The best way to look healthy and attractive may not be inside a $100 jar of cream or under a surgeon’s knife. Rather, what you put on your plate may be just as important as what you put on your skin.
An increasing number of studies and clinical trials are underlining the importance of “beauty foods” — super-nourishing fruits, vegetables, nuts, teas and other everyday foods that may replace a trip to the spa with a stop at the neighbourhood grocery store.
Did you know that eating salmon and other foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids could result in fewer wrinkles? That you could brighten your smile with cranberries? That spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard contain vitamins that help produce an oily substance that acts as a natural hair conditioner?
“Taking care of your skin is from the outside in, as well as the inside out,” says Dr. Joely Kaufman, a Miami Beach, Fla., dermatologist who participates in aging research and is an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “A good skin care regimen involves both topical and dietary regimens.”
The most obvious sign of the beauty foods movement has started appearing on store shelves. Last year, the American Dental Association identified foods that are good for oral health with a “Smile Healthy” sticker. The small stamp alerts shoppers that certain foods and drinks have been tested and met the standards set by the ADA for promoting healthy teeth, including fluoridated water.
Most experts say eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to ensure healthy benefits. Still, some specific foods are proving to pack more punch in grooming a glowing complexion, shiny hair, healthy teeth and strong nails.
Kaufman, the Miami Beach dermatologist, recommends foods rich in antioxidants — green tea, citrus fruits like oranges and pomegranate, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, romaine lettuce and egg yolks — to combat skin damage from the sun and aging.
“There have been several studies linking foods rich in antioxidants to protection from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light,” Kaufman says. “Ultraviolet radiation is known to cause production of harmful free radicals, which are linked to aging and skin cancer.”
Add red wine to your shopping list, too. It contains resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes. Resveratrol has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; it also is associated with delays in the aging process, Kaufman says.
One glass of wine offers benefits; more than that and you risk too many free radicals that attack collagen and elastin, which accelerates aging.
Kaufman also urges patients to stay well-hydrated with water because dehydration makes the skin appear dull, rough and older. Current thinking says you should let thirst guide how much water you drink every day. Liquids are the primary source, but you can also eat food with high water content, such as apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, asparagus, carrots, celery and mushrooms.
Joy Bauer writes that in addition to avoiding too much sun and smoking — the “two worst things for your skin” — fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins C and E nourish and protect the skin. High on her list: bell peppers, orange juice, lemons, whole grain cereals, peanut butter and avocado. Bauer also advocates eating foods that contain selenium, a mineral used in making a type of protein with antioxidant properties.
Hair: Vitamin B helps prevent shedding, slow growth and weak hair. Vitamin C deficiencies can lead to dry, splitting hair.
Eat and drink: Fortified whole grain cereals, chickpeas, wild salmon, lean beef, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, white potatoes, oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, eggs, tofu, apricots, strawberries, guava, bell peppers, orange juice, snow peas, broccoli, kiwi, cherry tomatoes, raspberries and tangerines.
Skin: Foods rich in vitamins C and E or the antioxidant mineral selenium help safeguard the skin from sun damage and delay aging by protecting skin elasticity.
Eat: Sunflower seeds, peanut butter, avocado, tomato paste, red bell peppers, olive oil, mangoes, peaches, broccoli, spinach, cantaloupe, tangerines, watermelon, orange juice, tilapia, shrimp, turkey, brown rice, chicken breasts mushrooms and eggs.
Skin Hydration: Water helps flush away toxins and keeps cells well-hydrated, which means skin will look firmer and clearer. Although liquids are the main source of water, some foods have such high water content that they contribute to overall hydration.
Eat: Apples, blueberries, cherries, grapes, kiwi, lemon, mangoes, watermelon, pineapple, artichokes, beets, celery, cucumbers and yams.
Skin Renewal: Zinc helps maintain the collagen that keeps skin firm; it’s also involved in skin renewal.
Eat: Pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, fortified whole grain cereals, cashews, lentils, lima beans, fat-free milk, green peas and pork tenderloin.
Teeth: Polyphenols are antioxidant plant compounds that prevent plaque from adhering to teeth and help reduce chances of developing cavities and gum disease. Calcium strengthens the jaw bone, which helps hold teeth in place and prevents serious gum disease.
Eat and drink: Black and green teas, cheese, milk, yogurt, cranberries and raisins.
Nails: Zinc keeps nails strong. Protein is necessary for nail growth and strength. Iron keeps nails from distorting into spoon shapes.
Eat: Lean beef, turkey, chicken, veal, fat-free yogurt, milk, peanuts, green peas, clams, oysters, shrimp, egg yolks, tofu, beans and fortified whole grain cereals.