18 Health Foods with Big Beauty Benefits
We've all looked in the mirror and asked, "Do I look my age?" Most of us want to prevent aging, reverse aging, or just age gracefully, which leads to the question: What should we eat to keep our skin looking younger and healthier? There's a reason, after all, that the conventional wisdom tells us you are what you eat; everything in the body is connected so if your gut isn't healthy, it will most likely show up on your face! Here are a few beauty-boosting, nutrient-rich foods to help keep you looking your best. Once you know what to eat more of, be sure to then cut out these 20 Foods That Age You 20 Years!
Blueberries are a high-antioxidant food—and antioxidants are like superheroes in the battle against aging skin. "Foods rich in antioxidants help slow aging at the cellular level by scavenging free radicals," explains Kathy Siegel, RD, CDN. "Free radicals damage cells and tissues, which results in wrinkles and premature sagging." Bonus: Blueberries are also said to be The Best Fruit for Your Sex Life!
A cup of strawberries (about eight strawberries) contains more vitamin C than an orange, according to Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, and founder of the F-Factor Diet. "Not only is vitamin C key to a healthy immune system, but it does wonder for our skin because it helps produce collagen, which keeps skin taught and smoothes fine lines."
Carrots are packed with carotenoids, which our body converts to vitamin A. According to Siegel, studies have shown vitamin A carotenoids protect skin, tissue, and cells from environmental toxins and diseases that cause oxidative damage (i.e. wrinkles). Try these 20 Carrot Recipes for Weight Loss to get them on your plate more often!
"These legumes can help maintain long, luscious locks because they contain B vitamins and biotin, which are needed for healthy hair growth," says Zuckerbrot. She goes on to explain that lentils are also packed with both protein and fiber, the two nutrients that help maintain blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full the longest—meaning they're one of the most hearty, affordable waist-friendly ingredients.
A zinc deficiency has been linked to acne, which is why Zuckerbrot often recommends oysters to her clients. "Just two oysters will put you over the recommended daily amount of zinc—which if you're concerned about acne or aging, you should be eating. Zinc deficiency is a known cause of acne and zinc helps protect collagen and elastin proteins, which keep your skin young and resilient."
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are packed with vitamin C—three times more vitamin C than an orange, in fact! As mentioned, vitamin C contributes to the formation of collagen and prevents free radical damage. "Collagen is a protein that binds cells and tissues together to keep our skin firm, smooth, elastic, and generally looking vibrant," says Siegel. "A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found individuals who consumed foods rich in vitamin C had fewer wrinkles and less age-related dry skin than those who consumed only small amounts of vitamin C." FYI, people are finding ways to eat more collagen, too—like in these 35 Collagen Recipes That Turn Back The Clock!
Garlic may make your breath smell, but it can also help to prevent breakouts. "Garlic contains the compound allicin, which is known to have great anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties, helping you to maintain a clear complexion," explains Zuckerbrot. Another perk? Despite being high in nutritional value and flavor, garlic is very low in calories.
Coconut oil can help improve gut health and studies show it may prevent Alzheimer's disease. "High in healthy fats and vitamins E and K, coconut oil can also boost hair growth and shine by moisturizing the scalp," explains Zuckerbrot. "It does wonders for anti-aging because it reduces stress on the liver and lowers oxidative stress, in addition to reducing inflammation, both internally and externally." Find out more about the 20 Benefits of Coconut Oil and you'll be amazed!
Iron deficiency may contribute to hair loss, as well as brittle nails and feelings of lethargy. Unfortunately, iron is one of the most common deficiencies among women. Here's something that might surprise you – the answer might be red meat. "When it comes to getting enough iron in your diet, beef is one of your best bets," says Zuckerbrot. Always try to opt for grass-fed versus grain-fed beef, and go for sirloin or tenderloin over prime or T-bone; the latter choices are higher in fat.
"Studies have shown skin-protective qualities with green tea," says Siegel. "An April 2011 study in the Journal of Nutrition displayed protective benefits—for green tea polyphenols—against UV light-induced skin damage, as well as an ability to improve skin hydration, elasticity, and density." Green tea also happens to be one of the best—and effective—alternatives to coffee since it won't leave you jittery, and it's less acidic (meaning it won't aggravate your stomach or cause digestive issues). Green tea is such a superpower elixir that it's the foundation of our best-selling The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, in which test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Whole grains are rich in a skin-boosting mineral called selenium. According to Siegel, selenium works to protect against UV-induced cell damage, inflammation, and pigmentation. "Selenium also has anti-inflammatory properties—calming inflamed and irritated skin. Selenium neutralizes free radicals before they can lead to wrinkles." Fun fact: When the Eat This, Not That! researchers dug into the pros and cons of dozens of fish, selenium was sometimes the X factor; you can learn more with our exclusive report on 40+ Popular Types of Fish—Ranked for Nutrition!
"When you think kale, think vitamin K," says Zuckerbrot. Why? Because kale is the highest source of vitamin k per calorie. "Vitamin K plays a role in ensuring healthy skin and is believed to prevent wrinkles and premature aging and promotes brain function, too."
Seaweed, AKA Nori
Nori is one of the best sources of iodine, which Zuckerbrot says is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. "Thyroid insufficiencies can result in fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, and dry yellowy-colored skin."
"Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to strengthen the immune system," says Zuckerbrot. "Adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet can help improve your complexion because they're packed with the collagen-boosting mineral, copper." These mushrooms are also rich in an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine, which has been shown to help exfoliate the skin.
If you're suffering from hair loss or brittle nails, you've most likely been told to take a biotin supplement. While that's effective, biotin is exceedingly more effective in food form, and almonds are among the best food sources of Biotin (Vitamin H). "Biotin can also help if you suffer from dandruff as it helps stop yeasts, a cause of dandruff, from budding full cycle. I recommend almonds to my clients because, aside from biotin, they also contain magnesium, which can have a calming effect and help control blood sugar levels," explains Zuckerbrot.
Salmon boasts omega-3 fatty acids, which work to decrease inflammation. "Omega-3s may reduce the presence of acne and other skin conditions as well," explains Siegel, who notes that research has shown an increase in dietary essential fatty acids can also prevent both chronological and sun-damaged induced signs of aging. Along with salmon, here are 15 Best Omega-3s Superfoods to eat as well!
Sunflower seeds are among the best food sources of vitamin E, which is often found in anti-aging creams—and for good reason. "Vitamin E helps to rehydrate the skin and reduces dry and rough skin," says Zuckerbrot. "It also prevents inflammation and protects from sun damage."
All of the skin-boosting nutrients, however, will only provide their benefits with proper hydration. Drinking water is key to ensuring all of these important nutrients are delivered to cells—so, drink up! Loading your diet with water-rich foods like watermelon will also help keep you hydrated. For those that need more convincing, Siegel underlines that "dehydrated skin appears more dry and wrinkled," and that's the last thing anyone wants from their skin. Worried about water weight? Here are the 17 Things You Need to Know About Water Weight!