By Dina Cheney
You’ve heard the old saw, “You are what you eat”—and it’s true, especially when it comes to your appearance.
Your most important secret weapons: Foods rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein. Protein strengthens the hair, skin, and nails, healthy fats hydrate and combat inflammation, and antioxidants help counteract the effects of aging and sun exposure on skin.
And don’t forget to wash it all down with plenty of water, which Carla Oates—author of The Beauty Chef: Delicious Food For Radiant Skin, Gut Health and Wellbeing—considers the “best, cheapest and easiest way to flush your system of toxins, bring oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, and hydrate the skin.”
Here are 6 foods to focus on so you can look and feel amazing.
- Collagen: As we age, we produce less collagen, a protein present in the middle layer of our skin, explains Hart. When collagen starts to degrade, our skin loses its support and strength, leading to wrinkles and sagging. Supplementing with collagen peptides to your diet helps boost skin hydration and maintain a youthful complexion, she says. Try blending it into smoothies or coffee or adding it to healthy baked goods.
- Wild salmon: A triple threat, wild salmon boasts protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and astaxanthin, a phytochemical that may protect against sunburn, explains Hart. For nail-strengthening calcium, look for canned versions, and keep the bones. Try blending a whole can of wild salmon, bones and all, with whole-wheat breadcrumbs or coconut flour, lemon zest, fresh chives, and olive oil mayonnaise for delicious salmon cakes.
- Leafy greens: “Greens are absolutely essential for your best skin,” Hart says, adding that they’re full of “skin-smoothing” vitamin A, “collagen-building” vitamin C, minerals, and prebiotics. Since the body absorbs more nutrients when the greens are cooked, sauté with garlic and chile flakes in olive oil, and squeeze with fresh lemon. Or, thaw frozen spinach, drain, and puree with yogurt, garlic, and lemon for a tangy dip.
- Lemons: Even though they taste acidic, lemons are alkalizing inside the body, notes Hart, helping to balance our internal pH in support of healthy skin. They’re also cleansing to the liver, “a key organ of elimination that strongly influences skin health.” For a refreshing start to your day, sip a glass of water with lemon squeezed in. Or, toss a salad with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
- Turmeric: All spices are antioxidant-rich, says Hart, yet turmeric in particular is a strong anti-inflammatory that counteracts signs of aging, blemishes, redness, and sensitivity. Try preparing a golden-milk latte with fresh turmeric root, coconut milk, and a hint of honey, or sautéing vegetables with turmeric, garlic, and ginger.
- Sauerkraut: “More studies show that where there is gut inflammation, there is skin inflammation,” says Oates. “Those with healthier gut microbiota have a healthier fatty acid profile in their skin, meaning their skin is more moisturized, hydrated, and plump.” Sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented vegetables help ensure a healthy gut.
What you omit from your diet is just as important as what you include; yet another reason to avoid refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats.
And, since beauty is also an outside-in process, here are two ways to use what’s in your kitchen to DIY natural beauty products.
Olive & Lime Shine Mask
- Serves: 1
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ½ tsp lime juice
- Whisk ingredients to combine until mixture turns cloudy.
- Apply, and let sit for 30 minutes, or leave on overnight and rinse off in the morning.
- Wipe off gently with a dry cloth.
Oates swears that this two-ingredient mask removes a ton of dirt from the skin.
Hydrating Honey Mask
- Serves: 1
- 2 tsp raw honey
- Apply a thin layer of raw honey to clean, slightly damp skin. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
- Rinse with warm water. If desired, gently wipe with a damp washcloth.
Hart’s favorite DIY beauty treatment is a raw honey mask. In addition to hydrating the skin, the humectant also sloughs off dead skin cells and heals blemishes.