The foods you eat can affect everything from the smoothness and clarity of your skin to the shine in your hair and the sparkle in your eyes. So with the help of the experts, we’ve put together nine of the best beauty foods—guaranteed make you even more beautiful than you already are, inside and out…
Summer is fast approaching, and berries are one of the most delicious (and beauty-enhancing!) foods of the season. “Berries are amazing,” says beauty and nutrition expert Lisa Petty, author of Living Beauty. They’re loaded with vitamin C, which is “a powerful antioxidant and a key factor in stimulating collagen production… when it diminishes, that’s when you get saggy skin.” To keep skin supple and smooth, and protect against sun damage, include blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in your diet each day. Petty recommends getting your daily fix with a yummy yogurt-berry smoothie first thing in the morning.
Get out your nutcrackers, beauty mavens! Just four yummy walnuts (or eight walnut halves) will get you your daily dose of alpha linoleic acid, which is important for healthy, glowing skin, says Lisa Drayer, M.A., R.D., nutritionist and author of The Beauty Diet: Looking Great Has Never Been So Delicious. Walnuts are also associated with shiny hair, vibrant eyes and strong bones. “The type of fats [they] contain are even better for you than salmon, and there is no fear of excessive mercury,” reports Susan Ciminelli, author, skin-care expert and owner of Susan Ciminelli Spas. Sprinkle them on salads or in your oatmeal, or dip them in dark chocolate for a decadent treat!
Put down that cuppa joe, and pick up a steaming-hot mug of this beauty brew instead. Already famous as a weight-loss tool and a disease fighter, green tea has also been shown to stave off aging, detoxify skin and increase the effectiveness of sunscreen. “Green tea is 200 times more powerful than vitamin E in fighting free radicals, and it helps cleanse the system and add more clarity to the skin,” says Denise Gordon, skin therapist at Eclipse the Salon in Portland, OR. “Actually, in China, they mix green tea with a little honeysuckle and call it ‘Pimple Tea.'” Green tea can even be used topically as a toner or to calm down acne, Gordon reveals, but for the ultimate beauty advantage, she recommends drinking it daily.
“The appearance of skin has a lot to do with your digestion,” explains Lisa Petty. “Yogurt is especially important for people who have skin problems like psoriasis, eczema and acne,” all of which are associated with an unhealthy digestive tract. To keep the digestive tract strong, Petty recommends snacking on yogurt daily. But, she warns, “it needs to be unsweetened: Refined sugar feeds unhealthy bacteria and is counterproductive—you want unsweetened yogurt that has active bacteria cultures, because these help create a healthy intestinal environment.” She suggests topping plain yogurt with fresh fruit or homemade granola, and estimates that it takes “30 days for baby cells to reach the surface of the skin, when you would see improvement in the mirror.” You can help this process along, however, by gently exfoliating, which will encourage cell turnover.
In the mood for a tall, cool glass of milk? Survey says, go for it! “Low-fat milk is a terrific source of calcium, which is especially helpful if you want strong bones, good posture, healthy nails and a beautiful smile, too!” says Lisa Drayer. Not only does this creamy beverage contain key nutrients like calcium and phosphorus (both of which keep teeth cavity-free), but a cup of low-fat milk “also provides eight grams of protein, a building block for healthy skin, hair and nails.” Drayer recommends you aim for about eight ounces a day to get the maximum beauty benefit.
Though strikingly beautiful itself, this beauty food is not just a garnish. “Kale is high in calcium and other minerals that are needed for great skin, hair and bones,” says Susan Ciminelli, author, skin-care expert and owner of Susan Ciminelli Spas. Kale contains sun-damage-preventing phytonutrients that fight off free radicals and UV-light-protective carotenoids that keep your eyes healthy and sparkling. Add to a fresh salad at lunch, or sauté with garlic, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil for an excellent supper side.
Once thought to be bad for your skin, scientists now say that dark chocolate contains an unbelievable amount of antioxidants—even more than antioxidant-rich green tea and red wine. “Dark chocolate is delicious, and it’s great for your complexion too!” says Lisa Drayer. This yummy snack contains high levels of cocoa flavanols, which have been associated with softer, more hydrated skin and a decreased sensitivity to the sun. Drayer recommends a one-ounce (or 150-calorie) serving of dark chocolate daily. Get your fix fondu-style with fresh fruit dipped in melted dark chocolate. Who knew being beautiful could taste so good?
“I’m very big on dark-green foods and leafy vegetables,” explains Alan M. Dattner, D.M., founder and director of HolisticDermatology.com. “They contain lots of fiber but have low sugar content.” Dattner recommends broccoli, in particular, for its sulfur compounds, which have protective effects against cancer and other diseases. But broccoli has lesser-known beauty-specific benefits as well, the prevention of cellulite being one of them. Broccoli contains alpha lipoic acid, a substance that prevents the collagen in your legs from hardening, which is one of the main causes of cellulite—as good a reason as any to get this leafy green into your diet ASAP!
These bright-red beauties are full of youth-protecting nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. “Tomatoes also provide the greatest amount of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects our skin against the sun’s damaging rays,” says Lisa Drayer. And actually, consuming tomatoes in their processed form is just as good if not better than consuming them raw. “Lycopene is better absorbed by the body after it is processed into juices, sauces, ketchup, and other tomato products,” Drayer explains. So whip out a can of tomato paste and get to work on the homemade spaghetti sauces and tomato soups! Your skin will thank you.