We’ve all heard the expression “You are what you eat” and no where is it more evident than the health of our skin and most noticeably our face, neck, chest and hands. Growing evidence via research shows that your diet does affect your complexion. What you eat also affects your hormones, can cause acne, and will create or lessen inflammation, which is associated with skin aging.
While many of us have chosen to take the route of serums, creams and medical procedures marketed to boost collagen, get rid of dark spots, reduce or eliminate wrinkles, and shed dull skin (it is a multi-billion dollar industry, after all) try eating some of these foods instead of, or in conjunction with, all the magic potions and elixors…. and you just may find there is more “magic” in whole foods than in all those costly products.
These are my top picks that most of us would find easy to fit in to our regular diets:
TOMATOES: The antioxidant/phytochemical lycopene, which makes tomatoes red, improves skin’s natural SPF by eliminating skin-aging free-radicals caused by ultraviolet rays. While a slice of tomato is pretty yummy, levels of lycopene are higher in cooked tomatoes.
DARK CHOCOLATE: One of your favorite treats (72% or higher; sorry your favorite Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar does not count) is rich in cocoa flavanols, plant compounds with antioxidant properties, which help hydrate skin and improve circulation. In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, women who drank cocoa fortified with 326 milligrams of flavonols (equal to a standard Hershey’s Special Dark bar) had better skin texture and stronger resistance to UV rays than those who drank cocoa containing just a small amount of the antioxidant. That is almost 3.5 ounces which is a lot of calories so stick with a daily 1-ounce portion, or 150 calories, to reap the good skin benefits without the weight gain.
GREEN TEA: It might truly be the wonder drink! When it’s hot, the powerhouse brew releases catechins, a type of antioxidant with proven anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. (the tea’s antioxidants start to degrade as it cools, so drink it while it’s hot.) Catechins like EGCG (antioxidants) boost blood flow and oxygen to the skin, which delivers key nutrients to keep your complexion healthy. A 2007 study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that drinking two to six cups a day not only helps prevent skin cancer but may reverse the effects of sun damage by neutralizing the changes that appear in sun-exposed skin.
OLIVE OIL: A 2012 study in PLOS ONE analyzed the diets of 1264 women and found that a higher consumption of olive oil (more than 8.4 grams or 2 teaspoons a day) was associated with 31% fewer signs of aging compared to people who ate less than 3.8 grams (about 1 teaspoon). About 75% of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids, which may play a role in the youth boost. The antioxidant polyphenols in olive oil could also quench damaging free radicals.
GRASS FED BEEF: Not only does grass-fed beef contain a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (to reduce inflammation), but it also packs nearly 30 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving. Protein is the building block of collagen and elastin tissue, which keeps skin taut and less wrinkled.
WILD SALMON/SARDINES: Both salmon and sardines are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Packing your diet with these omega-3s can help keep your skin clear. One serving (3.5 ounces) of sardines contain 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, making it one of the best sources of the fat. Fatty fish is particularly rich in the type of omega-3 called DHA, an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is now known as the root cause of acne.
WALNUTS: They are the only type of nut that contains a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which is especially important for vegetarians who are skipping fish. Walnuts pack an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid. Deficiency in this fat can result in eczema, which is associated with dry, scaly skin.
SWEET POTATOES: These sweet tubers are loaded with vitamin C, which smooths out wrinkles. Vitamin C is essential to collagen production and the more collagen you have, the less creased your skin looks.
GREEN, YELLOW AND RED BELL PEPPERS: One study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate the most green and yellow vegetables (up to 250 grams; one large pepper is about 190 grams) had fewer wrinkles, especially in the crow’s feet area, compared to those who at the least amount (69 grams a day). This may be because of antioxidants that fight aging free radicals. Sweet bell peppers are also high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis, which keeps skin taught and smooths fine lines.
YOGURT: The protein in yogurt helps skin stay firm so it’s more resistant to lines. Greek yogurt is especially beneficial as it has double the protein content as regular yogurt. Stay away from the sweetened varieties, as the sugar content will negate any benefits (sugar is super aging to your skin). Check out how yogurt when applied topically can also improve your skin: 5 Ways Yogurt Keeps Skin Glowing and Gorgeous.
KALE/SPINACH/DARK LEAFY GREENS: Kale is one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that absorb and neutralize the free radicals created by UV light—including the wavelengths that actually get through sunscreen and reach your skin. Plus, just one cup gives you 134% and 133% of your daily value for skin-firming vitamin C and A, respectively. People who ate the most leafy greens actually had half as many skin tumors over 11 years as those who ate the least. It’s thought that the folate in these veggies may help repair and maintain DNA—basically bolstering cells’ ability to renew themselves. That reduces the likelihood of cancer-cell growth. The added bonus to Popeye’s favorite veggie: the water in greens penetrates cell membranes—which makes for plumper and less wrinkled skin.
ALMONDS and SUNFLOWER SEEDS: Almonds are seeds, not nuts, and they’re stuffed with
vitamin E, a potent sun blocker and sunflower seeds meet 37% of your daily needs for vitamin E per ounce. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that helps to protect skin cells from UV light and other environmental factors that generate cell-damaging free radicals. Food rich in Vitamin E can help keep your skin pimple-free. Vitamin E is thought to enhance immune function, allowing the body to fight off the inflammation that leads to acne.
CARROTS: Literally gives you a “glow” due to the carotenoid, beta-carotene, which when eaten in higher amounts results in more yellow skin tones giving a complexion that others rate as looking healthier. Beta-carotene also has Vitamin A activity which helps prevent the overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer. That’s where dead cells and sebum combine and clog pores. Another reason to snack on carrots: Vitamin A also reduces the development of skin-cancer cells. 1/2 cup of baby carrots daily will do!
Make sure you check out The Whole Meal’s extensive library of recipes which naturally include all of these foods. The Whole Meal was designed to help you eat whole foods on a regular basis with a method of saving you money and time but have some pretty amazing side benefits; glowing skin, time with family, ideal weight, lots of energy.
I love this BBC article, Eat your Way to Fabulous Skin, which lists foods by categories or the correct balance of foods for skin vitality. It does a good job of giving you a list of the best nutrients and other tips to feed your skin for that natural glow. Scroll to the bottom of the article on how to combat common skin problems like acne, psorasis, and eczema.
Be patient as it takes six weeks for your skin to renew itself so you will need to consistently feed yourself with some of these foods to see the benefits. When you start to receive the complements on your glowing complexion and need less makeup, expensive serums and potions, it’ll be worth it!