You already know: what we eat and drink can radically change the appearance of our skin. Eat the right foods and we witness glowing, clear, ageless skin. Eat the wrong foods and our skin loses its elasticity and becomes puffy, red and lined. By simply changing what we put on our fork, we can actually control the texture, pigment and firmness of our skin.
Radiant and luminous skin happens when we supply our body with the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients needed to build the skin’s structure and prevent it from free radical damage and inflammation. Free radical damage and inflammation are triggered by oxidative stress and glycation. Both of these result from excess sugar and carbohydrate consumption. To help you jump-start your own good skin diet, I put together a typical skin-boosting daily menu, plus some simple guidelines on what to eat and what to avoid.
The Usual Suspects
We know to avoid pizza, pasta, cakes, and cookies, but what about those granola bars, fruit shakes, yogurts and cereals? All are loaded with hidden sugars, which can cause the cross-linking of proteins that leads to damaged sagging skin. Hidden food sensitivities are another form of inflammation with gluten, dairy and soy being the key culprits. Alcohol and coffee can dehydrate the skin and place additional stress on the liver to remove toxins. Just one glass of wine passes through the liver 100 times before the alcohol is removed. That’s not to say you need to lead a teetotaling lifestyle with no coffee, sugar, gluten, dairy or soy: just keep those food and beverages limited to a maximum of 1-2 per week and omit them 14 days before an event, shoot, or whenever you need to look your absolute best.
The Good Stuff—Best Proteins, Dark Greens, Yellow Fruits, Raw Seeds
Equally important are the foods you include. The most common deficiency I see is insufficient protein. Protein is important for firm, luminous skin, because the amino acids that make up protein are needed to create the skin’s matrix as well as collagen and elastin. Without sufficient protein, the skin starts to lose its vibrancy and elasticity. The best protein choices are chia seed (vegan), organic eggs, wild salmon, black cod, herring and sardines. These protein choices are also rich in omega-3, which helps keep the skin soft, supple and hydrated.
Eating dark leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, broccoli rabe, and swiss chard provide the skin with antioxidant protection and stimulate the body’s detoxification mechanisms to help clear toxins and old hormones from the body. Yellow fruit and vegetables are also paramount as they contain carotenoids, which help control cell turnover for clear, clean skin. Papaya, peaches, pineapple, sweet potato and spaghetti squash are ideal choices. Avocado and raw seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and hemp contain concentrated amounts of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that protects the skin from pigmentation and fine lines.
Water is Key
Water flushes toxins and keeps skin hydrated. The only difference between a grape and a raisin is water. Aim to drink eight glasses of water per day.
Skin-beautifying Sample Menu
Wake up: Hot water with lemon and cayenne pepper
Breakfast: Chia seed pudding made with unsweetened almond milk and topped with blueberries, coconut flakes and cinnamon
Snack: 8oz green vegetable juice made with spinach, celery, cucumber, apple, lime and ginger
Lunch: Kale salad with hemp seed, avocado, grated raw beets, wild salmon and roasted sweet potato
Snack: Papaya slices with fresh mint and dash of raw honey
Dinner: Wild salmon served with broccoli rabe drizzled in olive oil with a zest of lemon, fresh basil and chili flakes
Snack: Watermelon juice with fresh mint
Nutritionist Dana James has some gorgeous recipes: try her watermelon + mint smoothie—it’ll almost feel like summer again! She also gave us the ideal hangover breakfast.
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