Now that the sun is shining bright, you know it’s time to switch up your skin care routine, swapping your heavy creams for lightweight lotions and amping up your SPF protection. But one area of skin care that we tend to pay little attention to is the foods we consume. As it turns out, there’s some serious truth in the saying, “You are what you eat.”
“Nutrition feeds the foundation — and the root — for healthy radiant skin,” explains Paula Simpson, holistic nutritionist and co-founder of Zea Skin Solutions. In fact, recent research has shown a correlation between how lifestyle and diet impact the skin. While committing to a solid skin care regimen can certainly help, if a clear complexion is what you’re after, nutrition is no doubt worth paying attention to.
What you’re feeding your body shows on your face, so before you reach for those greasy fries, consider piling your plate with these foods for clear skin.
Colorful fruits and veggies
You might be familiar with the term “antioxidants” from the ingredient list on your skin care products, but they’re also abundant in many of the fresh foods you eat, namely colorful fruits and veggies. One in particular that’s essential for skin health is zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that protects your body’s cells from dangerous free radicals. “Zeaxanthin is found in leafy green vegetables, yellow and orange peppers, corn, and even paprika,” explains Simpson. She recommends eating more antioxidant-rich foods this summer, such as deep-colored berries (check out JLo's go-to smoothie), peppers, beets, and tomatoes to help ward off reactive free radicals that can slow down skin metabolism and cellular renewal, leading to dark spots and wrinkles.
There’s a good reason lemon is a staple in most detox diets. “Lemons are packed with antioxidant-rich vitamin C, which is great for the skin and fighting damaging free radicals,” says Simpson. “Furthermore, the citrus fruit has an alkaline effect on the body, meaning that it can help restore the body's pH balance, benefiting the immune system.” A simple tip she recommends is starting your day with hot water and a slice of lemon to help flush out toxins and cleanse your system. Through the rest of the day, you can squeeze it into everything from your ice water to your salad dressing.
Active cultured yogurts, kefir, tempeh, miso, kimchi and kombucha tea are all natural detoxifiers that help destroy harmful bacteria in your gut, but they also do the same when it comes to your skin, protecting it from toxins before they cause irritation or blemishes. Simpson suggests looking for natural yogurt with no additives or sugar and added probiotics, such as acidophilus and bifidobacteria. Sorry, though it's delicious, fro-yo doesn’t count.
If you’re on a quinoa kick, it’s time to add amaranth to your pantry. “Like quinoa, amaranth is considered a pseudo cereal, meaning technically not a grain, and is gluten-free, high in protein, and contains lysine, an essential amino acid for collagen production,” explains Simpson. “One cup of uncooked amaranth has 31 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for calcium, 14 percent for vitamin C, and a whopping 82 percent for iron.” It’s also an excellent source of fiber with 13 grams per uncooked cup compared to just 2 grams for the same amount of long-grain white rice.
This cruciferous veggie is not only a stir-fry essential, but it works wonders for your skin. “It contains important phytochemicals that are released when they're chopped, chewed, fermented, cooked or digested,” says Simpson. “The substances are released then break down into sulforaphanes, indole-3-carbinol, and D-glucarate, which all have a specific effect on detoxification.” She explains that these substances also provide a good source of vitamin C and mineral sulfur, both essential in producing skin collagen.
You’re probably aware of the benefits of this fiber-filled whole grain, including everything from aiding in heart health and digestion to improving energy and cholesterol levels. But what you might not know is that brown rice is loaded with phytoceramides, which are critical for protecting skin from environmental stressors while locking in skin moisture, so its surface appears smooth and firm, says Simpson. “With age, ceramide production declines, weakening skin barrier and leaving skin more vulnerable to dry, flaky, and wrinkled skin,” she adds.
In case you haven’t heard, these are the nuts soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle claims give her that gorgeous glow (along with her affection for Prince Harry, of course). As it turns out, she’s totally right: “Raw nuts, such as almonds, contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids to build strong skin cell membranes, vitamin E — an important skin antioxidant and plant sterols — and other compounds which help to balance hormones in the body,” says Simpson. “They’re also alkaline-forming when consumed raw. Alkaline foods support detoxification and healthy pH levels, preventing acidity and inflammation in the body.”