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Seven Steps for Beautiful Skin from the Inside Out

While some factors are out of your control, you can do a lot to achieve glowing, movie star skin. When you feed your skin with my beauty foods, it will give back to you in the form of a beautiful reflection for years to come. Following are sevenways to keep your skin in top condition by nourishing it from the inside out.

1. Keep Your Skin Hydrated: Soft and supple skin depends on two things: water and fats. This may seem contradictory because the two don’t mix, but your skin needs both to retain its youthful texture. Your skin is 70 percent water, 25 percent protein, and 2 percent lipids. Water plumps up your cells and keeps your skin moist. However, keeping your skin refreshed and hydrated is a challenge because of factors both outside and inside your body. The outer layer of your skin is constantly losing water due to exposure to dry air, sunlight, chemicals, and other elements. 

This moisture is slow to be replaced since water has to seep up through many layers of skin cells to reach the surface. Water for your skin is even scarcer when your body is dehydrated; your body reduces the amount of moisture in your skin to conserve water for more important functions, like keeping your blood flowing smoothly. If you are chronically dehydrated, your face will look drawn and any wrinkles will become more obvious.

A little-known dietary cause of dehydration is super-high protein diets. Water loss accounts for the rapid loss of weight at the beginning of these diets. During the first phase of a very-high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, your body burns any glycogen that is stored in your muscles or liver—a process that releases a lot of water. Additionally, the breakdown of amino acids from protein produces urea, which requires large amounts of water to be excreted from the body. And without adequate carbohydrates, fats cannot be metabolized completely, and this leads to the formation of ketone bodies, which have a strong diuretic effect on your kidneys. Bottom line: high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets cause water loss from the body, which can ultimately affect the plumpness of your skin, leaving it dry and wrinkled. So what can do you to keep your skin hydrated adequately?

For one, drink plenty of water and green tea, my favorite beauty beverages. In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, it’s important to consume quality fats to keep the lipids in your skin abundant and flexible. The fats you eat are incorporated into your cell membranes, helping the insides of the cells stay plumped up with water. When you don’t eat enough healthy fats, skin cells become more permeable and lose moisture. When that happens, your skin may get dry and sensitive, sometimes even red and rough.

Consuming essential fatty acids helps reverse skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and dry, red, itchy skin. Qual-ity fats, like the omega-3 fats found in walnuts and fish oils, are a key component of the lubricating layer that keeps skin moist and supple. Numerous studies have shown that consuming increased levels of fish oils helps keep the skin flexible and helps skin retain its moisture content. In one study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, volunteers with psoriasis took either capsules of supplementary fish oil or identical-looking capsules of olive oil. The fish oil group had statistically significant improvement in all parameters. Another study published in the American Academy of Dermatology found similar results.

Finally, for maximum hydration, consider limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine causes water loss from your body, including your skin. Additionally, alcohol has a diuretic effect, so in excess it can dehydrate your skin. You might be familiar with the effects of alcohol on your skin when you wake up the morning after a night of drinking! Your skin might look wrinkled and dry. Alcohol can also cause redness and flushing of the face, due to its ability to dilate blood vessels.

2. Age-Proof Your Skin with Antioxidants: As you read in Chapter 1, free radicals are electrically charged molecules produced by sun exposure, air pollution, and other toxins that attack the healthy cells of your body. Free radicals damage protein, DNA, cell membranes, mitochondria, and more.

One free radical can initiate a cascade of damage. Many free radicals together can cause extensive damage. As freeradical damage accumulates, irritation develops at the cellular level. In your skin this eventually manifests itself as fine lines, wrinkles, uneven and dull skin tone, and loss of firmness.

When free radicals target skin’s support structures, your skin becomes a battlefield. When free radicals attack elastin, it loses its stretch, making skin saggy. When they attack collagen, this causes cross-linking of the proteins, making skin stiff. In addition, free-radical damage activates enzymes called metalloproteinases, which break down collagen, leading to wrinkles and sagging.

This sounds like a whole army of problems, but the good news is you can protect yourself simply by upping your intake of antioxidants. The body makes its own antioxidants, but it can’t keep up with the internal demand—especially these days, when it is exposed to toxins, pollution, x-rays, and other aspects of modern life that cause oxidative stress. Also, the levels of the body’s natural antioxidants decrease with age, so adding antioxidants to your diet becomes even more important.

BETA-CAROTENE. As an antioxidant, beta-carotene protects lipid membranes from free-radical damage that can lead to skin aging. This important beauty nutrient also gets converted to vitamin A in the body, which helps to keep skin smooth. While it is beneficial and safe to consume betacarotene from natural sources, I do not recommend betacarotene supplements since they may pose risk for harm.

Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you’ll find significant amounts of beta-carotene in sweet potatoes, spinach, kiwi, and tomatoes. You can also add beta-carotene to your diet with foods like pumpkin, carrots, chilies, mangoes, cantaloupe, and apricots.

VITAMIN C. A highly effective antioxidant and collagenboosting nutrient, vitamin C is a multitasking vitamin you’ll be reading about again for its other valuable properties. Because you can’t make vitamin C, and because it is water soluble and does not hang around in the body, you need to consume fresh vitamin C in your diet every day. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is note-worthy because it examined the effect of diet, not supplements, on the skin of everyday women.

This study found that a diet high in vitamin C was associated with less dryness and less noticeable wrinkles. In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C promotes healing and cellular repair and is especially important for skin because it is involved in collagen production. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you’ll find significant amounts of vitamin C in kiwi, blueberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes. You can also get your daily dose of vitamin C from foods like peppers, oranges, strawberries, lemons, and broccoli (see the section on vitamin C in Body Beautiful).

VITAMIN E. Since it is fat soluble, vitamin E can protect lipid membranes in the skin from free-radical damage. Vitamin E is a good team player: it works with other antioxidants to make them more effective and boosts the effectiveness of certain enzymes that are needed for good skin health, including glutathione peroxidase. Among my Top10 Beauty Foods, vitamin E is found in blueberries, kiwifruit, spinach, tomatoes, and walnuts. Other foods rich in vitamin E include wheat germ, sunflower seeds, safflower and sunflower oils, almonds, peaches, prunes, cabbage, asparagus, and avocados.

SELENIUM. Like vitamin E, selenium plays well with others. It helps create antioxidant enzymes and boosts the potency of vitamin E. Selenium is important for skin because it is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins. It can protect skin quality and elasticity because the antioxidant properties of selenoproteins help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you’ll find significant amounts of selenium in salmon and oysters. Brazil nuts are an extraordinarily good source of selenium. Other selenium-rich foods include tuna, crab, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, garlic, eggs, and brown rice. (For more information, see details on selenium in Top 10 Beauty Foods.)

ZINC. This essential mineral is found in almost every cell and plays many roles in the body. Multiple studies have shown that as an antioxidant zinc helps prevent the creation of free radicals and helps guard against free-radical damage in the skin as well as elsewhere in the body. While all of our tissues contain zinc, it is especially important for skin and is five to six times more concentrated in the epidermis than in the dermis. Like vitamin E, zinc helps stabilize the lipid membranes in the skin and protects them from freeradical damage. Among my Top10 Beauty Foods, oysters are an extraordinarily good source of zinc, and yogurt is also helpful. Other foods that contain zinc include seafood, beef, lamb, eggs, whole grains, and nuts.

ANTHOCYANINS. These antioxidant phytonutrients give some fruits and vegetables their red, blue, or purple hues. Early studies suggest that anthocyanins may be particularly helpful for skin because they prevent free-radical damage to cells and neutralize the enzymes that break down connective tissue. By protecting collagen, anthocyanins help prevent wrinkles. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you’ll find significant amounts of anthocyanins in blueberries. Anthocyanins are also found in other types of berries, cherries, pomegranates, plums, red cabbage, grapes, and apples.

ANTIOXIDANTS ARE KEY TO ANTIAGING AND BEAUTY. My Beauty Diet is designed to provide you with several servings of beautyboosting antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables every day. No single vitamin pill can come close to providing the health benefits of whole, natural foods and all the nutrients they provide. In nature many different kinds of antioxidants— some identified, some not—appear together in one food. This is part of nature’s plan, because antioxidants support each other in the body. Even in scientific research using supplements, antioxidants are more effective when combined.

A study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology investigated the effects of a combination of antioxidant supplements on skin. Thirty-nine volunteers with healthy skin consumed an antioxidant mix for 12 weeks. Group 1 received a combination of lycopene, lutein, beta-carotene, alphatocopherol (vitamin E), and selenium. Group 2 consumed a mixture of lycopene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, and selenium. Group 3 was the control group that received no antioxidants. Even though everyone started with normal skin, roughness and scaling were improved in the first two groups, while no changes were observed in the placebo group. Since studies have reported risks with high levels of vitamin supplements, I recommend getting your antioxidants from foods first—specifically, my antioxidant-rich beauty foods and others mentioned in this book. If you find that your diet is lacking in antioxidants, I recommend taking a multivitamin/multimineral supplement, which will boost your antioxidant intake while avoiding potentially toxic levels.

THREE WAYS TO GET SKIN-PROTECTING ANTIOXIDANTS. If your appearance is suffering because you have not been eating enough antioxidant-rich foods, there are three ways to help get your skin back into shape:

1. Eat foods every day that are full of natural antioxidants. The antioxidants will work together to fight free radicals and will also benefit your health in many other ways. In addition, fresh, whole foods contain other micronutrients that have their own various beauty benefits.

2. Apply topical treatments that contain antioxidants. The combination of consuming antioxidant-rich foods and applying topical antioxidants can fully arm you with the best possible antiaging protection. Look for foods and productsthat pack these topical antioxidants: vitamins C and E, zinc, green tea, grape seed, selenium, resveratrol (from the skin of red grapes), pomegranate, Arctic cloudberries, lycopene, quercetin (found in apples, tea, and onions), and coenzyme Q10.

3. Take a multivitamin. There is no substitute for eating real food with multiple, fresh micronutrients. However, if you are dietarily challenged, it’s better to get vitamins from supplements than to risk antioxidant deficiency.

THE ANTIWRINKLE DIET. If you’ve read my first book, Strong, Slim, and 30!, you may be familiar with the study I’m about to describe. If not, you’re about to get some great news. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, examined the diets of 453 adults living in Sweden, Greece, and Australia. After researchers adjusted for confounding factors such as age and smoking, they found that individuals who consumed higher amounts of vegetables, fish, olive oil, and legumes were less prone to skin damage and wrinkling in areas of the skin that were exposed to the sun than those who had a high intake of meat, butter, margarine, high-fat dairy, and sugary foods. In particular, processed red meat, soft drinks, and pastries were associated with extensive skin wrinkling, while foods such as yogurt (one of my Top 10 Beauty Foods), beans, green leafy vegeta-bles, asparagus, nuts, olives, cherries, apples, pears, melons, dried fruits, tea, and water were associated with less skin aging. In fact, diet accounted for 32 percent of the differences seen in skin wrinkling! My Beauty Diet maximizes your intake of antiwrinkling foods, such as those mentioned in the study.

3. Protect Your Skin with Edible Sunscreen: I’m sorry to disappoint you sun worshipers out there, but if you want to damage your skin, sunbathe. The harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation are well established. Sun exposure generates so many free radicals that the body can’t handle them all, resulting in photoaging, immunosuppression, and the possibility of skin cancer. Melanoma, a very serious form of skin cancer, is rapidly increasing: The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008 there will be 62,480 new cases of melanoma in the United States.

Even a brief encounter between your unprotected skin and the sun can cause sunburn (medical term: erythema). Your skin turns red and may even swell (medical term: edema). Sun exposure damages the lipids in your skin and creates free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and inflammation on a cellular level. Free radicals consume collagen and elastin, the fibers that support skin structure, causing wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. Free radicals also stimulate the synthesis of melanin, which leads to darker skin pigmentation (tanning). After just one burn, the increase in cell division activity in the skin lasts for days or even weeks, making the skin thicker. With continued exposure to ultraviolet light, the skin changes in appearance and texture, eventually becoming dry and leathery, with wrinkling and sagging.

Here’s an idea you can really sink your teeth into: in addition to using a really good sunscreen, you can protect the entire surface of your skin from the inside out by adopting an antioxidant-rich diet. To save your skin, you’ll want to add a variety of photoprotective foods to your diet. Studies have shown that eating these foods reduces burning and other damage caused by sun exposure. Following are some photoprotective micronutrients that you can add to your diet.After you consume them, they are distributed into your tis- sues, where they provide systemic photoprotection. With a little dietary effort, and proper protection, sun damage is completely avoidable.

CAROTENOIDS. Dietary carotenoids, found in foods such as watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, tomatoes, and mangoes, may protect you against sunburn and contribute to lifelong protection against harmful UV radiation. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that daily supplementation with carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, helped to decrease redness in skin when skin was exposed to ultraviolet light.

Beta-carotene is used to help individuals who have erythropoietic protoporphyria, a disorder that makes their skin sensitive to visible light. Sun lotions made to absorb UV light is useless to these people. However, high doses of carotenoids effectively decrease their photosensitivity by quenching free radicals. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, beta-carotene can be found in significant amounts in sweet potatoes, spinach, kiwifruit, and tomatoes.

Lycopene, another photoprotective micronutrient, is the major carotenoid in tomatoes. Research published in Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences shows that photoprotective effects are evident after volunteers eat tomato-derived products rich in lycopene. After 12 weeks of lycopene intervention, their sensitivity to UV-induced sunburn was decreased. The study concluded that dietary carotenoids such as lycopene may contribute to lifelong protection against harmful UV radiation. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, lycopene is found in significant amounts in tomatoes.

COCOA FLAVANOLS. Many studies have investigated the effects of the flavanols in cocoa. One recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of repetitive intakes of cocoa rich in flavanols on skin sensitivity to UV exposure, skin structure, and texture. Two groups of women consumed either a high-flavanol or low-flavanol drink. UV-induced redness and irritation were decreased significantly in the highflavanol group, by 15 percent and 25 percent, after 6 and 12 weeks of “treatment.” No change was seen in the low-flavanol group. Researchers concluded that dietary flavanols from cocoa contribute to photoprotection. (For more on the benefits of cocoa flavanols, see the information on dark chocolate in Top 10 Beauty Foods.)

GREEN TEA. This beauty beverage has many benefits, but most people don’t know it is an edible sunscreen. Studies suggest that the polyphenols in green tea are photoprotective and can prevent photoaging. The polyphenols in green tea inhibit sunburn, inflammation, immunosuppression, and oxidative stress due to exposure to ultraviolet light. This is true for both topical treatment and oral consumption of green tea polyphenols.

SELENIUM. In early studies, oral selenium markedly protected mice against UV damage and increased the levels of antioxidant enzymes in their skin. Selenium preserves tissue elasticity and helps protect the body from skin cancer caused by sun exposure. Selenium supplements may pose risks, however, so be sure to choose food sources of selenium. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, oysters and salmon contain significant amounts of selenium. Other sources of selenium include tuna, crab, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, garlic, eggs, and brown rice. (For more information on selenium, see Top 10 Beauty Foods.)

OMEGA-3S. Studies have shown that fish oil—which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids—has a photoprotective effect on skin. A diet rich in omega-3s raises the skin’s threshold of response to ultraviolet light, so sunburn is less severe. In one study, individuals added fish oils to their diets, while the other study group received a placebo. After four weeks, researchers discovered a small increase in the MED (minimal erythema dose, or the smallest amount of UV radiation needed to cause sunburn) among individuals in the fish oil group. Researchers determined that these findings corresponded to a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) slightly greater than one. In other words, a low dose of fish oils was found to protect against the sun’s rays. Other research has found similar results. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you can obtain omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, spinach, and walnuts. Other sources include mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, flax, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and whole grain products. (For more information on the essential fatty acids, see Body Beautiful.)

VITAMINS AND SUNSCREENS. Do vitamins in sunscreens provide additional protection against damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays? At least one study suggests yes: a combination of vitamins C and E in sunscreens can be beneficial. The study, from Duke University, found that when pigskin was irradiated with ultraviolet light, the combination of vitamins C and E provided four times more protection against sunburn than a placebo cream. Plus, the vitamins provided protection against DNA damage in skin cells that can lead to mutations that cause skin cancer. How do the vitamins relate to the SPF? Generally speaking, you can improve the SPF of sunscreen with the addition of vitamins C and E by a factor of 1 to 4. In other words, if you have an SPF of 15, maybe you will get an SPF of 19 with thevitamins added.

ON THE HORIZON. Would you believe the next big thing could be a topical solution that protects against sunburn . . . made from broccoli sprouts? Although it is applied topically, this substance is not a sunscreen, and it does not work by filtering out UV light and preventing its entry into the skin. Instead, it works inside the skin by boosting the production of protective enzymes that defend cells against UV damage. The topical solution can even be applied three days before you go out in the sun, because its protection lasts for several days.

4. Boost Circulation with Skin-Friendly Foods: Exercise brings a glow to your cheeks because of the increase in circulation, which helps keep your skin hydrated, promotes healing, brings micronutrients and oxygen to your skin cells, and whisks away dead cells and toxins. However, you can’t exactly drop to the floor and do 20 crunches every time you want a healthy glow. Blushing works, but there are side effects involving your dignity. Following are skin-friendly foods that can help give you a beautiful complexion.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS. Omega-3 fats found in fish oils offer circulatory benefits by reducing blood pressure, preventing platelet clotting, and maintaining the elasticity of arterial walls. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you can obtain a healthy dose of omega-3–rich fish oil from salmon. Other sources of omega-3–rich fish oils include mackerel, herring, sardines, and trout.

WALNUTS. Luckily for us, walnuts have a beneficial effect on circulation because they contain L-arginine, from which the body can create nitric oxide, which opens up blood vessels. An article published in the journal Circulation describes a study in which participants with high serum cholesterol levels ate two different carefully constructed diets, one that included olive oil and another that replaced 32 percent of the calories from olive oil with walnuts. Four hours after a meal containing walnuts, brachial artery reactivity was measured by ultrasound. Vasodilation improved significantly after the walnut meal, compared with the olive oil meal. This means walnuts have a direct and almost immediate effect on the blood vessels, helping them open wider to keep blood flowing freely to all areas of the body.

COCOA. A delicious way to promote circulation to your skin is to drink cocoa or eat dark chocolate with high levels of cocoa flavanols. Researchers have found that cocoa causes an increase in blood flow to the skin, with a corresponding increase in hydration and skin density. The Mars company did a study using its Cocoapro product and found that women who drank high-flavanol cocoa for 12 weeks showed significant improvements in their skin, including an increase in skin hydration and a decrease in skin roughness and scaling.

Researchers attributed this improvement to an increase in blood flow to the surface of the skin. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition was based on participants drinking just one serving of cocoa. Within an hour, blood flow to the skin was increased. The article noted that regular consumption of cocoa leads to a significant increase in blood flow in cutaneous (skin) and subcutaneous tissue (beneath the skin).

5. Renew Your Skin with Beauty Nutrients: Like Madonna, your skin is constantly reinventing itself. On the surface, old cells slough off and are replaced by new ones. Underneath, the cells in the dermis begin to lose their strength and flexibility. At the same time as the supporting structures of your skin begin to break down, the production of fresh collagen slows, so skin starts to wrinkle and sag.

Collagen makes up 75 percent of the skin, so many people are looking for ways to restore it. It is possible to get collagen injected directly into wrinkles and to buy collagen creams that promise to rebuild the skin (they can’t—the molecules of collagen are too large for the skin to absorb). The Japanese even sell marshmallows with collagen added—although there is no evidence that eating collagen will make any difference to your skin.

To rejuvenate your skin, you’re going to need fresh collagen that is created on the inside. Following are some ways to enhance collagen synthesis by adding whole, natural, skinboosting foods to your diet.

PROTEIN. Amino acids are the building blocks your body uses to make collagen, so if you want fresh new skin cells, you need to eat some high-quality protein every day. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, the highest amount of protein is found in salmon, yogurt, walnuts, and oysters. Other good sources of protein include fish, shellfish, turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, soybeans, eggs, nuts, and dairy products.

VITAMIN C. Because vitamin C it is necessary to the production of collagen, it is important to consume lots of vitamin C–rich foods. Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate the growth of collagen when applied topically, so it is often included in all kinds of antiaging cosmetics. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, significant amounts of vitamin C are found in kiwi, blueberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes. Vitamin C is also found in foods like peppers, oranges, strawberries, lemons, and broccoli.

VITAMIN A. A key beauty nutrient, vitamin A is important to skin renewal because it is involved in the proper growth, repair, and maintenance of the skin and helps control sebum levels. We know vitamin A has special significance for the skin because a deficiency of vitamin A makes the skin dry and flaky. Vitamin A is so helpful to skin that it is used in prescription medications, both oral and topical, to combat acne and other problems. More preformed vitamin A from supplements is not necessarily better, however: if you choose a multivitamin, check that at least 20 percent comes from beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, animal sources of vitamin A are oysters, yogurt, and salmon. Other sources include milk, cheddar cheese, and eggs. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, you’ll find significant amounts of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A synthesis, in sweet potatoes, spinach, kiwi, and tomatoes. You can also add beta-carotene to your diet with foods like pumpkin, carrots, chilies, mangoes, cantaloupe, and apricots.

ANTHOCYANINS. In addition to their antioxidant properties, anthocyanins help stabilize the collagen matrix by means of cross-linking. This means that as your skin renews itself, you’ll want these phytonutrients available to strengthen your connective tissue. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, anthocyanins are found in blueberries. They are also found in other blue, red, and purple foods, including other types of berries, cherries, pomegranates, plums, red cabbage, grapes, and apples.

VITAMIN B COMPLEX. The B complex includes eight vitamins important to skin renewal because they are essential to cell reproduction. A deficiency of the B vitamin riboflavin can interfere with proper collagen synthesis, and deficiencies of other Bs can cause problems from scaly skin to acne. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, the best source of thiamine (B1) and biotin (B7) is walnuts, the best source of riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5) is yogurt, the best source of niacin (B3) is wild salmon, the best source of folate (B9) is spinach, and the best source of cobalamin (B12)—which is available only from animal sources—is oysters. Spinach, walnuts, and salmon are all good sources of pyridoxine (B6).

ZINC. Zinc is important to skin renewal because it is needed for the synthesis of collagen and elastin. Zinc has a special affinity for the skin and has been shown to speed wound healing and may improve the symptoms of acne. Among my Top 10Beauty Foods, an amazing amount of zinc is found in oysters, and yogurt is a good source as well. You can add more zinc to your diet with seafood, beef, lamb, eggs, whole grains, and nuts.

SILICON. The second most common element on the surface of the Earth (after oxygen), silicon is found in the human body in the highest concentrations in skin and hair. A deficiency of silicon is characterized by poor skin quality, dry hair, brittle fingernails, and arterial disease. As a component of collagen, silicon is important to the proper integrity of the skin. With age, the silicon content of the skin tends to decline more than it declines in other tissues. This has led to an interest indietary silicon supplements. There also is growing interest in topical silicon-based products in the cosmetics industry. High-fiber diets contain lots of silicon, the element found in whole grains, bananas, string beans, cereals, fruit, and dairy food. Highly processed foods contain little silicon.

6. Stay Away from Sugar: We all know we should avoid sugar. It tastes great, but it adds empty calories to our diet, elevates our blood sugar levels, and throws the body into fat-storage mode. But here’s another reason to stay away from sugar. Most of my clients are surprised to hear that eating sugar can sabotage your skin! Here’s how it works. When blood sugar levels are high, sugar molecules can permanently bond to proteins, including the collagen in your skin—a process known as glycation. This process produces chemical compounds called Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs) that cross-link with adjacent strands of protein. When this occurs, the strands of protein that support your skin can no longer move freely, making tissues stiff and inflexible. This makes skin tougher, saggier, and more wrinkled. Glycation and cross-linking also can cause inflammatory responses.

You already know that cookies, soda, sugar-coated cereal, and ice cream have lots of sugar. A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. (One teaspoon of sugar has 15 calories.) The foods to watch out for are those that seem like they might be good for you but actually contain hidden sugar, such as fruit drinks, ketchup, commercially made granola bars and bran muffins, and some exotic waters and energy drinks.

7. Check for Food Allergies: Food allergies are often the culprit behind inflammations of the skin, including redness, hives, swelling, and eczema. The symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities range from mild to severe. You could have a moderate allergy to certain foods without being aware of it.

When you have an extreme food allergy, your body has a full-on inflammatory reaction for the wrong reason. It believes that molecules of wheat or egg or soy are a threat, and it wages a systemic allergic reaction that makes your throat swell up and your skin erupt in hives. Even a minuscule amount of allergen can immediately ignite another inflammatory response.

Many people have milder forms of food allergies that they don’t even know about. This means on a regular basis they are eating foods that activate their immune system, causing constant, low-level inflammation. If you know you have mild food allergies or sensitivities, don’t try to get away with eating “just a little” of the food item to which you are allergic. This just keeps your immune system constantly upregulated.

If you suspect you may have food allergies but aren’t sure what they are, try the elimination diet—it works! You begin by eliminating foods from your diet that tend to cause allergies.

Gradually you reintroduce different foods, waiting to see if your body shows signs of sensitivity. If your skin reacts when you consume specific foods, then by eliminating any foods to which you are sensitive, you can reduce inflammation and its associated symptoms. By choosing foods that do not challenge your immune system, you restore your clear, glowing complexion.

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