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Eat your way to hotness

A key quality to looking your best is having clear, youthful skin. When we are babies our skin is perfect - it's soft, radiant and peachy smooth. As we age, our skin becomes thicker, lined and dull. We've all heard of miracle creams and masks, and of exotic spa treatments that promise to give you youthful, beautifully clear skin. But what if achieving great skin were as simple as walking around your grocery store and buying the right foods? It makes sense that what you eat will affect your appearance and everyday there is growing evidence of the benefits of healthy eating on your complexion. There are even restaurants now that specifically serve foods all designed to make you look your best. After reading about this not-so-new trend in an old issue of Elle Canada, I decided to do some quick research of my own to find out what "ordinary" foods one may eat that can help boost your skin's appearance and give you that youthful glow longer:

  • Vitamin A is your friend: Every article I came across stressed the importance of vitamin A in a balanced diet. Vitamin A is your friend because it strengthens your skin cells against UV radiation, the leading cause of skin damage. You can find sources of vitamin A in carrots, spinach, butternut squash, cantaloupe and low-fat dairy products such as yogurt. Yogurt is also great because it contains bacteria that help keep your digestive system working smoothly and a happy digestive system will ensure your body is able to process nutrients efficiently, which equals a happy complexion overall.
  • Vitamin C & E: Both these vitamins are powerful antioxidants that encourage skin cell turnover and collagen formation (= radiant, youthful skin). Antioxidants help combat free radicals, which can damage your skin's DNA and cause skin cells to break down or not function properly. Good sources of antioxidants are berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries), plums, artichokes, beans (black, red, and pinto), prunes, pecans, broccoli, citrus fruits, red peppers, almonds, avocados and dark green, leafy vegetables.
  • Fat is good: Yes, we've all heard that fat is the enemy, but fat has gotten a bad rep because there are actually good fats out there that we need to eat to have healthy skin. The good fats are those foods that specifically contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These "good" fats are responsible for healthy cell membranes; if you took any biology at all, you'd know that nutrients must pass through cell membranes to enter a cell and therefore cell membranes are the gatekeepers to let the good stuff in, and keep the bad stuff out. Cell membranes also allow our cells to retain water, which means that cells will be plump and therefore prevent lines and sallow-looking skin. To up your good fats, eat foods such as fish, walnuts, and flax seed oil. Also, be sure to eat "good" oils such as those that are labeled as being cold pressed, expeller processed, or extra virgin. Normal oil processing ends up removing many key nutrients, but these processes are gentle enough to retain them.
  • Selenium: This mineral acts as a powerful guard against sun damage similar to Vitamin A. Find it in whole-wheat grains, turkey, and tuna. As well, avoid processed grains like white bread or rice like the plague - studies have shown that processed carbs like these can lead to breakouts! If you find you just can't convert to brown rice though (like me) I would try to keep your intake to a minimum.
  • Green Tea: We've all heard of green tea's magical properties - turns out it's good for your skin as well! Green tea contains polyphenols which helps protect and reduce sun damage, up to the point where there are claims it could prevent skin cancer!
  • Water water water: Ask any model and they'll tell you sleep and water is key to looking good. Ask your doctor, and they'll say the same thing. While I've heard claims that 8 glasses of water per day isn't actually necessary, it still remains true that keeping your body properly hydrated ensures that everything runs smoothly and that toxins get purged from your system faster. Also be sure that you drink pure water - juices, pop, soups, coffee, etc. don't count! If you like bottled water, try to purchase brands that contain mineralized water, as the minerals will also help keep your skin at its best.
  • Other extra food tips: reduce your intake of sugars, salt and saturated fats, such as anything fried or creams. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Eat smaller portions. Eat raw vegetables since cooking often leaches nutrients out of foods.

As with anything, moderation is important. Don't go only eating the foods specifically mentioned here since you'll just end up being constantly miserable denying yourself of life's simple pleasures like martinis, fried chicken, and cake! If you do indulge, just simply keep your portions within reason. The key is to have a balanced lifestyle: eat right, exercise, have a good skin care routine, and above all, be happy!

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