We all spend a small fortune on products designed to topically improve our skin and hair—but did you know that one of the most important sources of beautiful, radiant looks is simply the foods you choose to eat?
It’s well known that certain foods can be problematic for your figure, but they can also cause negative conditions such as skin inflammation or acne—and even contribute to hormone imbalances that can lead to premature aging and wrinkles.
However, dermatologists and researchers are learning more and more about the positive effects of diet, including smoothing out your complexion, creating stronger hair and nails, and creating a vibrant and more youthful look.
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Foods to Avoid
First on many lists of foods to avoid is sugar. Yes, we all love an occasional sweet, but that’s exactly what sugar should be—an occasional treat. An overabundance of sugar in the diet can damage skin’s collagen and elastin, resulting in wrinkles and sagging.
Salt is another common culprit. It can aggravate acne and cause body tissues to swell.
Dairy is largely considered problematic as it can cause clogged pores and acne. It also has a considerable sugar content, and can contain hormones, all of which have a negative effect on skin.
White bread and other high-glycemic foods such as pasta convert to sugar very quickly and can cause acne as well. (However, whole grains are okay and can even be anti-inflammatory.)
And, you probably already knew this, but alcohol is a no-no as well. It’s extremely dehydrating and in some individuals can cause rosacea.
Foods to Enjoy
Luckily there are plenty of foods that you can eat that will not only satisfy your taste buds, but also make your skin, hair, and nails feel and look very happy! Here’s a list of some of the best ones to stock your pantry and fridge with.
Olive Oil – This is full of monounsaturated fatty acids which reduce signs of aging, plus antioxidants to destroy free radicals.
Tomatoes – The fruit contains lycopene, which may help skin increase its natural SPF, which prevents sunburn and sun damage.
Dark Chocolate – If you’re craving a sweet treat, this is the one to go for. Its flavanol content improves the smoothness and appearance of skin.
Fatty Fish – Our finned friends are not only full of protein, they contain omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation, which contributes to redness and acne.
Walnuts – These tasty nuts also contain omega-3s—which improve skin elasticity as well–plus they contain copper, which encourages collagen production.
Green Tea – This is a great source of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is touted for its health benefits across a wide range of conditions. Skin-specifically, it reduces redness and inflammation.
Kale – The green may be a trendy “superfood” item of the moment, but its vitamin A and C content, as well as its antioxidants, are undeniably good for firm skin.
Fresh Herbs – These are packed with antioxidants, and they may reduce risk of melanoma by 60%!
Oysters – If you love shooting this particular seafood, be aware that it’s full of zinc, which encourages the growth of healthy new skin cells.
Yellow and green vegetables – Mom was right, a colorful plate is indeed good for you. It’ll make you look good too. These veggies reduce wrinkles due to their higher concentration of antioxidants.
Kiwi – The little fruit is packed with vitamin C, which stimulates collagen production and reduces wrinkles. Collagen also helps hold hair together to prevent splitting. You can actually eat the skin, too!
Eggs – Go ahead and scramble up some eggs for breakfast—or lunch, or dinner, why not? The egg is packed with protein, which contributes to strong hair and nails that won’t break. It is also high in biotin, which is key to encourage hair and nail growth.
Pumpkin and squash – The gourds are full of beta-carotene, which leads to healthy skin cell growth.
Red wine – If you enjoy alcohol, here is the drink you should choose (in moderation!). Red wine contains resveratrol, which prevents skin lesions and acts as a powerful antioxidant.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds – In addition to being a tasty snack, these are a good source of vitamin E, which improves the immune system and reduces inflammation. Just watch the salt content of some of the flavored varieties.
Beans – These are both filling and low on the glycemic index, which reduces spiking insulin levels and the hormonal changes that cause acne.
Pomegranates – The juicy seeds contain polyphenols, which increase blood flow to skin and give it a rosy glow.
Oatmeal – You can pour it into your bath to soothe skin topically, but if you choose to eat it, it’s high in fiber, which prevents the blood sugar spikes that can lead to acne.
Berries – Eating oatmeal? Why not sprinkle a few of these on top? They’re packed with antioxidants to prevent wrinkles and improve skin’s texture.
Soy – Toss some tofu into your stir fry on a Meatless Monday: It’s high in lean protein for healthy hair, and may diminish fine lines and wrinkles with a high content of isoflavones.
Spinach – When putting together a salad, put in a handful of this dark green leafy favorite. Its high levels of folate and iron prevent anemia, which can lead to hair loss and poor skin tone.
Putting it All Together: A Day of Beautiful Eating
As you can see, there are lots of choices to create a delicious daily menu that will both satisfy you and keep you looking great. You’ll want to mix things up and adjust to your personal tastes, but in the meantime here are some ideas for your “beauty blast” three squares a day.
Oatmeal with berries (for sweetness) and a sprinkling of walnuts
Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes
Cup of green tea
Salad with spinach, kale, colored veggies, beans, walnuts, and a lean protein of your choice
Sunflower seeds, kiwi or berries
Fatty fish such as salmon, roasted pumpkin/squash with herbs
Glass of red wine
Dark chocolate for dessert
Enjoy your beautiful diet!