Try this NHS doctor’s anti-ageing recipes which can help you roll back the years

Harnessing the power of diet and lifestyle is the most effective way to improve the look and feel of the largest organ in your body: your skin, writes Dr Rupy Aujla

Most people aspire to have glowing, wrinkle-free skin without any flaws and they try to achieve it by any means necessary. This desire has fuelled a multi-billion-pound global industry that capitalises on people’s beauty ambitions – or a belief that there is some sort of hidden beauty secret that only those ‘in the know’ have access to.

Before you save up to buy yet another anti-ageing cream, let me make it clear to you; harnessing the power of diet and lifestyle is the most effective way to improve the look and feel of the largest organ in your body: your skin.

And the health of this complex, protective layer is heavily influenced by food, micronutrients and how you live your life. Of course, your skin’s role is more than simply aesthetic. It’s there to protect you from excessive light and harmful microbes in your environment and to regulate your temperature. It is a vital part of your immune system and the location of Vitamin D production.

The good news is that, if you focus on eating for the health of your skin, you’ll find that not only does it function better, but it will also look better.

Nutrients in our diet can reduce inflammation that can lead to premature ageing and potential mutations in cells that cause cancer.

A lot of people assume that, when I approach the subject of diet and skin, I’m going to be telling them what to cut out of their diet – sugar, dairy, fat, meat… the list appears endless.

Instead, I believe the initial focus should be what can you put into your diet to help your skin cells flourish. Take dark, leafy greens such as kale, cavolo nero, cabbage and spring greens.

They are the richest source of the plant chemical lutein but it can also be found in foods such as broccoli and peas.

Lutein has been shown to prevent the breakdown of the skin’s matrix – essentially the scaffolding that maintains the skin. And dark greens are also a great source of Vitamin C, which is very effective in stopping chemicals known to attack the skin’s structure.

I’m not saying that spinach is the world’s greatest cure for wrinkles – like everything, having firm, healthy skin that glows is about more than just a single vegetable.

But a plate packed with leafy green vegetables – such as the Split Green Pea & Pearl Barley Pan – is an excellent start.

5-Spice Sticky Aubergine Bake  

I just love making simple savoury bakes from scratch. Here, the Chinese 5 spice marinade takes roasted vegetables to another level. This quick dish is health food at its most flavoursome. It contains seven sources of plant nutrients, the vegetables provide a healthy dose of fibre and antioxidants, and each of the spices is anti-inflammatory. Serve this bake as it is or with steaming bowls of brown rice.

5-Spice Sticky Aubergine Bake: I just love making simple savoury bakes from scratch. Here, the Chinese 5 spice marinade takes roasted vegetables to another level

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2, with leftovers)

  • 300g aubergine, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 150g peas (fresh or thawed)
  • 100g mangetout, roughly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, halved, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 100g beansprouts
  • 1 small carrot, peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 25g unsalted cashews, roughly chopped

For the marinade

  • 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 20g root ginger, peeled
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lime

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the marinade ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.

Place aubergine and red onion into a baking tray, add the marinade and rub it all over the vegetables. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy.

Put the peas and mangetout in a saucepan over a medium heat. Pour in a splash of water (about 30ml), cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, adding more water if needed. Stir in the red pepper and beansprouts, cover again and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Once the aubergine and onions are golden and tender, remove the tray from the oven. Tip the greens and beansprouts into the oven tray and mix them with the aubergine and onion, adding 2 tablespoons of hot water to the mixture.

Divide between two bowls and garnish with the carrot strips and cashews.

Glazed Asian Vegetable Rice  

I adore the umami flavours in this dish and it’s really worth making your own pickle. You can experiment with different flavours in the liquids (try cloves, black peppercorns, fennel or coriander seeds). Edamame beans are a fantastic protein and fibre source, though you can use frozen or freshly podded broad beans.

Glazed Asian Vegetable Rice: I adore the umami flavours in this dish and it’s really worth making your own pickle. You can experiment with different flavours in the liquids (try cloves, black peppercorns, fennel or coriander seeds)

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2)

  • 150g brown rice, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes, then drained
  • 200g baby carrots (or regular carrots quartered lengthways)
  • 150g radishes, halved
  • 150g edamame beans (fresh or thawed)
  • 75g carrots, peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 100g cucumber, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

For the miso marinade

  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • 25ml sesame oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the quick pickle

  • 100ml water
  • 50ml rice vinegar
  • 25ml sweet rice wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10g chopped root ginger

METHOD

Preheat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Put the rice in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the carrots, radishes and edamame beans to the bowl and toss well.

Spread on to a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked, tossing once halfway through.

Make the pickle while the rice and marinated vegetables are cooking. Bring the water to the boil in a small saucepan, add the vinegar, sweet rice wine, garlic and ginger and bring back to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Put the strips of carrot and cucumber in a heatproof bowl, pour the pickle liquor over them and allow to cool.

Divide the baked vegetables and the marinade between two bowls and add the sesame seeds, pickled vegetables and a little of the pickling liquid. Serve with the drained rice.

Radicchio, Peach and Fennel Salad  

I just love making simple savoury bakes from scratch. Here, the Chinese 5 spice marinade takes roasted vegetables to another level. This quick dish is health food at its most flavoursome. It contains seven sources of plant nutrients, the vegetables provide a healthy dose of fibre and antioxidants, and each of the spices is anti-inflammatory. Serve this bake as it is or with steaming bowls of brown rice.

Radicchio, Peach and Fennel Salad: I just love making simple savoury bakes from scratch. Here, the Chinese 5 spice marinade takes roasted vegetables to another level

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2, with leftovers)

  • 300g aubergine, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 150g peas (fresh or thawed)
  • 100g mangetout, roughly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, halved, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 100g beansprouts
  • 1 small carrot, peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 25g unsalted cashews, roughly chopped

For the marinade

  • 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 20g root ginger, peeled
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lime

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the marinade ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.

Place aubergine and red onion into a baking tray, add the marinade and rub it all over the vegetables. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy.

Put the peas and mangetout in a saucepan over a medium heat. Pour in a splash of water (about 30ml), cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, adding more water if needed. Stir in the red pepper and beansprouts, cover again and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Once the aubergine and onions are golden and tender, remove the tray from the oven. Tip the greens and beansprouts into the oven tray and mix them with the aubergine and onion, adding 2 tablespoons of hot water to the mixture.

Divide between two bowls and garnish with the carrot strips and cashews.

How you can eat to beat skin cancer too!   

If you’re concerned about what your skin looks like and how healthy it is, the one thing you need to worry about is the sun. It’s well known that over- exposure to UV rays can lead to premature skin ageing and skin cancers.

The damage from sunlight can be seen in the skin as early as your twenties (depending on your skin tone) and is a common reason for rough skin texture and poor moisture retention.

Many public health campaigns have focused on promoting the use of sun creams and raising awareness of the dangers of sun exposure. And while I agree that sun safety is of utmost importance, what these promotions noticeably lack is advice about diet.

Some micronutrients, such as beta-carotene that we consume in the form of red and orange pigmented plant foods like papaya and squash, may have the physical ability to absorb harmful light

But I think, as more studies emerge examining the potential role of food as ‘photoprotective’ (protective against harmful UV rays), that’s going to change.

One of the ways in which sunlight can be damaging is that it can penetrate deep into the layers of the skin, creating compounds known as reactive oxidative species (ROS).

These compounds disrupt proteins, fats and DNA in the skin, causing inflammation and potentially cancers.

However, the antioxidant capacity of colourful vegetables and fruits could provide additional whole-body protection from sunlight. They contain vitamins and nutrients that can help to neutralise these damaging oxidative species, reducing their negative effects.

In addition to this, some micronutrients, such as beta-carotene that we consume in the form of red and orange pigmented plant foods like papaya and squash, may have the physical ability to absorb harmful light.

So not only do these foods perform a valuable service by reducing damage from oxidation, they could also be physically protecting components of the skin and improving its repair.

I want to make it clear that sun protection using physical barriers like screens and blocks is essential, but what we put on our plates could provide additional defences to harmful sunlight exposure. Try my 5 Spice Sticky Aubergine Bake or the Glazed Asian Vegetable Rice as a great way of loading up on delicious coloured vegetables that may preserve skin quality.

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