You might be under the impression that your hair turns gray because it loses its natural pigments as you age. Not necessarily. Those grays are more the result of a build-up of peroxide that your hair follicles make. Your hair follicles also make an enzyme called catalase that essentially neutralizes that peroxide, keeping grays at bay.
Yet as you get older, your body not only produces less catalase, but the higher amount of peroxide also inhibits your body’s production of catalase. End result? Gray hair, which can start as early as your thirties (generally thirty for men and thirty-five for women). Nearly half the population has 50 percent gray hair by the time they’re fifty (experts call it the 50-50-50 rule). Smoking can also cause premature graying, especially before the age of thirty.
Whether you choose to embrace your grays, as many individuals are doing, or cover them is your choice. One survey found that gray hair can age women’s appearance by six years, and men only three years. But you can help improve your body’s production of catalase by eating certain foods—almonds in particular, which have been shown to increase catalase levels in the body. Just nosh a handful of unsalted almonds a day (avoid salty or flavored ones, which come with sodium, sugar, and extra calories). The bonus? You could also lower your cholesterol.
Processed food accounts for over half of most Indians and Americans’ diets. Processed foods are defined as those that have undergone numerous steps to be transformed from their original state to the food you’re eating. Get this: 57.5 percent of the calories the average American eats every day comes from ultra-processed foods (think soft drinks, mass-produced packages of bread and buns, instant noodles and soups, reconstituted meat products, industrialized desserts, and packaged snacks). The remaining calories come from: 30.2 percent unprocessed or minimally processed foods (like pasta, beans, and vegetables), 9.3 percent from processed foods like cheese or vegetables in brine, and 2.9 percent from processed culinary ingredients like baking powder and baking soda, vinegar, and unsweetened baking chocolate.
So what’s the harm? Plenty. Ultra-processed foods contain eight times the amount of added sugar as processed foods. You’re also consuming more saturated fats and carbohydrates, even more chemical additives, and less of the good stuff like protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. You’ll then be at higher risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and may even gain weight.
You’ll see the effects on your skin too. Processed foods mess with the production of collagen and elastin, leading to a loss of elasticity and firmness in your skin. They can even make acne and rosacea worse.
One simple trick to escape this plague of processed foods: when you read labels, look for foods with fewer than five ingredients. Also, follow food journalist Michael Pollan’s rule: “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”