woman with healthy skin holding an avocado

Food & Your Face

(March is national nutrition month – foods to keep away from and the best ones for boosting your beauty!)

There are a lot of things you can do to boost your beauty and improve your skin’s appearance, including using the right products in your skincare regimen at home, getting regular facials, and undergoing the occasional microdermabrasion, chemical peel, or IPL session to brighten and even tone.

But there’s something else you can do that also has a big impact on the way your face looks, and that’s eat right. By avoiding aging foods and opting for healthy ones, you can have a significant impact on how you look. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, here are our top picks for foods to avoid and foods to choose for great skin.

Foods to Avoid (or Limit): The Worst Things to Eat for Your Skin

Sugar-laden foods: Cakes, cookies, doughnuts, candy bars. Sugar, of course, tops the list. Sugar causes inflammation in the body, which shows up in the skin as acne outbreaks, dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea, and redness. It also accelerates aging. In addition to obviously sweet treats like candy, cut out the sugary sodas, sweet teas, and energy drinks, and look for hidden sugars in packaged and processed foods. You might be surprised at how much sugar is packed in healthy-sounding foods like tomato sauce, yogurt, and granola.

Fried foods: French fries, fried shrimp, corn dogs, onion rings, mozzarella sticks. Elephant ears and deep-fried Oreos? Not if you want beautiful looking skin. Fried foods are high in advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can occur when foods are cooked at high temperatures. While frying is the biggest culprit, grilling at high temperatures can lead to AGEs, too. AGEs are another cause of inflammation, which we’ve already seen is bad for the skin.  

Salty foods: Potato chips, pretzels, salted nuts, deli meats. A little salt is okay – in fact, it’s necessary for proper function – but too much is bad for the skin. Salt is well-known as being very dehydrating, which makes skin look dull. Some research also indicates that too much salt can affect T-helper immune cells, leading to inflammation and promoting eczema.

Alcohol. Not only is alcohol dehydrating, but drinking it can lead to a bloated, puffy appearance and may interfere with the delivery of nutrients to your skin. Long-term, high-volume alcohol intake can cause permanent redness of the skin. 

Foods to Choose: The Best Things to Eat for Your Skin

Good fat: Avocados, olive oil, nuts. The type of fat found in these foods, monounsaturated fat, is great for the skin. It promotes healthy cell development and reduces inflammation.

Oily fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, albacore tuna. Oily fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help maintain the skin’s suppleness and help protect against damage from the sun. Too little omega-3s result in dry and flaky skin. What about other fish like cod, mahi-mahi, and tilapia? Unfortunately, these kinds of meatier fish don’t contain high levels of omega-3s like their oily cousins, though they are good sources of protein, which leads us to…

Protein: Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts. When the body doesn’t get adequate protein, skin can suffer, turning flaky, dry, and red. Protein is necessary to build new tissue, including new skin, and to repair what’s damaged. Luckily, it’s easy to find protein in a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources, and depending on your activity level, you may need less than you think. (Use this calculator from the USDA to find out how much protein to aim for each day.) 

Produce: Berries, citrus fruits, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli. This is a short list of some great foods for the skin, but there are more. The key is to find something you like with high levels of common antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, and beta-carotene. Antioxidants fight against free radicals, which are compounds that can disrupt DNA in the skin and accelerate aging. Other good sources of antioxidants include many herbs and spices, which can improve your skin in addition to packing a flavor punch.

Water. Water should really be at the top of this list, since it’s so important for promoting clear, healthy-looking skin. Water brings all those healthful nutrients from the good foods to the skin and helps the kidneys get rid of all the waste that makes the skin look dull. If you’re not sure how much water to drink, go by the old rule of thumb that says to aim for 8 glasses of water a day.

Boosting Beauty One Step at a Time

It can be difficult to eat healthfully 100% of the time, but think of healthy eating as a journey, and keep taking steps towards improving your diet over time. Your skin will thank you for it!

You can find more resources for National Nutrition Month right here, which has great advice on making healthy eating part of your family’s daily life.

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