Eat Your Way To Great Skin: The Importance of What You Put in Your Body

Aly Walansky

healthy foods on a table

“You are what you eat” — we’ve been hearing that for years. While what you put into your body is super important for your overall health and well-being, it’s also vital for your skin. The right or wrong foods can make a world of difference in the health, brightness, and clarity of your skin.

There are many reasons drinking lots of water is good for your body, but brighter skin is one of them. Drinking more water increases the blood flow to your skin, creating pinker cheeks and an overall healthy glow. Get a vitamin boost by adding a touch of lemon to your water. It’ll help keep your skin clear and is also great for digestion.

“Starting your day with warm water with lemon flushes out your system and increases your vitamin C, which is a great way to build the collagen in your skin,” says  natural food chef and holistic nutritionist Tara Sowlaty.

MORE: 5 Foods That Keep Your Skin Hydrated

Just as hydration is great for skin, dehydration is obviously rather bad. Alcohol dehydrates the skin, which is why your skin often feels drawn and dull the morning after a night out. Add a dose of bloat and redness (depending on what you drink and how much) and it can be a losing equation. When you do drink, make sure to hydrate before and after.

Seek More Magnesium
Because magnesium has been leeched from our soils and processed out of foods, most of us are pretty deficient in this mineral. “A diet rich in magnesium can go a long way in creating healthier, brighter skin. Magnesium rich foods include green vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, nuts and seeds such as almonds, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, etc., but they must be organic or they will be depleted of mineral content,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a nutrition expert, author of The Complete Natural Guide to Women’s Health.

Avoid Sugar
Sorry, but sugar is the root of all evil when to comes to skin issues. “Science has proven that sugar metabolization has a massive inflammatory effect. This inflammatory effect causes the breakdown of all living tissue, including skin. Expect advanced signs of aging sooner than later, such as wrinkles and dull skin tone,” says Kim Laudati of Kim Laudati Skin Care.

Starch is also a no-no (starch converts to sugar in the body). “Sugar increases cortisol (the stress hormone) in the blood, which in turn causes all manners of inflammation — think inflamed artery walls which restrict blood flow, leading to everything from losing skin’s glow to high blood pressure and heart disease,” says Erika Herman, a nutritionist and holistic health expert, and author of Eat Like a Fatass, Look Like a Goddess: The Untold Story of Healthy Foods.

MORE: 8 Foods That Are Making You Bloated

Eat More Protein
“High quality protein like wild salmon and grass-fed beef offer optimal amounts of collagen-building amino acids like lysine and proline,” says JJ Virgin, a nutrition and fitness experts, author of The Virgin Diet. Animal protein also contains zinc. A study in the International Journal of Dermatology found this mineral provides excellent antioxidant protection for healthy skin. “I start every morning with a protein shake that combines plant-based (but not soy) protein powder, unsweetened coconut milk, berries, kale, and flax or chia seeds,” says Virgin.

Avoid Salt
Salt retains water, making it hard on your lymphatic system to flush toxins efficiently. Toxic buildup can show up as acne, Rosacea, eczema, dry and oily patches, dark under eye circles and more.

Consider Saying No To Gluten and Dairy
You don’t have to be celiac or have lactose intolerance to have sensitivities to gluten and dairy. “All skin, but especially acneic and/or sensitive will benefit from cutting back on these tasty but congestive ingredients,” says Laudati.

MORE: Banish Clogged Pores For Good

Cut Back On Caffeine
Here, we have a bit of a conundrum. Caffeine raises blood pressure and sensitizes skin. However, it’s also known to have anti-inflammatory benefits, which is great for anyone who has issues with rosacea or redness. Tread carefully. Caffeine is dehydrating, so if you do enjoy your daily cup (or two or three), try to follow up your coffee or tea with lots of water.

Eat More Plant Pigments
Antioxidants in the form of plant pigments not only fight aging on the inside but also have great potential to slow the aging of the skin. “As an example, the orange-red pigment called lycopene, found in tomatoes and tomato paste, actually slows burning by blocking the free radical damage to your skin that occurs with sun exposure. In contrast, people who smoke and inhale thousands of oxidants rapidly deplete their antioxidant system and thus have skin that is far more wrinkled,” says Dr. Steven Masley, a physician and nutritionist as well as author and trained chef.

You can apply antioxidants directly to your skin as well. Vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, the supplement coenzyme Q10, and green tea are great.

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