You are what you eat. The adage is never as true as when we’re talking about our health.
Fresh, whole, and unprocessed foods deliver a fresh, whole, and unprocessed body. Artificial, processed, and otherwise unhealthy food, on the other hand ... well, it’s not difficult to see what happens there. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer are all connected to diets high in unhealthy foods.
One of the first indicators that our diet isn’t working in our favor can be the skin. Here’s how the connection between food and beauty really works.
Many of us have been trained to look at our skin as external—something akin to spot-treating a stain on your favorite shirt. But while skin is the outermost edge of our being, it works in all the same ways the rest of our tucked away organs do:
Healthy treatment = good things; Unhealthy treatment = oh so bad.
But there’s even more to skin than that. It’s not just susceptible to dis-ease on its own, but it’s often the first place we can see signs of imbalance with other organs.
Liver toxicity, for example, can present as rosacea. Eczema can mean inflammation or allergies. Acne can indicate hormone imbalances, and so on.
“Foods that are high in sugar or saturated fats can cause inflammation, which will only accelerate aging,” dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone told Elle in 2013.
“Eating a diet heavy in sugar, starches, high fructose corn syrup, fats, hydrogenated oils, and fried food can cause the sebaceous glands in your skin to increase their oil production and make your pores appear larger,” he said. “These foods will encourage excessive oil production, which will clog pores and result in breakouts.”
Does this mean you can’t enjoy processed foods every now and again? Not at all. But when our diets are mostly filled with whole, plant-based foods, it’s pretty hard to avoid getting healthier. And that goes for your skin, too.
A major culprit to skin woes is dairy. You might not present tell-tale dairy allergy signs like digestive discomfort, but chronic skin conditions and dairy consumption go hand-in-hand.
Celebrities including Margot Robbie, Kourtney Kardashian, Victoria Beckham, and Ariana Grande have recounted how ditching dairy cleared up their skin almost immediately. Kim Kardashian went plant-based to clear up her stubborn psoriasis. And after years of trying different drugs and diets, she found giving up dairy and meat was the trick that worked for her.
5 Foods for Glowing Skin
Of course, even among the healthy food set, some foods are superior. Here’s what to eat for every skin type.
1. Healthy Fats
Whether you have oily, dry, or normal skin, healthy fats are essential to keep skin young, elastic, and to reduce wrinkles. Healthy plant-based fat sources include walnuts, flax and hemp seeds, coconut, avocado, and olives/olive oil (watch the sodium in olives, though!). Healthy fats also contribute to a number of other body benefits including brain function, healthy joints, good mood, and better sleep.
2. Leafy Greens
A salad a day keeps the pimples away! Is that not a saying? It probably should be. Nutrient-dense dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, watercress, and arugula help to cleanse the blood, deliver vitamins and minerals, and help to balance acidity.
Unlike many other fruits, berries are generally low in sugar and high in all the good stuff—mainly antioxidants that can help fight skin-damaging free radicals. These little skin warriors fight against aging and protect cells from future damage.
Yes, really. But we’re not talking Snickers bars here. Dairy-free dark chocolate (ideally over 70-percent cacao solids) is also a rich source of antioxidants—as well as compounds that can help protect the cardiovascular system (and your skin). Go for low-sugar, naturally sweetened chocolate.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Filled with beta carotene and other skin-healthy nutrients, sweet potatoes are versatile and so healthy. Athletes swear by them for their heart-healthy fiber, but they’re also one of the best foods for glowing, healthy skin.
Eat a varied diet of healthy whole foods every day and see if that doesn’t make you look and feel your most beautiful yet.
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Jill Ettinger is an LA-based writer and editor focused on vegan and cruelty-free living.