Let’s get wild for berries, a bit crazy for kale, and 100 percent enlightened about which foods promote clear, glowing skin. The phrase, “you are what you eat” is very true, but especially true when it comes to our complexions. The only way you are going to look healthy is if you are actually eating plenty of healthy foods! Below you will see me and my complexion. My junk food eating evil twin with bad skin decided to avoid appearing in this blog post at all costs.
This is how it works:
1) The hormones inside our bodies are huge contributors to how our skin appears on the outside and whether or not we will get breakouts. A hormone called insulin is the king of skin-health regulating hormones. Insulin is most commonly known as the hormone for regulating blood sugar and is associated with diabetes, yet fascinatingly, it also increases oils that appear on our skin. Who would have thought? Not me! Until operation skin health research went down, I would have never guess that the same hormone associated with diabetes was involved with our complexions!
2) Insulin levels fluctuate based on what we eat, and these fluctuations can affect other hormones such as testosterone that also promote acne. Processed foods made with white flour and sugar lead to blood sugar spikes, causing insulin levels to go into a treacherous “pimple-producing zone”. Sugar and processed foods are nada good for our skin. Stay away from the Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks desserts and your skin will thank you!
3) Of course this is more complicated than just sugar and insulin. Harvard researchers have discovered that milk is not a skin-friendly food. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study in which the diets of 6,084 teenage girls were analyzed. Girls who drank two or more servings of milk per day were 20 percent more likely to have acne. Milk contains bioactive molecules that act on the glands where blackheads are formed. William Danby MD, a dermatologist at Dartmouth, noted in an editorial accompanying the study that 70 to 90 percent of all milk comes from pregnant cows and that the milk contains hormones such as progesterone, testosterone precursors and insulin-like growth factor releasing hormones, all linked to acne.
What are the foods you should eat for radiant skin? These foods are my top 10 stellar (get your glowing grove on!) skin superstars:
1) Leafy green vegetables~ The secret is out. Eating plenty of leafy green vegetables are your best asset to get radiant looking, clear skin AND preventing wrinkles later in life. This is because greens, like kale, spinach, arugula, lettuce, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and any other edible green vegetable on planet earth are packed with the most nutrients and antioxidants per calorie. They contain such an abundant quantity of nutrients per calorie that no other food group comes even close. Leafy greens are like a huge shining star filled with antioxidant richness in every energetic molecule and all other foods simply cannot compare. The nutrients in these greens are the #1 key to looking young, slowing down the aging process and giving our skin a healthy glow. Raw leafy greens contain only about 100 calories per pound! That’s a huge volume of food for so few calories. Greens contain substances that protect blood vessels and are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes too. This shouldn’t surprise you given the insulin, skin health and diabetes connection! Trying to lose weight?! Greens are an amazing tool for weight loss, since they can be consumed in virtually unlimited quantities. I’m a proud Kale-afornia girl for a good reason!
2) Mushrooms~ Like those leafy greens, mushrooms are a fantastic anti-aging food and they contain a slew of potent antioxidants conducive to maintaining youthful, radiant skin. The cells of mushrooms contain aromatase inhibitors, which are compounds that block the production of estrogen. High estrogen levels are linked to breast cancer and this is why studies show that consuming even just one button mushroom per day reduces our risk of breast cancer by 64%!!!! In general, the foods that help our skin glow with health are also the foods that we should be eating to prevent disease! All mushrooms contain aromatase inhibitors, including the most commonly eaten mushrooms, like white, cremini and Portobello. Mushrooms are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, they have been shown to strengthen our immune systems and they also contain high levels of selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, copper and ergothioneine. Ergothioneine what? CLICK HERE to learn about this incredible and rare antioxidant. Grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich topped with creamy avocado anyone?!
3) Chia seeds~ When you think of chia seeds, think of omega-3 fatty acids! Omega-3 fatty acids are more plentiful in chia seeds than any other plant food! In terms of the health of our skin, omega-3 fatty acids are truly essential for achieving our best looking skin. This is because these healthy fats regulate oil production in our skin cells. Without enough, our skin will look dry and flaky and no one wants that! Chia seeds are also anti-inflammatory and can help alleviate skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema. Eat more chia seeds and don’t let dry and flaky skin happen to you!
4) Hemp seeds~ Hemp seeds have a bad rep, which is entirely undeserved! When most people think of hemp seeds, thoughts of marijuana and hippie hemp bracelets will likely come to mind. If hemp seeds could express emotions, I know they would be deeply saddened by this highly inaccurate misrepresentation! More accurately, hemp seeds are a nutty tasting, nutritious food and any comparison to hippie hemp bracelets and/or associations with druggy stuff is a huge disservice to these great tasting, omega-3 rich seeds. Hemp seeds are a terrific beauty food! They tie with chia seeds for the most omega-3 fatty acids per calorie of all foods and they contain a slew of other beneficial nutrients like magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin E, sulfur, copper, potassium, phosphorus and protein. When you think of hemp seeds, can you imagine gorgeous looking, radiant skin? Can you do it? I dare you.
5) Flaxseeds~ Flaxseeds also pack a hefty amount of omega-3 fatty acids, placing in a solid third place behind chia seeds and hemp seeds. Omega-3s have been shown to help keep our skin soft, hydrated and totally smooth, so that is why these three foods take a high place on this beauty food list! They have even been shown to increase the speed of wound healing! Flaxseeds measure notably high in the anti-inflammatory index too. This means that skin irritation, tissue inflammation and redness may be reduced when you eat more flaxseeds. Get ready you guys because the flaxseed skin goodness gets even better! What is just as incredible about flaxseeds is that they contain an abundant amount of a chemical called lignans. Lignans act as powerful antioxidants, protecting your cells from dangerous free radicals that would otherwise mutate your DNA and damage cell membranes. Lignans are converted by the bacteria in our bodies to horomone-like compounds called phytoestrogens that have protective effects against hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. What does this mean for our skin? Phytoestrogens help keep our estrogen levels in a healthy range, which is important for obtaining beautiful looking skin because there is a link between circulating estrogen levels and skin clarity! Flaxseeds are a terrific source of iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, folate and protein too. Top your smoothies and shakes with ground flaxseeds and feel that radiant skin happenin’ on your healthy face.
6) Walnuts~ The form of vitamin E found in walnuts is pretty unusual, but it’s an extra beneficial form. Most foods contain the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E, but walnuts contain the gamma-tocopherol form, which has been shown to be extra nutritious and heart healthy as well as extra skin healthy! As for the vitamin E and skin health connection, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that protects the fats we eat from forming free radicals before they are completely digested. This is kaliciously fantastic because free radical damage is what leads to aging, including skin aging. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, so we absorb more of it when we eat it with foods containing healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds!
7) Berries~ Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, why hello there you are lookin’ fine inside of my body and those antioxidants of yours are lookin’ pretty darn fabulous on my skin. What antioxidants do I speak of? These antioxidants are called anthocyanins (this is a very sciency name, I know) and they are potent free radical attackers and anti-aging promoters. Anthocyanins are actually the chemicals that provide pigmentation to red, blue, and purple foods like berries! Berries are also bursting with vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, folate, copper and fiber to help us go from bland to radiant!
8) Green tea~ Green tea contains many catechins, which are a class of antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and anticancer agents. One of the major catechins in green tea has been found to specifically target skin inflammation and cancerous changes in our skin. Scientific research has even found that the chemicals in green tea protect mouse skin from cancer caused by sunlight. Studies on human skin have resulted in similar findings. Caffeine what?! Get this…Green tea does contain some caffeine, but has smaller amounts than other caffeinated beverages like coffee. Fascinatingly, studies comparing the effectiveness of decaffeinated green tea and regular green tea at fighting skin cancer found that decaffeinated green tea failed to produce the substantial anti-cancer benefits found from drinking regular caffeinated green tea. When it comes to fighting cancer, go for the caffeinated tea!
9) Dark chocolate~ Dark chocolate is da bomb food for attaining beautiful skin, but there is a catch. This catch is that the added sugar and dairy that accompanies many dark chocolate candies is damaging to our skin, so it’s important to choose our dark chocolate wisely. Go for a vegan, unsweetened or very low sugar brand of dark chocolate and you will reap all of the benefits that unprocessed cocao powder has to offer! What are these benefits I speak of? Dark chocolate contains a unique composition of powerful flavonoids that have special skin protecting benefits not contained in other foods. Think protection from harmful UV radiation from the sun as well as antioxidants that promote soft, smooth, problem free complexions. Dark chocolate has been found to reduce skin roughness and scaliness and increase skin moistness and thickness. Rejoice!
10) Sweet potatoes~ Hello beta-carotene! That bright orange hue looks good on sweet potatoes and it looks good on your complexion too. Sweet potatoes are an extremely rich source of this nutrient, which is a precursor of vitamin A. You can count on sweet potatoes for plenty of vitamin C, manganese, copper, phosphorus, B vitamins and fiber too! Including this superstar starch in your diet will help your skin become more vibrant, lustrous and clear.
These foods are all jam packed with antioxidants, substances that help our skin repair damage. Plant foods contain an array of thousands upon thousands of teeny tiny phytochemicals and each one contributes to maintaining the health of our bodies, keeping us disease-free and youthful looking. The foods richest in carotenoids (a class of phytochemicals) are super foods for your body, not just your face. They supercharge the immune system’s defensive capabilities and help prevent numerous diseases, including heart disease and cancer! There are so many microscopic chemicals in brightly colored plant foods that scientists haven’t even discovered all of them yet! In regards to the appearance of our skin, the more carotenoids and phytochemicals that are present, the faster our skin can repair damage, remove and detoxify waste products and other toxic compounds. Never fear, beautiful skin awaits you!
Note: Glittery skin is not guaranteed. If glitter is your thang, you may have to make a run to your local Sephora or Ulta store for that extra oomph of shimmery bedazzlement. Oh yes, and silly faces don’t hurt for enhancing skin clarity. While this has not been scientifically proven, my theory is that there is a correlation between silly face making and skin clarity. Don’t take my word for it though. It’s only a theory at this point. Although, what is the point of having a blemish-free face if you don’t use it to make silly faces? There is no point, I’m telling you. Also, you may call me a ham…ur..vegan ham!
To watch my YouTube video that accompanies this post, CLICK HERE.
Here is a photo I took that day. What a bedazzling place!
For further reading, resources and scientific studies, please check out Chapter 5 of my book, Love Your Body!
Here is an excerpt from page 94 that I adore. This study is fascinating!
A recent study examined people’s perception of skin ‘“lightness” and “yellowness”—yellowness is influenced by both carotenoids (which increases from the foods we eat) and melanin (which increases in response to sun exposure). The researchers asked people to choose from sets of photos of two different skin colors—one in which yellowness was due to melanin and one in which it was due to carotenoids (carotenoids are most dense in leafy green veggies) —and asked which skin color appeared healthier. Subjects overwhelmingly chose carotenoid coloration over melanin coloration as the healthier and more attractive skin color.[i] Given these results, one of the researchers noted that we’d be better off eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables rather than lying out in the sun! There is a direct relationship between skin appearance and health.
Forget loading up on expensive skin creams and potions that never seem to reveal noticeable or lasting improvements. If you are prone to acne or dry, dull skin, I’m so excited to tell you that you can tap the potential for beautiful skin through simple diet changes. Glamorous skin can be yours without buying one skin care product at Sephora. Healthy food is not only more affordable, it benefits your entire body, not just your face.
[i] I. D. Stephen, V. Coetzee, and D. I. Perrett, “Carotenoid and Melanin Pigment Coloration Affect Perceived Human Health,” Evolution and Human Behavior (2010).