon, or eggs and avocado, which delivers protein and healthy fat, says Planells. While you’re on this new eating plan, make sure you listen to some good music, too.

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