Easy Diet Swaps for Glowing Skin

Want youthful, flawless and healthy skin? It may be time to edit your grocery list and embark on a healthy skin diet

Healthy Skin Diet: Skip the Ice CreamMost sugary desserts, like cookies, cake and beloved ice cream, are packed with sugar (which is part of the reason why they’re so delicious). But you should think twice before digging into that slice of pie.

“Eating tons of sugar forms advanced glycation end products (commonly shortened, appropriately, to AGEs), which cause protein fibers in the body to become stiff and malformed,” saysDendy Engelman, MD, board certified dermatologic surgeon and associate at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery (she also works with the flawless Sofia Vergara).

Unfortunately for your glowing complexion, the proteins most prone to glycation are collagen and elastin — aka the proteins that make your skin plump and springy. “When those proteins hook up with renegade sugars, they become discolored, weak, and less supple; this shows up on the skin’s surface as wrinkles, sagginess and a loss of radiance,” explains Engelman. (Talk about a bad one-night-stand).

Plus, these AGEs make your complexion more vulnerable to assailants like UV light and cigarette smoke. “So you get a double whammy when it comes to aging.”

Eat Dark Chocolate or an Acai Bowl InsteadThese are two healthier treats recommended by Engelman.

Not only do acai bowls tastealmost as good as ice cream (because, let’s be honest, there are few things more delicious than a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s), they’re chock-full of antioxidants. Foods rich in antioxidant properties will have a significant impact on your skin, says Sinead Norenius, skin care esthetician and founder of the skin care line Beautisol. “Free radicals caused by pollution and UV radiation attack skin cells and cause DNA damage,” she says, and these tasty little treats are powerful ammo in the fight against the premature aging process.

“Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, protecting your skin from environmental stressors like UV light, cigarette smoke and pollution,” adds NYC-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe.

Better yet, top your bowl with almonds. They’re packed full of vitamin E and are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is a good fat known for lowering cholesterol and keeping cell membranes strong and intact, which Norenius says is crucial for keeping skin youthful.

Skip Your Morning Bagel……And other refined carbs (like cookies, white bread and white rice).

“Foods that have a high glycemic index are the worst for skin, and have been associated with increased acne breakouts,” says Bowe. They mess up your skin in two ways: “First they trigger a sugar spike in your blood that leads to a cascade of hormones,” she says. So, say hello to breakouts. Second, they cause glycation. “Glycation is when sugar molecules bind to the structures in your skin such as collagen, making them weak and dysfunctional,” Bowe explains. Weak collagen equals more signs of aging.

The good news: Bowe says that eating refined carbs with fiber-rich healthy foods can help minimize the damage. On the flip side, if you’re consuming high GI foods on a daily basis, that can lead to cumulative damage.

Switch to Non-Processed Carbs or OatsWe’re not saying you have to nix carbs altogether to get better skin (we’re not monsters, after all). It’s all about choosing the right carbs. Oats are packed full of antioxidants and have been found to be anti-inflammatory. Ciminelli recommends wild rice (it’s actually a grass and not a rice at all — who knew?) and gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice.

Non-processed carbs like sweet potatoes should also make it on your plate. Sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene, a super-charged antioxidant that helps repair skin cells and slows down skin cancer cells. It helps give skin a youthful glow while preventing aging. They also are full of vitamin C, which helps stimulate collagen production. In fact, one study found that people who ate four milligrams of vitamin C a day for three years reduced their wrinkles by about 11 percent. Just half a cup of sweet potato contains 20 milligrams of vitamin C.

Ixnay on the Milk“Many people are unaware that skim milk has been linked with acne breakouts,” says Bowe. The main culprits: the hormones and milk proteins found in milk, which can clog pores (one study even found that the hormones in milk can boost your oil production up by 60 percent!).

And it doesn’t just stop at the gallon of milk you buy at the grocery store. One of the most harmful milk proteins is whey, which is often found in protein supplements like bars and shakes. Cutting out dairy may do a lot for your acne-prone skin, but Bowe recommends incorporating a topical acne treatment with the active ingredient dapsone, like Aczone Gel, to really get acne under control.

Try Almond or Coconut MilkBowe recommends swapping your cow milk for one of the almond variety. It’s dairy-free and low on the glycemic index. “Low glycemic index foods stop that hormonal cascade from triggering breakouts by stabilizing your blood sugar,” she explains. Almond milk is also high in protein, which helps keep your skin, hair and nails healthy and strong. If you have a nut allergy, Engelman recommends coconut milk, which her patients have had great success with.

As for your whey protein? Try pea protein or egg white protein instead, advises Bowe. Look for protein bars that are made without whey, like Rx Bars — they’re made with whole foods, and the protein comes from egg whites and nuts

Lay Off the Canned Foods……and frozen meals, too. High levels of sodium lurk in overly processed foods.

Salty foods cause your body to hold onto water, resulting in a puffy face and the appearance of under-eye bags, says Bowe. Iodized salt is especially bad for skin in high doses, as it has been shown to aggravate acne, adds Noremus.

If you must eat pre-packaged food, make sure to rinse all canned vegetables, meats and beans after opening them to reduce the sodium content.

Add More Omega-3 Fatty AcidsIn order to lose weight, have better skin and have more energy you need to eat all the salmon. While that is a slight exaggeration, “foods with omega-3 fatty acids add hydration to skin and decrease inflammation,” says Bowe.

Norenius adds that omega-3s are responsible for healthy cell membranes and the overall health of the various cells in the body. “The stronger the walls of the cells, the more water is kept in, thus making skin cells look more vibrant, plumper and overall more youthful,” she says. A good rule of thumb: Aim to eat fatty fish like salmon twice a week. Engelman also is a fan of upping your nutrient intake with vitamins (she recommends Erzo Prenatal Vitamins, which comes in gluten-free and dairy-free versions).


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