“You are what you eat,” Mom always said; she was right, especially when it comes to your skin. Just as your hair, your nails and even your emotional balance can be affected by what you eat, your diet can help transform your skin from dull and lifeless to clear and glowing.
The best foods to eat for healthy skin are foods rich in antioxidants, iron, essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6, and minerals such as zinc or selenium.
It is simple to fit these foods into even the busiest schedule. Here are 10 sample lunches that are perfect for taking to work, sharing with friends or enjoying on a weekend at home. They aren’t just delicious; they are quick to prepare, economical and with every bite you’ll be giving your skin everything it needs to look as healthy as possible.
1. Tuna sandwich on whole grain bread, with carrot sticks, strawberries and water
Tuna is rich in the essential fatty acid Omega-3, the best of the natural fatty acids for healthy skin. Skip the mayonnaise and instead, toss the tuna with some lime juice and minced scallions and pile it on a slice of Vitamin E-rich whole grain bread or a roll. Carrots and strawberries (and all other dark or brightly colored fruits and vegetables) are rich in the antioxidants that keep skin moist and protect against the aging effects of the environment. Water–preferably 6 to 8 glasses consumed throughout the day–is the best beverage to hydrate and soften skin.
2. Frittata with kale, broccoli, potatoes and peppers
Eggs get a bad rap because of their cholesterol content, but eaten in moderation, they are one of the best sources of dietary iron available. Iron-deficient diets result in a pale complexion and dark circles beneath the eyes. Pair the eggs in a simple frittata with lightly sauteed kale, broccoli and peppers (all darkly colored vegetables rich in antioxidants) and some leftover Vitamin C-rich steamed potatoes, and you’ll have a meal with serious skin-protecting potential.
3. Minestrone soup with vegetables, beans and whole grain pasta
The classic Italian soup minestrone is one of the most skin-friendly and budget-friendly meals around. Packed with vegetables, beans and whole grain pasta, it is full of antioxidants. Why are antioxidants so essential for healthy skin? Antioxidants destroy free radicals, chemicals in the body that have been connected to diseases such as cancer as well as the breakdown of collagen. Since collagen is what helps keep skin elastic and young looking, a diet high in free radical-neutralizing antioxidants is important for great skin.
4. Baked salmon with brown rice and steamed carrots
Salmon, like tuna, is high in essential fatty acids as well as being very low in fat. Brown rice is high in Vitamin E. Individuals with a Vitamin E-deficient diet suffer from pale, easily bruised skin that wrinkles prematurely. Carrots, inexpensive and available year round, are rich in the Vitamin A that keeps skin from becoming dry and flaky.
5. Mix-and-match salad with a whole grain roll
Salads have the distinction of being healthy, low in calories and a great way to use up leftovers. For a quick mix-and-match salad, pair a few handfuls of dark leafy lettuce leaves (green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, baby spinach or a combination is perfect) with some leftover cooked vegetables, bits of leftover meat (lean chicken or turkey or even cold cooked fish), a sprinkling of nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, and some grated Parmesan. Drizzle it all with your favorite low-calorie dressing or one mixed up in minutes from one part balsamic vinegar to three parts olive oil. Pair the salad with a heated whole grain roll.
6. Tofu stir-fry with whole wheat noodles
Tofu, and all other soy products, is high in Vitamin B, which helps keep skin smooth and moist. A stir-fry of extra-firm tofu with antioxidant-rich vegetables such as spinach and red or green peppers served on whole wheat noodles is a quick and healthy weekend lunch.
7. Peanut butter on whole grain crackers with a colorful fruit salad
Eating skin-friendly foods doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. A lunch as simple as fruit salad with peanut butter and crackers might be just the thing for a busy day at the office, and it doesn’t take more than a few moments to prepare. Both the peanut butter and the whole grain crackers are high in Vitamin E, and you can maximize the amount of antioxidants in your salad if you choose deeply colored fruits such as oranges, kiwi, grapefruit and any type of berry.
8. White bean soup with greens
Making a large pot of soup thick with white beans and antioxidant-rich greens requires very little preparation, yet it can yield a whole host of benefits. Not only will a typical soup recipe make enough for several days of lunch leftovers, the vitamins in the beans and vegetables will do wonders for your skin.
9. Plain yogurt fruit parfait with wheat germ and nuts
When it’s hot outside and the last thing you want to do is fuss over a meal, turn to this cool, easy and healthy alternative: simply alternate layers of plain yogurt, wheat germ, brightly colored fruit and nuts in a parfait glass or bowl and enjoy. Vitamin A and Vitamin B are abundant in dairy products, and all types of nuts and seeds, as well as wheat germ, are rich in Vitamin E. All three vitamins are powerful antioxidants that protect the elasticity of the skin and are also beneficial to the eyes and hair.
10. Nicoise salad
Nicoise salad has been a staple of casual French cuisine for decades. To make a simple, skin-friendly version, place a handful of dark leafy lettuce greens on a plate and top with sections of chunk light tuna, chopped hard-boiled egg, chunks of steamed potato, tomato slices and bits of steamed green beans. The traditional Nicoise salad dressing combines ¾-cup of olive oil with ½-cup lemon juice, seasoned with thyme, basil, oregano, a minced shallot, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, but feel free to use your favorite dressing.