High stress job? Check. Hereditary acne? Check. Glowy skin? Check—turns out, there’s way more to a clear face than just being born with one.
“We may not be able to change our DNA or completely alleviate blemish-inducing stress, but we all can eat foods that contribute to amazing skin,” says Kimberly Snyder, celebrity nutritionist and author of the best-selling The Beauty Detox Solution.
As it turns out, you really are what you eat. Snyder shares with us nine foods—from cucumbers and papaya to kale and sauerkraut (surprise!)—that can seriously impact the look and health of your skin.
Cucumber is virtually a cure-all full of hydrating enzyme-filled water, and hydration is key for youthful, smooth skin. It also contains vitamins B and C, zinc, iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. And it has anti-inflammatory properties, which is why you put the chilled slices over your eyes for a DIY spa treatment!
Recipe to try: Cucumber Watermelon Smoothie
Seaweed is rich in B vitamins and minerals such as iron, which helps with healthy blood flow to contribute to radiant skin. It is also naturally low in (bloating) sodium, but high in iodine, to help your thyroid and metabolism function at their peaks. Order a seaweed salad when you go for sushi or add spirulina to your smoothies, salads, snacks, or anywhere else you can sneak the nutrient-rich algae in.
Recipe to try: Seaweed Risotto
Kale, the sexy, good-for-you green, is an excellent source of the beauty-boosting vitamins A, C, and E, all of which have potent anti-aging properties and help promote healthy new cell growth. The leaf cabbage is also loaded with minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, that healthy skin needs. Make a green juice or massage a kale salad, stat.
Recipe to try: Fala Bar’s Kale Burger
Papaya’s gorgeous orange color is due to its high content of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, and acts like a mechanic of on-going skin repair. The enzyme papain is used in all kinds of exfoliating facial masks, but when you eat it, it contributes its cleansing properties to your digestion and promotes both bright skin and eyes.
Recipe to try: Tacombi’s Naranja Papaya Juice
Raw sauerkraut and other probiotic-rich foods are one of the biggest beauty secrets for clear, radiant skin. They encourage the growth of friendly gut flora that helps keep your digestion in check, so there’s better nutrient delivery to the skin and entire body. And they help make B vitamins, critical for energy and beauty overall. How to eat more? Add a scoop of sauerkraut to a rice or quinoa bowl with steamed veggies for a zing.
Recipe to try: Easy DIY Sauerkraut
A handful of pumpkin seeds are like taking your B vitamins and biotin, an essential nutrient for strengthening hair, nails, and skin. Pumpkin seeds are also high in minerals, such as zinc, which in deficiency can lead to issues like acne. Sprinkle them over anything from yogurt to salad—even cookies!
Recipe to try: Rawsome Treat’s Raw Vegan Pumpkin Pie Spice Truffle Balls
Chia seeds are an unbelievable source of essential fatty acids that nourish the skin and scalp. Chia seeds also contain skin-saving antioxidants (in the ballpark of blueberries) that fight free-radical damage. Be sure to soak them first before eating, or add them to a pudding or smoothie.
Recipe to try: Breakfast Criminal’s Chia Oat Pitaya Super-Bowl
The humble cabbage is actually a wonderful beauty food. It’s high in fiber and contains the compound sulforaphane, which promotes anti-aging antioxidant activity in the body. It’s also high in vitamin C. How to eat more? Add sliced purple cabbage to your salads or throw some in an easy-to-make stir-fry.
Recipe to try: Ginger Sesame Cabbage Stir-fry
Lemon is such an easy and delicious way to add flavor to your food and drinks—from water and tea to salmon and salad. It gives you a boost of vitamin C and its enzymes have also been shown to help rejuvenate liver tissue and help support skin collagen.
Recipe to try: Raspberry Lemonade Spring Cleanse Smoothie
This story was originally published on October 24, 2012; it was updated on July 25, 2018.
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