The science behind skin-nurturing foods
The next time someone stops you from eating that chocolate bar or bag of chips by saying that it’ll make you break out, you can confidently tell them that there is no scientific proof to back up the notion that ANY food makes you break out. However, there certainly are foods that can HELP your complexion. We’ve got the science behind what makes stuff like carrots, spinach and yes, even chocolate (of the dark variety) actually GOOD for your skin!
Water: Essential to maintaining life, water makes up about 60% of adult males and 70% of adult females. And it’s also critical to keeping your skin looking supple. Water also helps flush the toxins from your system. So stay hydrated, because your skin will show it if you don’t. Try water-packed fruits and veggies like tomatoes (93% water) and watermelon (92%). Berries, carrots, apples and bananas also pack a watery punch, as do oatmeal and pasta, which absorb water when cooked.
Vitamins: It’s time to learn your ABCs — when it comes to vitamins that is. Vitamin A helps to maintain and repair skin cells, and also plays a role in good eyesight. Think orange and green to get your fill — you’ll find plenty of vitamin A in sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, broccoli and kale, as well as in cantaloupe, mango and dried apricots. Not a big fan of the preceding foods? Milk, egg yolks and mozzarella cheese also are good sources. Or you could try liver. Spinach is looking better and better, huh?
Niacin (vitamin B3) helps alleviate irritation, while a deficiency of biotin (another B vitamin) can lead to itchy, scaly skin; biotin also helps prevent hair loss. You can get niacin from anchovies, tuna and swordfish; liver; peanuts; bacon; and sun-dried tomatoes. Biotin is most present in Swiss chard, tomatoes, carrots, almonds, cabbage, eggs, cucumbers and cauliflower.
Vitamin C helps your body produce the protein collagen, which helps fight damage to your skin and keeps those wrinkles at bay. (Fact: Too much sun depletes your vitamin C levels.) Get plenty of it in citrus fruits like oranges and clementines, as well as guavas, papayas, kiwis, strawberries and dark leafy greens.
Vitamin E protects you from premature aging with oils that help moisturize dry skin. It can be found in most nuts, like sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts and peanuts, as well as in dried apricots and spinach.
Omega-3 fatty acids: We’re often taught that fat is bad for us, but that’s not the whole truth. CERTAIN fats are bad for you. And certain fats are good for you — like omega-3s, which help hydrate skin and unclog pores. They’re plentiful in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel. Not a fan? You can also get omega-3s from flaxseeds and flaxseed oil.
Protein: Proteins are an essential part of any healthy diet. And they’re essential for skin health, too! They repair damage from stress and UV rays and help new skin cells grow. Protein-rich foods include meats, eggs, grains, milk, cheese, lentils and peanuts.
Fiber: Yes, it’s what helps keep you … regular. And in doing so, fiber helps remove toxins from your body, which in turn means healthier skin. Fiber is plentiful in whole grains (and many cereals are fortified with it nowadays), fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants help relieve free radicals in your body, which, among causing other health issues, also can damage skin. Still wondering how chocolate factors in to healthier skin? Dark chocolate is full of the antioxidant flavanol, which adds smoothness to skin and protects against sun damage. Other antioxidants can be found in foods that have high beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E content, like colorful fruits and veggies. Zinc and selenium also are antioxidants, which work with vitamins C and E, respectively, to improve skin. Find zinc in oysters, red meat, nuts, seafood, whole grains and dairy. Selenium is plentiful in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef and poultry.
So while certain foods — like leafy greens and carrots — may help your skin health more than others, essentially a well-balanced diet is what’s needed to keep that gorgeous mug of yours looking good. But don’t go binging on any of the above. Balance is key because too much of any one nutrient can actually make you sick. It’s best to consult a dietician or nutritionist to find out the proper levels you need and if any dietary supplementation is needed. And don’t be afraid to eat that dark chocolate bar every once in a while. Just tell that skeptic that it’s good for you.