Eat Yourself Younger

Get a more youthful appearance fast by powering up your diet with protein.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
My Reading Room

Get a more youthful appearance fast by powering up your diet with protein.

Protein is about more than building muscle than staving off hunger. Our skin, hair, teeth, nails, brain cells and bones are all proteinbased. If we don’t consume enough, our skin can’t produce the collagen to keep it supple and we can end up weak, tired and with thinning hair. So it’s no wonder the health and beauty industry is embracing this anti-ageing saviour. And consuming lots of protein doesn’t have to mean a diet packed with meat. Protein is found in a surprising number of foods, which are rich in anti-ageing nutrients.

Almond Milk

Cow’s milk is a great source of protein but for dairy-free followers, such as Gwyneth Platrow, almond milk is a good anti-ageing choice. As well as containing protein, calcium and vitamin E, almond milk boosts the skin’s moisture, says nutritionist Karen Fischer, author of Younger Skin In 28 Days.

Supercharge it In Gwyneth’s banana ice-cream recipe, from her book It’s All Good, she cuts out the refined sugar – which can break down skin’s collagen and elastin – and instead sweetens it with antioxidant-rich maple syrup.

Adzuki Beans

Celebrity nutritionist Elizabeth PeytonJones, author of Eat Yourself Young, raves about these beans. “As well as being an almost complete source of protein (containing many of the essential amino acids), the flavonoids in their skin have been shown to be even better at repairing damaged DNA than vitamin C,” she says.

Supercharge it “For our bodies to effectively use protein to create collagen, we should also consume plenty of vitamin C, manganese, copper and zinc,” says Elizabeth. Find them in her adzuki bean salad, which contains all of the nutrients, plus iodine-rich seaweed, to help regulate your hormones.

Garden Peas

One of our most overlooked superfoods, the humble garden pea is a nutrition powerhouse, and a great source of protein. Rich in vitamin K, which can help build strong bones, as well as vitamins A and C, peas are surprisingly higher in minerals than some of their fancier cousins, such as snow peas.

Supercharge it The menthol in a mint garnish can boost your digestion and energy. You could also add some asparagus – either as part of a salad or risotto. A mild diuretic, it’s thought to help detoxify the body, and is also believed to be a natural aphrodisiac.


Vegetarian gourmet chef Natasha Corrett, co-founder of, recommends limiting our meat intake and getting more of our protein from vegetarian sources such as tofu, which contains iron, calcium and magnesium.

Supercharge it Try serving your tofu with gluten-free noodles, such as buckwheat or soba noodles. Buckwheat is a complete source of vegetable protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and a great source of magnesium.

Red Quinoa

As well as providing the essential amino acids, quinoa boasts a range of other nutrients, including iron, magnesium and folate. But the red variety packs even more of a healthy punch. “It’s lower in carbohydrates and has a lower GI than white quinoa. Plus, it owes its rich colour to anthocyanins, powerful memoryboosting antioxidants,” says Karen.

My Reading Room

Macadamia Nuts

Want to know the secret to youthful skin? Ask a dermatologist. While all nuts are a great source of protein, Dr Stefanie Williams, author of Future Proof Your Skin, recommends macadamias. “Macadamia nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, which can quell oxidative stress and reduce inflammatory reactions. This is great news for longevity, and also slows down our biological clock and the process of skin ageing,” she says.

Supercharge it Try some toasted macadamias for your breakfast or in a salad. To toast them, spread on a baking tray and place in a 180 C oven for 12 to 15 mins.


An ancient grain hailing from Egypt, kamut is making a comeback. With up to 40 per cent more protein than regular wheat, it’s also high in magnesium, which is thought to slow age-related memory loss, as well as give us strong bones, and selenium, which is essential to brain function. Try buying it as a flour, and use it to make your own nutrientpacked bread.

Supercharge it In her book Supergrains, nutritionist Chrissy Freer combines kamut pasta with antioxidant-rich pumpkin – great for fighting wrinkles – and calciumrich ricotta.


High in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, it’s also a good source of zinc – great for skin and hair health.

Supercharge it Cucumbers contain silica – a compound which aids the production of collagen and elastin in the skin – so add a cucumber salad. You can also make your own dill mayonnaise. Dill’s volatile oils can help fight ageing free radicals.


This little bulb is an anti-ageing giant – and a surprising protein source. “It stimulates our endocrine system, increasing vitality, stamina, concentration and libido. It also boosts skin and improves calcium absorption in the gut, keeping bones strong,” says Elizabeth.

Supercharge it It’s most potent when eaten raw, so crush it onto toasted bread with skin-boosting tomatoes.

Greek Yoghurt

“I feel better and have more energy when I include a good source of lean protein in every meal,” says Jessica Alba in her book The Honest Life. “It sustains me so I’m not tempted to just snack idly on foods I don’t need.” Her top tip? Lowfat Greek yoghurt. “It’s higher in protein than regular yoghurt. I like to sweeten it with a little fruit or honey.” Supercharge it Serve it with a few dark berries or cherries, which are high in antioxidants, and sprinkle with a few sunflower seeds – they contain lignin phytoestrogens to prevent collagen breakdown and boost the skin’s lipid barrier, which protects the skin from moisture loss.


A favourite of nutrition expert and chef, Dale Pinnock, squid is a complete source of lean protein. It also contains essential fats, vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus for strong bones and teeth, copper to help manufacture collagen, and vitamin B12 for an age-defying energy boost.

Supercharge it In his book The Medicinal Chef, Dale creates a bonebuilding squid recipe by serving it with calcium-boosting kale and magnesiumpacked cashew nuts.

Collagen Soup

This traditional Japanese recipe is all the rage in anti-ageing beauty foods. The bones and tissues of animals and fish contain collagen, which the Japanese extract into soups.

Supercharge it In her collagen soup recipe from her book Sushi Slim, chef Makiko Sano adds ginger, which can boost circulation to the skin and reduce inflammation, and antioxidant-rich leeks.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds can help keep the brain in tip-top condition. As well as being a complete source of protein, they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to greater brain volume in women.

Supercharge it Stir hemp seeds into your cereal with a few teff seeds. Dubbed ‘the new quinoa’, they contain protein, calcium and iron.

Sun-dried Tomatoes

A surprising source of protein, they also contain lycopene – a super anti-ager. “Lycopene provides a mild sunscreen effect for your skin,” says Karen. “It can also help to remove toxins and carcinogens and enhance liver detoxification.”

Supercharge it Mix into a salad with some amaranth grain. Gluten-and wheatfree, it boosts the amino acid lysine, which is missing or negligible in most other grains, and is packed with minerals, such as iron, magnesium and vitamin E.