Free radicals—molecules with unpaired electrons that are produced when skin is exposed to UV rays or environmental pollutants, such as carbon monoxide or cigarette smoke—set off a chain reaction that can damage virtually any molecule in the body, including the important cellular structures in the skin.
One of the best ways to neutralize free radicals is eating foods that pack an antioxidant punch, such as berries, beans, and leafy greens. Purple, however, is the power color when it comes to your looks. "Purple potatoes, purple cabbage, purple cauliflower, raspberries, and blueberries are all rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that also helps improve circulation," Dr. Harper says. "That increased blood flow helps bring skin the nutrients it needs to form new cells, collagen, and elastin."
Skip The Sugar
More than your waistline suffers when you eat too much sweet stuff.
"Sugar is poison for the skin," Dr. Lipman says. It is another cause of inflammation, and it also leads to glycation, a process that ages skin prematurely. Here's how: Sugar in your bloodstream binds to proteins and speeds the formation of advanced glycation end products (known as AGEs, coincidentally).
"AGEs stimulate enzymes in the skin that start chomping up collagen and elastic tissue," says Dr. Alan Dattner, a holistic dermatologist in New York City. The breakdown of collagen and elastin contributes directly to wrinkles, sagging, and uneven skin tone. No surprise, then, that a recent study in the Journal of the American Aging Association found that people with higher blood sugar levels were judged to look older than those with lower blood sugar.
Eliminating sugar -- in all its forms -- from your diet is the obvious, though somewhat extreme, solution. But even reducing your consumption by limiting it to the sugars contained in fruit, for example, can help, Dr. Dattner says. How you consume sugar is also important. Eating an Oreo a day for a week isn't as bad as polishing off an entire sleeve at once, because taking in large quantities of sugar at a time throws insulin levels out of whack.
Cook Some Curry
"Turmeric, also called curcumin, is a staple of many curries and helps reduce skin irritation." Dr. Harper says. A recent study reported that turmeric supplementation (oral or topical) increases photo protection in skin, so add this skin-savvy spice, found in curry powder, to your diet and your supplement plan to prevent further sun damage.
Spice It Up
Perk up your meals with inflammation-fighting spices. Ginger and cinnamon, both chock full of antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce facial puffiness (and all-over bloat!) while working to reduce skin inflammation on the surface.
Click here for recipes containing both super spices.
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