The right way to eat for a clear, young, glowing complexion.
Clear out white carbs with whole grains
One more reason to trade up to whole grains: Not only will smart starches help your heart and your waistline, but they may also battle blemishes. When people cut refined carbs from their diet in favor of high-fiber grains, they had half as many pimples after 12 weeks, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition paper reports. When you eat less healthy carbs such as white bread and pastries, your pancreas sends out a surge of insulin, triggering a hormone-level change in your body that increases oil production and tells cells to multiply—all of which jams pores. Swap out chips, cookies, white bread and white rice for popcorn, whole-grain bread and brown rice. The fiber in these whole foods helps your body absorb and burn carbs more slowly, which keeps blood sugar and insulin levels steady.
Zap zits with zinc from baked beans, beef, chickpeas, oysters, pumpkin seeds
Give oily skin the slip with a hefty helping of zinc. "Acne is the result of too much oil and a collection of skin cells, which combine to create a blockage that spills into surrounding tissue. Redness is a sign of an inflammatory rush to the scene," says Alan Logan, coauthor of The Clear Skin Diet (Cumberland House). Zinc helps calm that response, and it regulates sebum production, stopping shine and preventing more breakouts. Shuck off the shine: Oysters are a star source, and you need to eat only two to get the 15 to 25 milligrams of zinc that acne sufferers require. Not near a raw bar? You can get 2 to 6 mg from 1 cup baked beans, 3 ounces beef or turkey, 1 cup chickpeas or 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds.
Chill out with frozen yogurt, ice cream
How cool is this: Summer's feel-good frozen treats could make you look great, too. Putting something icy-cold into the back of your mouth for two minutes will temporarily reduce redness from rosacea, says Richard Odom, M.D., professor of clinical dermatology at the University of California at San Francisco. The flush of rosacea occurs because your blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to your cheeks. Eating cold foods can constrict the vessels, calming redness. Ice cream, fro yo or a smoothie all provide sweet relief from flushes. For those with frequent flare-ups, ice chips or frozen grapes or watermelon balls are lighter (but still effective) alternatives.
Use E-tools, such as nuts, olive oil, wheat germ
The vitamin E you eat sets up camp in the outer membrane of skin cells, defending against sun and free radicals. It also keeps skin hydrated, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles. But steer clear of supplements—megadoses of vitamin E can be harmful. Collect a combo of food sources to get 15 mg per day: 1/2 cup wheat germ and 1/4 cup almonds each contain 9 mg; and 1/4 cup peanuts and 2 tablespoons olive oil each deliver 3 mg.
Build a better barrier with beef, cereal, tuna
Being niacin-deficient is like skipping sunscreen on South Beach. The B vitamin helps form a buffer against wrinkle-causing sunlight and environmental stress, says Elaine Jacobson, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Arizona Cancer Center College of Pharmacy in Tucson. It may also reduce skin cancer risk, a study in Nutrition and Cancer reveals. About 15 percent of Americans may be deficient. Meet your need with 14 mg per day: One cup Multigrain Cheerios offers 20 mg, 3 oz tuna has 11 mg, and you'll get 6 mg from 3 oz halibut or beef.
Put some color in your cheeks with broccoli, citrus fruit, papaya, red pepper, strawberries
These bright bites contain vitamin C, which helps your skin make firming collagen and protects skin cells from UV damage. You can get a whole days dose of C from 1 cup strawberries, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1 cup cubed papaya or 1 cup broccoli florets. Vitamin C deteriorates rapidly, so pick the freshest produce possible and eat it raw; cooking can reduce levels by as much as 50 percent. Or stash frozen produce—the big chill preserves more C. Pair C sources with foods that also contain vitamin E for even more benefits. When people took the duo for eight days, they were able to withstand more UV radiation before burning, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology notes.
Savor sweet sun blockers with chocolate, tea
They don't replace sunscreen, but these treats really can protect your skin. Antioxidant flavonols and polyphenols in chocolate and tea protect against damaging free radicals. Darker is better: People who drank antioxidant-rich hot chocolate and exposed their skin to UV light experienced 25 percent less redness than those who sipped low-potency cocoa, a paper in The Journal of Nutrition shows. (And regular tea drinkers had a 30 percent lower risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, finds a study from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire.) Indulge daily in an ounce of dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao, such as Green & Black's Organic 70 percent Dark Chocolate bar. Or brew a cup of green tea and add lemon juice. Green varieties offer the most polyphenols, and the vitamin C in lemon juice improves absorption of the compounds.
Recruit the A-team with cantaloupe, mango, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
These superfoods pack powerful pigments called carotenoids that turn into vitamin A inside your body. Consider the vitamin kryptonite for acne. This nutrient attacks blemishes in three ways: by reducing inflammation, encouraging cell turnover (for natural exfoliation) and strengthening your skin's defenses against pimple-causing bacteria. All of that can add up to clean, clear pores that are less prone to breakouts. You need 2,310 international units of A per day. Sounds like a lot, but you can get more than five times that from only ½ cup cooked frozen spinach or kale. Make the most of vitamin A by pairing it with zinc, which helps your body produce a protein that transports vitamin A from your liver to all of your tissues, including your skin.
Feast on friendly fats in anchovies, flaxseed, sardines, walnuts, wild salmon
The right oils can help replenish lipid-starved skin from the inside, notes Jeffrey Benabio, M.D., a dermatologist in San Diego. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods seal in moisture and soothe inflammation that can result from dryness. "They offer the raw materials that keep skin moist, and they rush to the barrier's aid when it's damaged," Logan says. Reel in two 3 1/2-oz servings of fatty fish per week, snack on 1/4 cup walnuts, or sprinkle 2 tbsp flaxseed in a smoothie to get enough omega-3s to quench your skin.
Bug out with pickles, tempeh, yogurt
You know probiotics—the beneficial bacteria in yogurt—are good for your gut, but a healthy digestive system may also keep skin soft. The reason? When your intestines are working right, they can better absorb all of the nutrients your skin needs from your diet. And researchers have found that eczema sufferers often lack the variety of bacterial flora in their gut that nonsufferers have. Experts suspect that spooning up probioticrich yogurt may encourage your flora to flourish, brightening your complexion and calming mild eczema. Look for yogurts with a Live and Active Cultures seal, and snack on one serving a day. Or get your probiotic fix from tempeh or fermented veggies such as pickles and sauerkraut.
Be smooth with chicken, eggs, Swiss chard
This group of healthy favorites is brimming with biotin, a B vitamin that attaches to proteins in your body which synthesize fatty acids. This helps keep skin moisturized and may stave off the itchy red rash of dermatitis. Scramble two eggs to get your daily dose. One contains roughly 20 micrograms; you need only 30 mcg per day. But be sure to eat the yolks—that's where biotin is stored. Beauty bonus: The nutrient has also been shown to keep hair and nails healthy. Make omelets a habit to crack the code on dry skin and look lovely for a lifetime.
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