We all know how important diet is to overall health, but the power of food extends to beauty, too. What we eat plays a huge role in the appearance of our skin—its youthfulness and elasticity (or lack thereof). Beauty may come from within, but sometimes our body displays external cues to indicate our health.
I consider the skin a map that outlines what’s going on inside the body. Oftentimes, the health of our gut is written on our skin, almost as a warning sign.
Whether these signals show up as a breakout, dehydrated and dry skin, or a condition like eczema or rosacea caused by gut dysbiosis, our bodies are always communicating with us. For example, eczema can be an indicator of gluten sensitivity, and acne is often associated with dairy allergies.
Changing your diet may improve your skin. The most important nutrients for healthy, supple skin are omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and collagen.
Collagen supplements—and whether or not they work—are a trending topic. Collagen is a protein found in skin and connective tissue that gives skin its structure and elasticity. As we age, we produce less of it, hence the wrinkles. Because the body creates collagen from the food we consume, it’s safe to say that the most effective approach to increasing collagen levels is to eat foods that naturally boost production of this protein.
Certain foods contain available collagen the body can use to help to promote the natural production of collagen—which can’t be said about over-the-counter synthetic collagen supplements. (A rule I live by is that food is your primary source of fuel for everything your body needs, and supplements are just that—supplements to food.) Some collagen-boosting foods include bone broth, fish and shellfish, eggs, and foods rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc.
Omega-3 fatty acids—essential fats that we can only get from food—are also vital to skin and overall health. Omega-3s decrease inflammation throughout the body, fight acne, protect against the sun’s harmful rays, and improve the skin’s natural moisture barrier, helping to keep out irritants and bacteria and giving you that healthy, dewy glow. Foods rich in omega-3s and healthy fats include salmon, tuna, avocados, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Other foods that can improve skin health are those high in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and other antioxidants that the body converts to vitamin A, the natural retinol; some examples are sweet potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, citrus, berries, and dark chocolate that is 70 percent cacao or more. And good news for wine drinkers—red grapes contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that protects against free radicals, slowing the aging process. To prevent sun damage, up your intake of cruciferous vegetables containing sulfuric compounds that act as a natural SPF, including broccoli and kale, as well as garlic.
Skin Care Don’ts
• Over-washing: Our bodies’ natural oils act as barriers against bacteria and allergens. Stick to a deep cleanse at night and a gentle cleanse during the day. The nighttime routine is the most important, as your skin has been exposed to pollutants and dirt all day.
• Insufficient sleep: Collagen synthesis happens during rest, when cortisol levels are low.
• Dehydration: Excess of anything diuretic (like alcohol and coffee) is very dehydrating, causing early signs of aging. Frequent water consumption helps to hydrate your body’s cells and organs, especially its largest—your skin.
• Poor diet: A diet high in processed foods and refined sugar results in decreased collagen production.
• Stress: An excess of the stress hormone cortisol has been shown to cause acne flare-ups.
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups chopped kale
1 14-oz. block of organic extra-firm tofu
1 baby cucumber, sliced
1/2 avocado, cubed
1/2 orange, cut into segments
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. avocado oil
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 lemon wedge
Tahini Goddess Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup tahini
1 tsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 garlic clove
Water to thin
• Remove tofu from packaging and place between several paper towels.
• Rest a heavy cutting board or book on top of tofu and let the liquid drain for at least an hour. I typically do this the morning of and let it dry all day—this ensures your tofu gets nice and crispy.
• After drying, cut tofu into equal-sized cubes.
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• On a parchment-lined baking sheet, add cubed sweet potato and drizzle with avocado oil.
• Roast for 20 minutes.
• While sweet potato is roasting, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil to a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
• Add tofu cubes and cook for 5 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown.
• Massage kale with 1 tbsp. olive oil and juice from 1 squeezed lemon wedge.
• Arrange cucumber, avocado, roasted sweet potatoes, and tofu around your bed of kale. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender then drizzle over salad.
• Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
1/4 cup frozen pineapple
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
2 tbsp. lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1/2 cup coconut water
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender; blend until creamy.