Want to be more beautiful? The formula for promoting smooth, glowing skin doesn’t have to be complicated, cost hundreds of dollars, or take months to work. It can be as simple as eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats; drinking plenty of filtered water; and avoiding excessive caffeine consumption, which dehydrates cells and makes fine lines more noticeable. Other skin-zapping foods: sugar, which damages collagen and elastin, the fibers in skin that keep it smooth and firm; refined and high-glycemic carbs, linked with an increase in acne breakouts; and alcohol, which dehydrates cells and causes dilated blood vessels and facial redness. In addition, a few foods top the list for skin beautifying. Some of the best:
1. Asparagus is high in antioxidants including glutathione, which helps protect skin from sun damage and minimizes the effects of aging. It’s also high in vitamin C, beta carotene, selenium, zinc, and other skin-beautifying nutrients, and works as a natural diuretic to reduce puffiness and swelling. Eat it very lightly cooked or raw to protect the glutathione content.
2. Salmon contains 2-dimethylaminoethanol, or DMAE, a compound found naturally in the brain. DMAE protects cell membrane integrity to keep skin smooth and firm, and helps inhibit the body’s production of arachidonic acid, a compound that encourages wrinkles, sagging, and signs of aging. Salmon also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of skin cancer. Choose wild Alaskan salmon instead of farmed. Sardines and other small fatty fish have similar benefits.
3. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats that keep cell membranes strong and flexible, encourage smooth skin, and prevent and treat eczema. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that can not only protect against, but also reverse, skin damage from the sun’s UV rays. Other nuts have similar benefits.
4. Avocado contains the skin-healing vitamins A, D, and E, and is rich in antioxidant carotenoids that prevent free radical damage to skin cells. Studies have shown that some constituents of avocado offer protection against UV damage to skin cells. And like almonds and other nuts, avocados are high in monounsaturated fats.
5. Spinach is rich in vitamin K, a fat- soluble vitamin that helps keep skin springy and firm and helps prevent wrinkles and fine lines. It’s also a good source of lutein, a type of carotenoid that helps protect the skin from sun damage. Plus, spinach contains zinc, which guards against blemishes and breakouts.
6. Ruby red grapefruit gets its pink hue from a potent antioxidant called lycopene (also found in tomatoes and guava) that fights free radical damage to the skin and protects against wrinkles, sagging, and skin discolorations. Several studies have shown that lycopene can also protect against burning from the sun’s UV rays.
7. Cauliflower, like other cruciferous vegetables, is rich in glucosinolates, cancer-preventive compounds that also protect the skin from free radical damage. Studies show that isothiocyanates, which are converted from glucosinolates, can prevent wrinkles and stimulate skin detoxification. In one study, an isothiocyanate extract increased firmness and smoothness of skin in people who worked outdoors in the winter and were exposed to cold weather and low humidity.
8. Arugula, like cauliflower, is rich in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, cancer-fighting compounds that also protect the skin from free radicals and sun damage. Some studies show that isothiocyanates prevent inflammation in the skin and can protect against psoriasis. Arugula also stimulates the liver, and can promote skin detoxification.
9. Blackberries are good sources of skin-protective vitamins A, C, and K. They are also high in anthocyanins, the compounds responsible for their deep purple color and their ability to protect against cellular damage. Blackberries contain another antioxidant called ellagic acid, which helps shield the skin from damage by the sun’s UV rays and helps repair existing damage from excessive sun exposure. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have similar benefits.
Salmon en Papillote with Arugula Pesto
4 large squares parchment paper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 ½ cup packed arugula leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs. wild Alaskan salmon, cut into 4 equal pieces
per serving: 574 cal; 49g pro; 41g total fat (7g sat fat); 1g carb; 102mg chol; 107mg sod; <1g fiber; <1g sugars
Asparagus Bundles with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
1 small bunch green onions, divided
1 small lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 lb. slender asparagus stalks, tough ends removed
per serving: 147 cal; 2g pro; 14g total fat (2g sat fat); 5g carb; 0mg chol; 11mg sod; 2g fiber; 1g sugars
Spinach, Avocado, and Ruby Grapefruit Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette
2 small ruby grapefruits
2 Tbs. blackberry fruit spread or preserves
1/4 cup unrefined avocado oil
8 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves*
1/2 cup blackberries
1 small avocado, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup toasted macadamia nuts
per serving: 363 cal; 4g pro; 27g total fat (4g sat fat); 30g carb; 0mg chol; 80mg sod; 8g fiber; 14g sugars
Creamy Cauliflower Bisque with Chive Oil
2 Tbs. coconut oil, divided
2 small leeks, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 small celery stalk
1 large head cauliflower, cored and chopped (4–5 cups)
3–4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup almond or cashew butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 large bunch fresh chives, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
per serving: 427 cal; 12g pro; 34g total fat (10g sat fat); 24g carb; 4mg chol; 816mg sod; 6g fiber; 5g sugars
Lisa Turner is a certified food psychology coach, nutritional healer, intuitive eating consultant, and author. She has written five books on food and nutrition and developed the Inspired Eats iPhone app. Visit her online at inspiredeating.com.