Beauty Boosters — 5 Best Foods to Let Your Face Glow
Hesitate turning on the camera during virtual meetings? Experts reveal their food secrets for healthy, beautiful skin.
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It’s true — you are what you eat. Think of it as beauty from the inside out. “Every meal is an opportunity to add more skin-saving foods,” says Houston-area dermatologist Rajani Katta, author of Glow, a guide to supercharging your skin with nutritious foods. Skin-care, hair-care, and bath-and-body spaces have been benefiting from self-care and pampering trends since the start of the pandemic. Roughly 300 million meeting participants use Zoom daily, which means we’re spending much more time scrutinizing our complexion through the unforgiving lens of our computer camera. In fact, last year estimated sales of skincare products were $540 million in the U.S.
The power of nutritious food
Instead of reaching for expensive miracle creams to turn back the clock, we can choose foods to play a significant role in skin health, experts advise. "Food gets digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that your body can use to build healthy skin," says Dr. Jessica Wu, a well-known Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. The compounds in the foods we eat help rev up our skin's defense and repair systems, adds Katta, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas in Houston.
Foods rich in anti-aging antioxidants help fight free radicals produced by ultraviolet radiation and pollution, Katta says. “Those free radicals ping-pong around the different levels of your skin and in the process start to destroy the proteins and lipids, ultimately accelerating collagen damage and aging,” she explains.
For healthy skin, avoid sugar
Experts agree that sugar can sabotage skin health. “I tell my patients to steer clear of sweetened energy bars,” says Wu, who counts Hollywood celebs as clients. Many convenient snack bars are highly processed, with as much sugar as cookies, she notes. “The sugar makes your insulin levels spike, which can aggravate acne, wrinkles, and rashes.”
Higher levels of blood sugar cause your body to create new compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), according to Katta. “Similar to caramel, they act like sticky compounds, tangling up collagen fibers and making them more brittle and harder to repair,” she says, noting that frequent “sugar bomb” smoothies and coffee drinks can really do a number on your skin. “That’s why you start to experience sugar sag. Those effects, over time, lead to wrinkling and sagging of the skin.”
Get the glow
The simple remedy for healthy, dewy skin may lie in a plate of nutritious fatty fish or a breakfast of collagen-boosting avocado toast. “I think of skin as a house. Just as hail can pound away and damage the roof of your house, the free radicals produced by UV radiation and pollution can damage your skin,” Katta says. Powerful antioxidants found in fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices are able to quench those free radicals, she adds. “On the flip side, eating the wrong foods can accelerate skin aging.”
Inspired by the skin-boosting advice from our dermatology experts, we’ve compiled a collection of healthy recipes to encourage fabulous, glowing skin.
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Good skin secret 1: Lycopene-rich tomatoes
Try to eat cooked tomatoes every day, Wu advises. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant shown to fight sunburn and sun damage, she continues. “Lycopene is most easily absorbed when tomatoes have been cooked or processed into paste, juice, soup, and sauce, so you can even get your dose of lycopene in the form of pizza and Bloody Marys,” Wu says.
Whole peeled tomatoes, high-fiber chickpeas, and chunks of feta cheese merge to create this easy and hearty meal. Sop up the flavor with crusty bread for ultimate goodness or ladle it over gluten-free chickpea or lentil pasta. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their signature hue, is a plant nutrient high in antioxidants. It aids with skin resilience, signs of aging, and the risk of skin cancer.
Too many tomatoes in your garden? Try this scrumptious savory pie for its cheesy basil and tomato flavor. Just one serving of fresh tomatoes contains between 4 mg and 10 mg of lycopene. Research shows tomatoes have plenty of glowing skin benefits, including calming inflammation, reducing sun damage, and fighting fine lines.
Good skin secret 2: Powerhouse cauliflower
“This one food packs in dozens of nutrients,” Katta says. “I love it because it's a great source of the strong antioxidant quercetin, which helps protect your skin from free radicals.” Plus, cauliflower is a great source of prebiotic fiber, which enhances the growth of good gut microbes, she explains. “Good microbes then produce substances that help strengthen your skin barrier.”
Red curry paste, tomatoes, coconut milk, and ginger spice up an easy gluten-free cauliflower curry. Cauliflower is fiber-rich and crammed with vitamin C, so its noteworthy health benefits help fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to skin cells. For a healthy alternative to white rice, serve this saucy dish with brown rice for additional fiber and magnesium.
Craving buffalo wings but looking for a lighter option? These crispy, oven-baked cornflake-crusted cauliflower treats are the glorious answer. This favorite cruciferous veggie is loaded with healthy beta-carotene, kaempferol, and quercetin, all good-for-you antioxidant phytonutrients. Pair this dish with a side of carrot sticks and celery along with blue cheese dressing for a healthy and delicious veggie appetizer.
Good skin secret 3: Acne-fighting omega-3 fish
Fish dishes are especially key for treating acne breakouts, Wu says. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially a type called DHA, are natural anti-inflammatories, she elaborates. Cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3s.
Flavorful garlic, citrusy lemon, and brown sugar top salmon in this easy, low-calorie dish. High in omega-3s, salmon is also a good source of vitamin E, which provides essential antioxidants for blemish-free beauty. Serve this fish alongside greens for a wow-worthy meal.
Smoked whole sardines and baby kale, both superfood stars, pack a powerful, healthy punch in this filling dish. Rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin D, the small, oily fish (yes, the ones you also get in a can) provide a whopping 2g of heart-healthy omega-3s per 3-ounce serving.
Good skin secret 4: Collagen-promoting avocado
These versatile green gems are excellent for smooth, elastic skin. Creamy avocados are rich in vitamin C and copper, both essential for helping collagen production, Wu explains. Collagen is a protein your body makes naturally for healthy skin, joints, muscles, and bones. Wholesome monounsaturated fats in avocados, eaten in moderation, have been linked to improved skin elasticity, Katta says.
Skip the cheese with these delicious avocado quesadillas brimming with vitamin-rich and colorful zucchini, red bell pepper, jalapeños, and cilantro. Black beans make this a fiber-filled, vegan protein option, while avocados — beneficial for their vitamins C, K, and E — promote skin health.
This easy showstopper salad comes together on any weeknight with pan-seared shrimp, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, and toasted almonds, which are also an excellent source of skin-boosting copper and healthy fats. Choose arugula, baby spinach, or spring mix for the fresh leafy greens. Avocado provides healthy fats and skin-saving benefits; for the best texture, choose a ripe one!
Good skin secret 5: Wrinkle-erasing green and yellow veggies
Green and yellow vegetables fight wrinkles and crow’s feet, Wu says. Citing a study, she explains that people who ate more green and yellow veggies such as spinach, green peppers, kale, yellow peppers, and yellow squash were shown to have fewer wrinkles, especially around the eyes. “This may be due to the high concentration of antioxidants, which keep your skin looking young by protecting collagen from UV damage and pollution,” she adds.
Bite-size kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, and quinoa shine in this high-fiber salad dressed with an easy lemon-and-honey vinaigrette. If you prefer tender kale, try lacinato, aka dinosaur, over curly. A member of the cabbage family, kale is rich in vitamins C, K, and E, which work together to keep your skin looking younger and healthier.
Traditional Italian arancini get a healthy twist with these easy gluten-free zucchini and yellow squash ricotta appetizers. Low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, these golden orbs are full of vitamin A, potassium, and potent antioxidants. Zesty marinara sauce, high in lycopene, makes a satisfying dipping companion.
Eat to optimize your health
Your skin needs TLC, but so does the rest of you. Help your body and soul thrive by planning and cooking delicious, wholesome meals — it's really no skin off your back. You can have your cake and eat it, too, provided it's the right kind for your particular situation. The following articles will help you treat yourself to tasty dishes and better health.