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Eat Your Way to Clear, Healthy Skin With These 27 Super-Meals
11/19/2013 - 7:30am by Nicole McDermott
This article is presented in partership with ALOHA. Swing by ALOHA.com to check out The Foundation, a 5-pill supplement pack, and The Daily Good, a green whole-food powder. Don't forget to explore their Magazine for expert advice to complement your active lifestyle!
The expression “you are what you eat” may be more accurate than you think. There are many factors that contribute to the clear, glowing, blemish-free skin everyone strives for (including genetics). Some foods — depending on their vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content — can actually help promote healthy skin. We searched the web for meals that contain two or more foods with properties known to protect or repair skin. (But keep in mind, though studies suggest certain foods can protect or skin or repair damage, they're not a substitute for preventative measures like sunscreen.) From quinoa for breakfast to lots of dark chocolate for dessert, here are 27 ways to eat your way to better skin.
Photo: Amanda / Pickles & Honey
1. Blueberry and Walnut Smoothie
Blueberries, one of nature’s most potent antioxidant-containing fruits, provide the color for this simple, healthy smoothie. If you don’t have walnuts on hand to whip up homemade walnut milk, choose your favorite variety of milk (but keep in mind that some studies link whey-protein-based dairy to skin conditions, including acne, thanks to its insulin-boosting abilities) ((Evidence for acne-promoting effects of milk and other insulinotropic dairy products. Melnik, B.C. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Osnabruck. Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series. Pediatric Program, 2011;67:131-45.)) ((Insulin resistance and acne: a new risk factor for men? Del Prete, M., Mauriello, M.C., Faggiano, A., et al. Department of Molecular and Clinical Endocrinology and Oncology, Federico II University of Naples, Naples, Italy. Endocrine, 2012, Mar 25.)) ((High glycemic load, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. Ismail, N.H., Abdul Manaf, Z., Azizan, N.Z. BMC Dermatology, 2012 Aug 16;12(1):13.)). If you can’t make walnut milk, try throwing a few whole walnuts in there anyways — they contain a healthy dose of magnesium, which is important for healthy blood flow in the skin ((The influence of oral magnesium sulfate on skin microvasculature blood flow in diabetic rats. Heidarianpour, A., Sadeghian, E., Gorzi, A., et al. Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran. Biological Trace Element Research, 2011 Oct;143(1):344-50.)).
2. Quinoa Breakfast Cereal with Berries and Almonds
Your typical morning breakfast may feature oatmeal, but switch things up with quinoa for an extra dose of protein. Whole grains, including quinoa, are a rich source of selenium, which can improve skin elasticity ((Skin bioavailability of dietary vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, zinc and selenium. Richelle, M., Sabatier, M., Steiling, H., et al. Nestle Research Center, Nestec Ltd., Lausanne, Switzerland. British Journal of Nutrition, 2006 Aug;96(2):227-38.)). Blueberries are high in anthocyanins (one of many antioxidants, which fight off the damage in our bodies caused by free radicals). Almonds are a high source of vitamin E, known to protect our skin from the sun’s rays ((Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Zafra-Stone, S., Yasmin, T., Bagchi, M., et al. Research and Development Department, InterHealth Research Center, Benicia, CA. Molecular Nutrition Food Research, 2007 Jun;51(6):675-83.)) ((Tocopherol activity correlates with its location in a membrane: a new perspective on the antioxidant vitamin E. Marquardt, D., Williams, J.A., Kucerka, N., et al. Department of Physics, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2013 May 22;135(20):7523-33.)).
3. Kale, Apple, Raspberry, and Goji Green Smoothie
Sip your way to healthy skin with this superfood-packed smoothie. Leafy green kale contains high levels of vitamin K, an essential vitamin known to suppress inflammation (which can result in acne or wrinkles) ((Vitamin K suppresses the lipopolysaccharide-induced expression of inflammatory cytokines in cultured macrophage-like cells via the inhibition of the activation of nuclear factor κB through the repression of IKKα/β phosphorylation. Ohsaki, Y., Shirakawa, H., Miura, A., et al. Laboratory of Nutrition, Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2010 Nov;21(11):1120-6.)). Chewy, tangy, and sweet goji berries are a rich source of antioxidants, known to ward off the signs of photoaging (aging of the skin often caused by sun damage), including liver spots, freckles, and spider veins ((Botanical antioxidants in the prevention of photocarcinogenesis and photoaging. Afag, F., Mukhtar, H. Department of Dermatology, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Experimental Deratology, 2006 Sep;15(9):678-84.)). Apples are also a healthy-skin super-fruit; Fuji and Red Delicious rank highest for antioxidants ((Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Boyer, J., Liu, R.H., Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Nutrition Journal, 2004; 3:5.)).
4. Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
This fall-friendly breakfast is warm and comforting, but it also features two healthy skin-promoting foods: oats and pumpkin. Foods high on the glycemic index (which measures how much a specific food raises blood sugar levels when consumed) can increase inflammation, and as a result, wreak havoc on our skin ((Insulin resistance: definition and consequences. Lebovitz, H.E., State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, USA.)). High GI foods (like white bread, for instance) spike blood sugar levels because the body digests them very quickly, while low GI foods, like oatmeal digest slowly ((Does diet really affect acne? Ferdowsian, H.R., Levin, S. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC, USA. Skin Therapy Letter, 2010 Mar;15(3):1-2, 5.)) ((Over-stimulation of insulin/IGF-1 signaling by western diet may promote diseases of civilization: lessons learnt from laron syndrome. Melnik, B.C., John, S.M., Schmitz, G. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Sedanstrasse, Osnabruck, Germany. Nutrition & Metabolism (London), 2011 Jun 24;8:41.)). Pumpkin, on the other hand, has loads of beta-carotene, a provitamin that converts to vitamin A (known to improve aged skin) ((Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Kafi, R., Kwak, H.S., Schumacher, W.E., et al. Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI. Archives of Dermatology, 2007 May;143(5):606-12.)).
Photo: Chung-Ah / Damn Delicious
5. Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Perfect for a light lunch or side salad, this healthy skin medley features kale, avocado, quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, goat cheese, and a homemade Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Leafy greens, especially kale, are high in antioxidants and vitamin K — both of which help the skin look young (antioxidants because they help slow down the process of aging, and vitamin K because it protects the skin’s elasticity). Pomegranate seeds boast super high levels of polyphenols (an antioxidant also found in cranberries) ((Polyphenol-rich extract of pomegranate peel alleviates tissue inflammation and hypercholesterolaemia in high-fat diet-induced obese mice: potential implication of the gut microbiota. Neyrinck, A.M., Van Hee, V.F., Bindels, L.B., et al. Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group, Louvain Drug Research Institue, Universite catholique de Louvain, Avenue Mounier Brussels, Belgium. British Journal of Nutrition, 2013 Mar 14;109(5):802-9.)).
6. Nicoise Salad with Charred Fish
This hearty salad incorporates tons of Mediterranean staples, including fish, beans, green beans, olives, capers, and red bell pepper. Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet — composed primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, nuts, and olive oil — can protect against acne thanks to high fiber, antioxidant-rich, and Omega-3-packed foods (all of which help protect the skin from acne flair ups) ((Mediterranean diet and familial dysmetabolism as factors influencing the development of acne. Skroza, N., Tolino, E., Semyonov, L. et al. Dermatology UnitD. Innocenzi, Polo Pontino, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2012 Jul;40(5):466-74. )).
7. Roasted Beet, Plum, and Kale Salad
Perfect for late summer or early fall, this colorful salad highlights beets, plums, and tomatoes. Beets contain the antioxidant betalain in a higher concentration than most vegetables, and research shows beets may also help reduce the risk for skin cancer ((Chemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Kapadia, G.J., Azuine, M.A., Sridhar, R., et al. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Howard University, Washington, DC. Pharmacology Research, 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8.)). This salad also includes tomatoes, which are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant found to reduce skin roughness ((Cutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates significantly with the roughness of the skin. Darvin, M., Patzelt, A., Gehse, S., et al. Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Department of Dermatology, Berlin, Germany. European Journal of Pharmacology and Biopharmacology, 2008 Aug;69(3):943-7.)). And to round things off, the antioxidant kaempferol — found in kale — may be therapeutic to skin burns ((Protection of burn-induced skin injuries by the flavonoid kaempferol. Park, B.K., Lee, S., Seo, J.N., Rhee, J.W., et al. Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea. BMB Reports. 2010 Jan;43(1):46-51.)).
8. Orange Fennel Salad with Date Vinaigrette
Topped with just fennel, onion, oranges, and walnuts, this salad is a cinch. Quercetin, an antioxidant found in fennel, has been found to help treat psoriasis (an inflammatory skin condition) as well as diminish fine lines and wrinkles ((Screening of flavonoid “quercetin” from the rhizome of Smilax china Linn. for anti-psoriatic activity. Vijayalakshmi, A., Ravichandiran, V., Jayakumari, S. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 2012 April; 2(4): 269-275.)). The sweet and spicy homemade dressing is a little more involved, but it’s easy to make up a big batch and freeze some for later. The dressing uses dates for sweetness rather than refined sugar (a known trigger for acne) ((Acne: prevalence and relationship with dietary habits in Eskisehir, Turkey. Koku Aksu, A.E., Metintas, S., Saracoglu, Z.N. Department of Dermatology Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Eskisehir Osmangazi University, Eskisehir, Turkey. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Nov 10.)).
Photo: Vicky / Avocado Pesto
9. Zucchini Chickpea Burgers
This burger, made up primarily of chickpeas, quinoa, and grated zucchini also features a hearty serving of sunflower seeds. Foods high in vitamin E, including sunflower seeds, help prevent acne development and may help acne-scarred skin heal ((Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? El-Akawi, Z., Abdel-Latif, N., Abdul-Razzak, K. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Irbid, Jordan. Clinical Experimental Dermatology, 2006 May;31(3):430-4.)). Plus, zucchini is 95 percent water, and hydrated skin makes for healthy, supple skin ((Effect of oral hydration on skin microcirculation in healthy young and midlife and older adults. Wipke-Tevis, D.D., Williams, D.A. MU Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia. Would Repair and Regeneration, 2007 Mar-Apr;15(2):174-85.)). The green veggie is also a great source of Vitamin C, a nutrient required for healing damaged skin ((Vitamin C regulates keratinocyte viability, epidermal barrier, and basement membrane in vitro, and reduces wound contraction after grafting of cultured skin substitutes. Boyce, S.T., Supp, A.P., Swope, V.B., et al. Shriners Hospitals for Children and Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2002 Apr;118(4):565-72.)).
10. Lemon Herb Salmon
This recipe, featuring omega-3-rich salmon, is a healthy skin superstar not just for its nutritional profile, but also for its low-grease preparation — baking instead of frying. While consuming certain foods can affect our skin from the inside out, greasy food causes problems the second it touches our mouths. Grease from fried food that touches our faces is a recipe for clogged pores ((Neglected aspects in the management of acne. Gordon, B. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1885;78 Suppl 10:10-4.)). Opting for baked recipes versus fried can reduce all that grease.
11. Almond Crusted Chicken with Raspberry Sauce
Crushed nuts replace breading as a gluten-free alternative to coat chicken and create a crispy outer crust. The almond-based crust contains high levels of vitamin E, which helps protect the skin from sun damage ((The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health. Evans, J.A., Johnson, E.J. Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA. Nutrients, 2010 August; 2(8): 903-928.)). The sauce uses onions and cherries, both of which have high concentrations of polyphenols, which help protect the skin from free radicals ((Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Pandey, K.B., Rizvi, S.I. Department of Biochemistry; University of Allahabad; Allahabad, India. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2009 Nov-Dec; 2(5): 270-278.)). For an even healthier sauce that’s better for the skin, try a homemade cherry compote that uses less refined sugar (the sweet stuff has been linked to not-so-perfect skin) ((Acne: prevalence and relationship with dietary habits in Eskisehir, Turkey. Koku Aksu, A.E., Metintas, S., Saracoglu, Z.N. Department of Dermatology Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Eskisehir Osmangazi University, Eskisehir, Turkey. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Nov 10.)).
12. Sesame-Soy Salmon with Carrots and Edamame
This flavorful meal is quick and simple. Feel free to serve it over a bed of greens like bok choy or spinach. Salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help keep inflammation (which can show as redness on our skin) under control ((Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Rubin, M.G., Kim, K., Logan, A.C. Lasky Skin Clinic, 153 Lasky Drive, Suite 1, Beverly Hills, CA. Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008 Oct 13;7:36.)) ((Acne: inflammation. Farrar, M.D., Ingham, E. Skin Research Centre, Division of Microbiology, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. Clinical Dermatology, 2004 Sep-Oct;22(5):380-4.)). The dish also features edamame (soybeans), which research links to wrinkle reduction ((Wrinkle reduction in post-menopausal women consuming a novel oral supplement: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study. Jenkins, G., Wainwright, L.J., Holland, R., et al. Unilever R&D, Colworth Discover, Colworth Science Park, Shanbrook, Bedfordshire, U.K. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2013 Aug 8.)).
13. Flaxseed Crust Veggie Pizza
A cheese-less pizza with a crust made of seeds and vegetables may not be traditional take-out fare, but there are multiple reasons this meal is good for healthy skin. For starters, the omega-3 rich flaxseeds that make up the crust have been shown to reduce redness ((Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Rubin, M.G., Kim, K., Logan, A.C. Lasky Skin Clinic, 153 Lasky Drive, Suite 1, Beverly Hills, CA. Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008 Oct 13;7:36.)). The “cheese,” primarily made of pine nuts and nutritional yeast, is skin-friendly for two reasons: The nuts contain skin-renewing vitamin E and zinc, and the dairy-free topping won’t spike insulin levels (which have been linked to acne) the same way real cheese does ((Zinc and skin health: overview of physiology and pharmacology. Schwartz, J.R., Marsh, R.G., Draelos, Z.D. Beauty Care Product Development, The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. Dermatological Surgery, 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 2):837-47.)) ((Evidence for acne-promoting effects of milk and other insulinotropic dairy products. Melnik, B.C. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Osnabruck. Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series. Pediatric Program, 2011;67:131-45.)).
14. Tuna Stuffed Bell Peppers
Though tuna is not the most typical main ingredient for stuffed peppers, it is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant that may protect skin from UV-induced damage ((Selenium, ultraviolet radiation and the skin. McKenzie, R.C. Division of Dermatology, Department of Medical and Radiological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Clinical Experiments in Dermatology, 2000 Nov;25(8):631-6.)) ((Selenomethionine inhibits ultraviolet radiation-induced p53 transactivation. Traynor, N.J., McKenzie, R.C., Beckett, G.J., et al. Photobiology Unit, Ninewells Hospital, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine. 2006 Dec;22(6):297-303.)). Plus, peppers have loads of Vitamin C, an antioxidant involved in the production of collagen, which helps maintain skin firmness ((Vitamin C. Ascorbic acid; Dehydroascorbic acid. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, Last reviewed: February 18,2013.)).
Photo: Ella / Deliciously Ella
15. Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
This colorful soup gets its hue from two veggies known for improving skin health. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a skin healthy antioxidant. And cooking tomatoes actually increases the concentration of lycopene ((Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Fielding, J.M., Rowley, K.G., Cooper, P., et al. School of Nutrition and Public Health, Deakin University, Malvern, Victoria, Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005;14(2):131-6.)). Red peppers, on the other hand, are loaded with vitamin C — which is associated with better skin-aging appearance ((Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4):1225-31.)).
16. Roasted Carrot Soup
The main ingredient of this comforting fall soup — carrots — is an excellent source of vitamin A, which prevents the overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer (That means there are fewer dead cells hanging around to clog pores.) ((Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? El-Akawi, Z., Abdel-Latif, N., Abdul-Razzak, K. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Irbid, Jordan. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 2006 May;31(3):430-4.))
17. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
This non-traditional chili incorporates gluten-free and vegetarian ingredients, including pepper, black beans, sweet potatoes, and — of course — lots of spice. Sweet potatoes have tons of Vitamin C, which is known to smooth the appearance of wrinkles ((Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4):1225-31.)). Plus, black beans are a good source of folic acid, an important nutrient for protecting the skin from damaging UV rays ((Folate in Skin Cancer Prevention. Williams, J.D., Jacobson, E.L., Jacobson, M.K. Folate in Skin Cancer Prevention. Subcellular Biochemistry, 2012;56:181-197.)).
Snacks and Side Dishes
Photo: Amy / Fearless Homemaker
18. Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Garlic Spread
This simple but tasty spread features three good-for-the-skin ingredients: eggplant, garlic, and red pepper. Eggplant contains the antioxidant nasunin, known to protect cell membranes from damage, while garlic has been used as a remedy for skin diseases and dandruff ((Nasunin from eggplant consists of cis-trans isomers of delphinidin 3-[4-(p-coumaroyl)-L-rhamnosyl (1-->6)glucopyranoside]-5-glucopyranoside. Ichiyanagi, T., Kashiwada, Y., Shida, Y., Faculty of Applied Life Sciences, Niigata University of Pharmacy and Applied Life Sciences, Niigata. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005 Nov 30;53(24):9472-7.)) ((Extracts from the history and medical properties of garlic. Petrovska, B.B., Cekovska, S., Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Republic of Macedonia. Pharmacognosy Reviews, March 2, 2010.)). Finally, the veggie that gives this dip its bright red color, red pepper, staves off the effects of skin aging with high levels of vitamin C ((Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4):1225-31.)).
19. Quinoa with Roasted Squash, Dried Cranberries, and Pepitas
For a simple fall salad, all it takes are some dried cranberries, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and toasted pepitas. Also known as pumpkin seeds, pepitas are an excellent source of zinc, which helps maintain collagen strength and promotes skin renewal ((Zinc induces structural reorganization of gelatin binding domain from human fibronectin and affects collagen binding. Graille, M., Pagano, M., Rose, T., et al. IBBMC, Universite Paris, Orsay Cedex, France. Structure, 2010 Jun 9;18(6):710-8.)). Eating plenty of whole grains, such as quinoa or farro, is a cheap and easy way to maintain healthy skin since they too have free radical-fighting antioxidants ((Systemic antioxidants and skin health. Nguyen, G., Torres, A. Department of Internal Medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA. Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, 2012 Sep;11(9).)). The third and final main ingredient, cranberries, ranks highly among other fruits for both antioxidant quality and quantity ((Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie, IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, Boca Raton FL: CRC Press; 2011.)).
20. Oysters on the Half Shell
There’s not much to this hors d’oeuvre, but kicking back oysters can provide a healthy dose of zinc (a necessary mineral to stave off a variety of skin problems, including acne and the skin disorder inflammatory dermatosis) ((Innate immunity: a crucial target for zinc in the treatment of inflammatory dermatosis. Brocard, A., Dreno, B. Skin Cancer Unit, Nantes University Hospital, Nantes, France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Oct;25(10):1146-52.)) ((Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Bae, Y.S. Hill, N.D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J., et al. Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dermatologic Clinics, 2010 Jul;28(3):587-97.))
21. Red Grape and Chicken Salad Wraps
This no-cook snack wrap is refreshing and easy to compile. The sweet ingredient — red grapes — is a good source of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which helps maintain good circulation in the body as well as strengthen collagen (the basis for the structure of skin) ((Relationship between skin cell wall composition and anthocyanin extractability of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Tempranillo at different grape ripeness degree. Hernandez-Hierro, J.M., Quijada-Morin, N., Martinez-Lapuente, L., et al. Grupo de Investigacion en Polifenoles, Unidad de Nutricion y Bromatologia, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain. Food Chemistry, 2014 Mar 1;146:41-7.)).
22. Spinach Pumpkin Seed Energy Balls
No need for pricey pre-packaged energy bars when you can whip up your own nutritious, homemade version. These little bites combine mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, dates, spinach, and cocoa. While all of these ingredients have healthy skin properties, spinach contains high levels of folate (a vitamin that may protect the skin from skin cancer) and nuts are chock full of the antioxidant flavonoids ((Folate in skin cancer prevention. Williams, J.D., Jacobson, E.L., Kim, H., et al. Division of Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Pharmacy and Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ. Sub-cellular Biochemistry, 2012;56:181-97.)) ((Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Ros, E., Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology and Nutrition Service. Nutrients. 2010 July; 2(7):652-682.)).
23. Sauteed Spinach with Garlic, Figs, and Honey
For a sweet and savory side, this garlicky spinach will do the trick. One of the main components of this dish, figs, contains flavonoids (the powerful antioxidant that may play a significant role in cellular aging in human skin) ((Studies on free radicals, antioxidants, and co-factors. Rahman, K. School of Biomolecular Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, England, UK. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2007 June; 2(2): 219-236.)). The other sweet ingredient, honey, has antioxidants in the form of phenolic compounds ((An in vitro examination of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of buckwheat honey. Van den Berg, A.J., van den Worm, E., van Ufford, H.C., et al. Burns Research Institute, Red Cross Hospital, Beverwijk, The Netherlands. Journal of Wound Care, 2008 Apr;17(4):172-4, 176-8.)). And to round things off at the antioxidant party, both spinach and garlic have tons of antioxidants.
Photo: Christine / Apple of My Eye
24. Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles
This sneaky dessert features a secret ingredient — avocadoes. The creamy green fruit contains high levels of pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5). A number of B vitamins, including B5, promote healthy skin by decreasing oil production and reducing the size of pores. ((Pantothenic acid deficiency as the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Leung, L.H., Department of General Surgery, Hong Kong Central Hospital, Hong Kong. Medical Hypotheses, 1995 Jun;44(6):490-2.)).
25. Chocolate, Pomegranate, Ginger Bark
This super simple dessert melds sweet, tart, and spicy. The pomegranate seeds are a rich source of polyphenols, an antioxidant known to protect against the adverse effects of UV radiation ((Polyphenols: skin photoprotection and inhibition of photocarcinogenesis. Afag, F., Katiyar, S.K. Department of Dermatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 2011 Dec;11(14):1200-15.)). Chocolate contains flavonols, an antioxidant that protects the skin against UV rays ((Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. Williams, S. Tamburic, S., Lally, C. Cosmetic Science Group, School of Management and Science, London University of the Arts, London, UK. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2009 Sep;8(3):169-73.)). Look for dark chocolate with a cacao content above 70 percent for higher antioxidant power.
26. Granny Smith Apples with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts
Foods with high levels of fiber, like apples, can help the body flush out toxins, which can lead to inflammation and clogged pores. Constipation has also been linked to skin conditions like acne ((Risk factors for sebaceous gland diseases and their relationship to gastrointestinal dysfunction in Han adolescents. Zhang, H., Liao, W., Chao, W., et al. Department of Dermatology, First Affiliated Hospital, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China. Journal of Dermatology, 2008 Sep;35(9):555-61.)). But a high-fiber diet with adequate hydration will help keep things moving smoothly ((Water supplementation enhances the effect of high-fiber diet on stool frequency and laxative consumption in adult patients with functional constipation. Anti, M., Pignataro, G., Armuzzi, A., et al. Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University, Policlinico, A. Gemelli, Rome. Hepatogastroenterology, 1998 May-Jun;45(21):727-32.)).
27. Dark Chocolate and Maca Fruit Bites
This sweet treat dresses up fruit with a maca-infused chocolate and nut coating. With zinc deficiency associated with a variety of skin problems (including acne), there’s no excuse not to eat zinc-rich dark chocolate ((Innate immunity: a crucial target for zinc in the treatment of inflammatory dermatosis. Brocard, A., Dreno, B. Skin Cancer Unit, Nantes University Hospital, Nantes, France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Oct;25(10):1146-52.)) ((Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Bae, Y.S. Hill, N.D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J., et al. Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dermatologic Clinics, 2010 Jul;28(3):587-97.)). And studies show maca, a Peruvian root known for a host of health benefits, prevents ultraviolet induced skin damage ((Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Gonzales, G.F., Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy and High Altitude Research Institute, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012;2012:193496.)) ((Photoprotection against the UVB-induced oxidative stress and epidermal damage in mice using leaves of three different varieties of Lepidium meyenii (maca). Gonzales-Castaneda, C., Rivera, V., Chirinos, A.L. Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy, Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Herediam Lima, Peru. International Journal of Dermatology, 2011;50(8):928-38.)).
This article is presented in partership with ALOHA. Swing by ALOHA.com to check out The Foundation, a 5-pill supplement pack, and The Daily Good, a green whole-food powder. Don't forget to explore their Magazine for expert advice to complement your active lifestyle!
How do you take care of your skin from the inside out? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.