If there’s one constant you can rely on it’s this one: your skin changes throughout your life. From acne during puberty to intense dryness during menopause (or even adult acne) to everything in between, the best way to approach these changes is by rolling with the punches and adjusting your lifestyle habits, diet, and skincare routine and products to honor your skin at the present moment. For women over 50, that can often mean incorporating a few new foods into your diet that are rich in collagen, vitamins, and minerals. These foods can help boost collagen and elastin — the two components that are responsible for younger-looking skin and that start to diminish as we age — as well as protect your bones and heart, to boot.
Megan Wong, a registered dietitian at AlgaeCal who specializes in community nutrition and eating for chronic disease management, offers tips on three collagen-rich foods that women over 50 will especially benefit from for younger-looking skin and better overall health. The cherry on top: they’re all delicious.
It’s not very common to eat the skin and bones of salmon, tuna, cod, tilapia, etc., Wong says, but this is unfortunate because the skin and bones of an animal are the richest sources of collagen. This is why Wong says sardines, a fish that you eat whole, are an excellent choice for boosting your collagen intake. “Sardines are a great source of calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which support healthier bones,” Wong said. “With menopause causing rapid bone loss, ‘as much as 10-20% in those 5-6 years around menopause’ (study reference), it’s crucial that women over 50 not only focus on healthy skin, but healthy bones as well.”
You can grill sardines with olive oil and eat them as they are or add them to salads and pasta dishes for extraordinary flavor.
“While vegetarian collagen doesn’t exist (collagen is only found in animal sources), your body makes its own supply and will boost collagen production when given the right nutrients,” Wong said. “Chickpeas are a great source of two collagen-boosting nutrients: proline and zinc. Proline supports the stability of collagen while zinc slows down collagen breakdown. Chickpeas also protect against the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis (both of which increase after the age of 50) by packing a whole lot of potassium, fiber, magnesium, and calcium.”
The next time you want to reach for rice, try barley as a healthy alternative. “Barley provides silica, a mineral that activates the enzymes involved in collagen production, and copper, which helps form the structure of collagen and has been studied to help improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles,” Wong said. “Barley is also rich in soluble fiber, the specific fiber type that helps with the management of blood sugar and cholesterol.”
Skincare serums and moisturizers are great and all, but eating a diet packed with collagen-rich foods is one of the best ways to boost your skin heath AND your overall health.