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Eating Pretty: Foods for Healthy Skin and Hair

Turns out that the adage "You are what you eat" is true. A few changes in your diet can have a huge impact on your appearance. If you want shinier hair or clearer skin, the answer might be in your kitchen, not your overflowing medicine cabinet. We spoke with Lisa Drayer, author of "The Beauty Diet," for all the details on what foods to eat for healthier skin and hair!

Countless washes, lotions, creams, gels, and serums promise clearer skin, longer hair, shinier locks, and more beauty wonders. We know—we've tried a ton! But if you're looking to try something new, back away from the beauty aisle and head to produce. With a beauty diet, like Lisa's, you'll get the skin and hair benefits along with calorie control to help you slim down. "That way you're getting the best bang for your bite," says Lisa. But you don’t have to go on a super strict diet; incorporating certain foods into your diet and eliminating a few others can help!

The top three things women are looking to improve with their diets are body, skin, and hair. After researching how foods affect our appearance, Lisa came up with a list of the top 10 beauty foods: wild salmon, yogurt, blueberries, spinach, kiwis, tomatoes, oysters, sweet potatoes, walnuts, and dark chocolate. Lisa recommends including at least one of these beauty foods in every meal and snack to get the maximum results, plus drinking a lot of water and green tea. She also highlighted a few good nutrients to make sure you’re getting as well as a few bad ones to stay away from.

Good: Omega 3
Omega 3 foods keep the skin soft and smooth. “They keep the moisture in your skin so it stays plump,” says Lisa. “And they have an anti-inflammatory affect which can help prevent dry skin and acne.” Want these beautifying results? Wild salmon, trout, herring, walnuts, flax seeds, edamame, wild rice, and beans are all foods high in omega 3s.

Good: Vitamin C
Vitamin C stimulates collagen production, which helps prevent wrinkles. “One study I found said that people who ate a diet rich in vitamin C have less noticeable wrinkles,” says Lisa. That’s proof enough for us! Good natural sources of vitamin C include kiwi, oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, papaya, kale, broccoli, and peppers.

Good: Protein
Protein is a key food for hair health. “Too little protein causes hair to become dry and thin,” says Lisa. To keep your locks long and luscious, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet. Egg whites, yogurt, milk, cheese, turkey, fish, tuna, tofu, lean beef, beans, peanuts, and almonds are all high in protein.

Good: Iron
Iron is also important for healthy hair. “Even if you’re not clinically anemic you can have hair loss if you don’t get enough iron,” says Lisa. Stock up on foods like lean red meats, oysters, scallops, spinach, artichokes, soybeans, chickpeas, and raisins for good sources of iron.

Good: Carotanoids
Foods that are good sources of carotanoids help protect against sunburn. Don’t stop wearing your SPF, but eat a few of these carotanoid-rich foods, too, for an extra boost of protection. These include tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, kale, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes.

Bad: Sugar
Sugary foods (cookies, cakes, sweetened beverages) don’t just add unwanted calories to your diet—high blood sugar has been linked to damages in collagen, which leads to sagging and wrinkles. Lisa suggests limiting refined sugar intake to six teaspoons a day. Can’t curb your sweet tooth? Switch to a natural no-calorie sweetener. “I love Nectresse because it has no calories but it still adds that sweet taste,” says Lisa. “You can use it in coffee, cereal, even recipes like sauces or salad dressing.”

Bad: Alcohol
Not only does alcohol dehydrate, but most alcoholic drinks are also made with sugary ingredients that will pile on the calories. “It’s actually better for you to have a shot than one margarita that’s actually considered two to three servings of alcohol,” says Lisa. She recommends alternating an alcoholic beverage with water or seltzer and limiting yourself to one or two drinks.

Bad: Refined Carbohydrates
These foods sabotage your skin. Foods with refined carbohydrates lead to an increase in blood sugar, which can contribute to acne. “They cause a hormonal cascade,” says Lisa. “By increasing the production of androgens, they cause your skin to secrete more oil which can cause acne.” Steer clear of white bread, white rice, tortilla chips, and potato chips, and swap in whole wheat pasta and bread for a more skin-friendly diet.

Lisa Drayer, M.A., R.D., is a registered dietician, health reporter, and author of THE BEAUTY DIET: Looking Great has Never Been So Delicious.

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