Time to get your glow on, Mama! Oh we get it… how is a new mom supposed to have a glow-y look when she’s up to her ears in sleepless nights and poopy diapers? Or how is a seasoned mom supposed to maintain her most fabulous self when she’s trying her very best to balance the many responsibilities on her day-to-day calendar? Well, fear no more – now you can shine from the inside out. How? With the greatest medicine possible: Food.
In addition to the effects of lack of sleep, exposure to sunlight, and environmental pollution, our skin can look dull and listless due to the free radicals running around in our body. Free radicals are little oxygen molecules that are released when a cell dies. And they are like a bull in a china shop, wreaking havoc, and disrupting normal cell function by causing oxidative damage and disintegration to our healthy cells. (Think of how quickly an apple or pear browns when exposed to air– that’s oxidative damage.)
Fighting Free Radicals with Food
So how do you stop free radicals from ruining your skin, and keep your cells healthy? Head to the grocery store or local Farmers’ Market, my friend. Eating foods with a higher antioxidant value can help improve your skin, giving you that healthy glow! How? Because antioxidants neutralize the free radicals, protecting our body from the cell and tissue damage that they can cause. Unfortunately you’ll never get rid of ALL the free radicals in your body, but you can combat many of them. Below are some of the top foods to favor, and savor… and to help you glow. (For more info about why these vitamins, minerals and other are important for our skin, see below our food list.)
The Best Fruits
Avocados (rich in lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamin E); Apples (particularly Granny Smith apples); Blueberries (power packed with antioxidants that helps to reduce inflammation); Cherries (reduces inflammation); Cantaloupe (chock full of vitamin A, helping to prevent dry complexion); Coconut (helps skin stay supple and improves the absorption of calcium and magnesium); Figs (contains alpha hydroxy acids, a natural skin exfoliator); Olives (a good source of vitamin E); Papayas (rich in vitamins A, C, and E, and the digestive enzyme papain, which works as an exfoliant); Strawberries (high in vitamin C); Watermelon (Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, and author of The O2 Diet (an antioxidant-based diet), says, “this lycopene-rich fruit provides 33% more protection against sunburn than any other fruit.” What a perfect snack during those hot summers! (But continue wearing your sunscreen as well.)
Lean proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs (high in Q10, an enzyme that fights aging and help skin cells renew); Low-fat Cottage cheese (high in the mineral selenium); Low-fat yogurt (high in vitamin A); Nuts – Almonds (full of vitamin E) and Brazil nuts (high in selenium); Black Beans (chock full of phytochemicals that protect our cells from damage).
Broccoli (contains sulforaphane, which helps to reduce redness and skin inflammation); Kale (loaded with vitamin C, not to mention jam packed with calcium and beta-carotene); Mushrooms (full of antioxidants that reduce signs of aging and help restore skin vitality); Red Bell Peppers (super-loaded with vitamins C, A, B6, E and other antioxidants that are ideal for your skin); Sweet potatoes (loaded with vitamins A and C); Tomatoes (rich in vitamin C and lycopene).
Oatmeal (full of vitamin B and produces serotonin, a feel good chemical that can help combat stress, which we all know isn’t good for our skin!); Quinoa (a perfect grain providing vitamin B, which helps repair skin cells).
Getting a Little Fancy
Lobster (a provider of vitamin B12 and zinc); Oysters (big on zinc); Wild Alaskan Salmon (calms the skin by reducing inflammation).
Spice it Up
Ginger (an anti-inflammatory); Oregano (supremely high in antioxidants and reduces inflammation); Rosemary (stimulates circulation and works as an anti-irritant).
And the Extras
Honey (works as a natural antibacterial agent, reducing redness and acne; Olive oil (a supplier of polyphenols – antioxidants, antifungal and antibacterial agents); Flaxseeds (full of omega-3 fatty acids).
Green tea (green tea is abundant in the antioxidant catechin, which has anti-inflamatory and anticancer properties).
A Balanced Plate
And why not balance out your antioxidant-rich diet with other things that your skin can benefit from: more sleep, lots of water, exercise, sex, laughter, love, meditation and doing things that bring you joy. Bring on the vibrant glow!
Antioxidant-Rich Vitamins, Minerals and Beyond for Healthy Skin and Hair
Vitamin A – Helps maintain and repair skin tissue, and helps prevent a dry complexion.
Vitamin B – Promotes healthy cells and prevents dry skin.
Vitamin C – Stimulates the production of collagen (an important protein for the skin) and improves skin texture by reducing skin damage and wrinkles.
Vitamin E – Helps the body ward off sun damage (age spots and wrinkles); protects against other elements that lead to skin damage such as pollution.
Beta-carotene – Stimulates skin cell growth, repairs skin damage and protects cell membranes.
Lutein – A naturally occurring carotenoid (organic pigment) that increases skin hydration and elasticity.
Lycopene – Rejuvenates cells and helps reduce the effects of UV light. (Still, always wear sunscreen even if you’re eating a whole bunch of tomatoes!)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Reduces inflammation.
Selenium – A mineral that helps in skin cancer prevention and protects against skin damage. Also, it’s the feel good mineral.
Sulforaphane – A cancer-fighting compound.
Zinc – A mineral that acts as an astringent for the skin (taming oil production/acne) and helps the body synthesize collagen (which helps skin heal).
About the Author
Author Laurie Gunning Grossman is currently working on her glow, munching on an apple sprinkled with cinnamon. When she’s not scouring the Farmers’ Markets for fresh blueberries, she is a freelance writer, mom, and student at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.