We all know by now that the right foods can help us maintain a healthy weight, keep our arteries unclogged, and reduce inflammation. But antioxidant-rich foods also help us to stay beautiful and keep our skin looking youthful and glowing. Hydrating, collagen-building foods help skin remain smooth and elastic and they also strengthen hair. Foods rich in carotenoids give skin a warm glow and keep the eyes healthy.
Hydrating foods, like 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.
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, involving 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.
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. Prevention magazine has a great article on skin-friendly vitamins that can be found in beauty products. 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.
A friend of mine named Irina Smirnoff, who is a Beverly Hills facialist, offered to share two of her grandmother’s recipes for healthy hair masks that I like to use. She applies 2 eggs mixed with 5 Tbsp of olive oil to her hair. Then she covers her hair with a shower cap and lets it soak for an hour and a half before washing the mixture out. Another hair mask combines 2 Tbsp of honey with 2 Tbsp of coconut oil (or almond oil). The mixture is massaged into the hair and scalp for serious hydration and shine. She lets that 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.