You already know that fruits and vegetables are good for your heart, waistline, eyes and bones. That’s a lot of the reason that eating patterns that emphasize fruits and vegetables – think the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Mediterranean dietand the Flexitarian diet – receive top scores in the U.S. News Best Diets rankings.
But did you know produce is also good for your skin? Indeed, studies have shown that eating enough fruits and veggies over eight weeks results in increased skin redness, which contributes to a healthy skin appearance. This can be due to the effect of lycopene (a plant nutrient in fruits and veggies) on the skin, the effect of fruits and vegetables on the skin’s blood circulation, or both.
The polyphenols (a type of plant nutrient) found in grapes, peanuts, tea and even wine may also boost your arteries’ elasticity and your skin’s health. To put it another way, simply adding one more serving of fruits and vegetables to your diet a day (that’s just a half cup of chopped veggies or a piece of fruit the size of a tennis ball) can improve your skin color in only six weeks. Here’s how to maximize produce’s impact on your appearance:
1. Limit your sugar.
Overconsumption of sugar may affect not only your waistline, but also how light falls on your jawline. That’s because excess sugar intake may increase the likelihood of collagen breakdown, which makes the skin less elastic than it should be. Does this mean you can never have a cupcake? Of course not. But perhaps satisfying some of your cravings with sweet fruits and vegetables can help your skin – as well as what’s within.
2. Opt for orange.
Antioxidants, which are substances in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and oils, protect cells from damage and disintegration. One antioxidant is carotene, which gives carrots and sweet potatoes that beautiful orange color. People also have a high concentration of carotenoids in their skin, which function to reduce UV light sensitivity. The skin carotenoids actually give us a healthy color that’s a lot safer than tanning beds. But if you eat a diet too low in fat, you may not store enough carotenoids and your skin may take on yellow or gray tones. Ugh.
Dehydration or subhydration can dry out your whole body – skin included. I always recommend minimizing calories in beverages, so opt for water, milk, unsweetened coffee or tea, small amounts of fruit juice and vegetable juice. What about alcohol? Excess consumption can increase the production of free radicals and increase the breakdown of collagen, which doesn’t look pretty. Not to mention the fact that alcohol is a source of calories, and too much can elevate triglycerides (blood fats), increase the risk of breast cancer and compromise liver health.
4. Don’t shun fat.
I have a lot of clients who pride themselves on keeping their fat intake to a minimum. They shouldn’t. The monounsaturated fats found in foods like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados decrease oxidative stress, which impacts elasticity, collagen and firmness of the skin, and increases the development of wrinkles. Studies have also shown that olive oil lowers the risk of severe photoaging, or light damage primarily from the sun, and that the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, sardines and flaxseed keeps skin cell membranes strong and elastic. If you eat a diet very high in carbohydrates and very low in fat, your skin may look more wrinkly and aged.
The skin yearns for caloric balance. That means not too much but not too little protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fluid. In a review of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, women who had a more wrinkled appearance had significantly lower intakes of protein, dietary cholesterol, phosphorous, vitamins C, A and K, and linoleic acid. The take home message? Don’t nutritionally disrespect your body – or your skin may show the neglect.