Ok, so there are plenty of different ideas out there about diet and aging, and yes, the Chinese of course have their own ideas about what foods will help you to look younger and help address those saggy bits, wrinkles and dark circles.So let’s start with the recommendations for daily intake and take things from there.

Jujube fruit, or Chinese Dates, are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and are ideal fresh or dried to moisten dry skin and lips, as well as clear away dark circles under the eyes.There is an old Chinese saying that: ‘Three dates a day keeps old age away’ (well that just sounds too easy!), as they are said to generate energy and Blood to nourish the skin, as well as strengthen the digestive system. Walnuts are another food that is recommended daily – just a nice little handful – as they are rich in cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acics, linolenic and oleic acids, the antioxidant carotene, vitamins B1 and B2, and a number of other anti-aging substances.

A little daily dose of honey is also considered a good thing in Chinese Medicine as honey tonifies energy and calms the five internal organs (honey is considered to be an herb as well as a food in Chinese Medicine), and is rich in vitamins and amino acids. And it wouldn’t be a write up on diet and Chinese Medicine if we didn’t mention the holy detoxifying grail – green tea – loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonols, vitamin E, vitamin C (four times more than in lemons), and carotene.The antioxidant effect (100 times more than vitamin C) protects the skin from damage caused by the sun, toxic food additives, second-hand tobacco smoke and stress.Pop that baby in a flask and sip throughout the day to help keep your skin and body fresh!

Eggs are another one of nature’s fabulous gifts, as they anchor the heart and calm the five organ systems.Not only that, but they brighten the face, smooth wrinkles, and clear away dark spots, and the yolks tonify Blood, helping rejuvenate withered, pale complexions.The Chinese recommend eating 1-2 eggs each day as long as you have a healthy balanced diet and cholesterol isn’t a concern.

Foods that should be eaten regularly and are important for anti-aging include Coix Seed (Yi Yi Ren), which is a grain rich in proteolytic enzymes that is beneficial for smoothing wrinkles and clearing the eye area (including eye bags and puffiness).It’s great for clearing up discolouration of the facial complexion, especially age and other dark spots and can be eaten almost daily by sprinkling 12-15g of raw seed into soups or stews.Chinese Yam (Shan Yao) is another winner, as it tonifies the heart energy, strengthens the Stomach, Spleen, and Lung systems, and nourishes Kidney Qi.Chinese Yam benefits the skin and hair, promotes a radiant facial complexion and eliminates dark spots.

Ok, so far we have kept it fairly simple, but of course there are many more foods which are considered beneficial to an anti-aging diet.Time for the lists!

For general anti-aging, try incorporating these foods regularly into your diet:

  • Black sesame seeds – nourish the internal organs, blood and body fluids in general.
  • Peanuts – nourish the Lungs and strengthen the Stomach and Spleen.Eat fresh, high quality organic peanuts.
  • Black soybeans – promote tissue growth, replenish bone marrow, tonify deficient organs, andmoisturise the body.
  • Pig skin – based on the idea that ‘like heals like’, pork skin has a cell structure similar to human skin.Has abundant protein, and is rich in minerals and vitamins B1 and B2.
  • Cherries – nourish the Spleen and Stomach.Cherries are high in iron and smooth skin as they enrich the Blood (plus, they’re delicious!).
  • Tremella – Tremella is a mushroom that you may be able to get hold of at your local Chinese Market.It might be a little tricky to find, but it has long been used in China as both a food and a supplement.Tremella nourishes lung Yin, increases energy, and benefits the blood, brain, heart, and immune system.Its Yin nourishing function makes it especially good for people withdry, wrinkled skin who also suffer bouts of irritability or who are going through menopause.It is rich in Vitamin D and minerals including iron, sulphur, phosphate, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

One way to prepare tremella for those with a bit of time and courage is to soak 50g overnight. Then section them by hand into small pieces, throwing away the yellowish part at the bottom.Simmer slowly in about 9 cups of water for 2hrs and 30mins.When it is cooked, add 2 teaspoons of honey and let cool.Keep in a glass jar in the fridge, eating around ½ cup each morning.

Other great foods for combating ageing that should regularly be included in your daily diet are:

  • Pine nuts
  • Sea cucumber
  • Pork or chicken cartilage (boiled as a soup)
  • Pork bone (boiled as a soup)
  • Fish
  • Squid or calamari
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Olive oil

Foods for detoxification:

  • Bitter melon – can be bought from Asian markets as a juice or a supplement in liquid extract form.It is nutrient rich and thought to stabilise the blood sugar levels.Also clears heat, relieves lethargy, sharpens the eyes, and nourishes the skin.
  • Pomegranate – benefits and detoxifies the digestive system.
  • Black Fungus or mushroom – rich in vitamins, minerals (especially iron), and proteins.Helps clear wrinkles and improve dark circles under the eyes.Buy it at an herb store or Chinese market. Soak in hot water till it spreads and softens, boil and include in soups, salad, or just about any main dish.
  • Lotus Root – available at Chinese Markets.Wash the lotus root, dice it or cut into small pieces, and use it raw in salads or include it in soups.Lotus root will clear heat, moisten the lungs, cool the Blood, benefit the digestive system, enlighten the body, beautify the skin and delay the ageing process.
  • Celery – clears heat and promotes urination
  • Seaweed – cleanses the body

Other foods to benefit the complexion include:

  • Winter Melon (Dong Gua) – removes wind from the skin.Especially worthwhile if you’re having complexion problems, eye bags or dark eye circles.Eating winter melon regularly also aids weight loss.
  • Luffa (Shi Gua) – can be found at Chinese markets.Makes an excellent topical mask for dealing with wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven facial discolouration.
  • Persimmons – good to reduce dark spots of the face, but they need to be eaten often.Persimmons clear heat from the body, nourish the lungs and moisten the skin.They are also rich in Vitamins C and A, potassium, calcium, and iron.Make sure they are very ripe.
  • Mulberry Fruit – a Blood tonic that benefits the Yin and Kidneys, and helps overcome a withered-looking complexion as well as clearing dark spots from the face.

Other excellent food for the complexion include:

  • Eggplant
  • Mung bean
  • Black bean
  • Peas
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Water chestnuts

To eliminate dark circles:

  • Azuki Beans (Chi Xiao Dou) – few foods are better for rejuvenating the eye area.

And finally, to eliminate eye bags and puffiness:

  • Kelp Thallus (Kun Bu) – if not available, any other dark seaweed will be an acceptable substitute.Can be eaten almost daily and is excellent for clearing out phlegm congestion and reducing damp accumulation and swelling.

Phew, well that’s quite a list to digest, but remember that daily intake of just a few key foods can make a huge difference, and whatever you can manage to squeeze in extra is sugar on top.

Happy eating!!