We all know by now that the right foods can help you maintain a healthy weight, keep your arteries unclogged and reduce inflammation. But antioxidant-rich foods also help you stay beautiful and keep your skin looking youthful. Hydrating, collagen-building foods aid the skin in remaining smooth and elastic, and also strengthen hair. Foods rich in carotenoids give skin a warm glow and keep the eyes healthy.
Emergency: Dry Skin
“I drink way too much coffee and the air in the hospital dries out my skin!”
Beauty Prescription: Hydrating Foods
Oats, rice, cucumbers, mangoes, asparagus and strawberries contain silica, a mineral that helps form collagen to keep skin elastic. Silica also strengthens hair and renders it less likely to break or split. Try my skin-friendly Mango Tapioca or my skin-strengthening Strawberry Tofu in my cookbook, FoodTrients: Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life. Both give a boost of vitamin C, one of 26 FoodTrients (powerful nutrients that promote health, wellness and longevity) featured in my recipes.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseeds and nuts, are excellent for retaining moisture in skin and hair. Omega-3 is another essential FoodTrient to add to your beauty diet, as it protects against sun damage and skin aging.
Emergency: Breakouts and Blotchy Skin
“After an 18-hour shift, I’m exhausted and it shows on my face!”
Beauty Prescription: Anti-Aging Snacks
Carrots, pumpkins, squash, kale, spinach, mangoes, papayas, sweet potatoes and jackfruit are examples of foods rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which our bodies turn into vitamin A. This vitamin keeps blood circulating well, helps clear blemishes and keeps eyes and skin moist. My Sweet Potato and Jackfruit Delight recipe contains coconut milk, which helps hydrate the skin, while the sweet potatoes provide carotenoids, another age-defying FoodTrient.
A recent study, reported on in the Los Angeles Times, identified fruits and vegetables as a great beauty aid: “Fresh from the March issue of the journal PLOS ONE comes word that scarfing down a few extra fruits and vegetables—yes, those again—could give you a significant leg up in the attractiveness department.” The study, which involved university students in Scotland, showed that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids gave the test subjects’ skin a healthy glow.
That glow was measurable on scientific instruments (a spectrophotometer) and in the eyes of other students: “On average, a difference of about 2.9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day was enough for the students to discriminate on the basis of healthy appearance, with more servings associated with looking healthier. Similarly, about 3.3 servings a day was enough for them to discriminate on the basis of attractiveness—with more servings associated with better looks,” the Times noted.
Emergency: Nonexistent Beauty Regimen
“I don’t know one nurse who gets up extra early to massage three different creams into her face and neck before a shift.”
Beauty Prescription: Multitasking Skin Treatments
Some antioxidants—an important category of FoodTrients—can be used topically to treat skin and hair. Antioxidants can be absorbed directly through contact with skin, nails and hair. Skin creams have long added antioxidants to their formulas with new varieties coming on the market daily.
Lately I’m seeing skin creams with green tea and soy additives in addition to the classic retinoic acid, the active form of vitamin A. Vitamin E oil is still sold in pure form for smearing onto skin and painting directly onto nails. Virgin coconut oil has been gaining ground in beauty products and is used in exactly the same way as vitamin E oil. Eggs contain vitamin B and biotin, both of which are good for skin and hair and can be absorbed topically. Dr. Mark Rosenberg suggests applying olive oil to skin and hair for beauty benefits.
Irina Smirnoff, a Beverly Hills facialist and friend of mine, offered to share two of her grandmother’s recipes for healthy hair masks that I like to use:
- Hair Mask #1: Mix 2 eggs with 5 tablespoons of olive oil and apply to hair. Cover hair with a shower cap and let it soak for 1½ hours before washing the mixture out.
- Hair Mask #2: Combine 2 tablespoons of honey with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (or almond oil). Massage mixture into the hair and scalp for serious hydration and shine. Allow it to sit under a shower cap for 15 minutes before washing it out.
Above all, for healthy skin, remember to wear sunscreen. But if you do get sunburned, slice open an aloe leaf and apply it directly to the burn. I have some growing outside my door right now.