If winter winds and freezing temperatures are causing your skin to go into panic mode—dryness, redness, all around lackluster-ness—your first instinct is probably to stock up your medicine cabinet with heavy-duty moisturizers and soothing cleansers. But, as it turns out, stocking up your pantry with super foods is just as important.
Beauty begins in a very un-beautiful place: your intestines. Your gut is a complex ecosystem of bacteria that processes everything you eat and nourishes all your major organs—including your biggest organ, your skin. “The healthier your gut is, the healthier your skin will be, too," says LA-based nutritionist, wellness expert and celebrity health coach Kelly LeVeque. “Your intestine is kind of an idiot though. It's going to absorb anything you put in it," she says. If you put the right stuff in, you'll get glowing skin out of it. “When everything is in balance, your body is better able to absorb nutrients from all the delicious healthy foods you eat and can get to work reducing inflammation and clearing your complexion," she says.
“Healthy skin needs a diet rich in hydrating omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins for collagen and elastin production and trace minerals for repair, protection and cell regeneration," says Kelly. For a complete inside out strategy, she approaches her skin care the same way she thinks about her recipes: ingredients first. “The more simple ingredients I get with my skin care, the better my skin looks and feels," she says. Her go-to: a gentle cleanser enriched with soothing aloe every night. And in her moisturizer, she always looks for squalene, calendula and hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate and nourish.
Now, wondering what foods to shop for? Read on for a few of Kelly's beauty-boosting favorites, plus her go-to recipes.
One of the building blocks of healthy skin, fatty acids, are an essential part of skin's natural moisture barrier. “Fat is really what makes glowing skin and shiny hair," says Kelly. “When you don't have enough fat, you can see it in lackluster-looking skin."
Look for omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like sardines, oysters and wild salmon. “Sardines are the ocean's gift to your skin. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin D and vitamin B12, these fresh goodies help boost cell regeneration and the production of collagen and elastin to plump from the inside out," says Kelly. “I like to say, a can a day will keep the plastic surgeon away."
The secret to great skin always has been, and always will be, all about hydration, both outside and inside. But what you might not know is that true hydration goes beyond just chugging water. “Foods like cucumbers and lemons have really high water content and are more slowly absorbed by your body than regular drinking water, meaning longer lasting hydration," says Kelly. Her favorite way to sneak in a little extra shot of hydration: Add a squirt of lemon to whatever you're eating, especially if you're eating out.
And make the water you do drink count. “Drinking water between meals is way better than drinking it with meals," says Kelly. “If you drink while you eat, you're diluting digestion and your body isn't able to fully unlock the nutrition." So drink up between meals and get more nutritional benefits from your food during mealtime. Win, win.
There's a reason kale is everyone's favorite super green. “This anti-inflammatory veggie is chock full of antioxidants, vitamins A and C, fiber and calcium," says Kelly. “The beta-carotene delivers a youthful glow and neutralizes free radicals. Not to mention, per calorie, kale has more iron than beef."
Spinach is also a good source of omega-3s, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins B, C and E and will keep your eyes sparkling. Kale and spinach aren't your thing? All leafy greens contain folate which is a powerful nutrient used in DNA repair.
“Known for supporting liver and kidney functions, parsley acts as a metabolism booster while removing toxins. Cilantro is rich in antioxidants that prevent damage from free radicals and it helps the body purge 'heavy metals' consumed in non-organic foods," says Kelly.
Packed with antioxidants, wild blueberries and pomegranates are a great source of vitamin A, known to normalize oil production. Rich in vitamin C, lemon will help your body purge excess water weight and balance the sodium and potassium levels in your cells. “Add a slice of lemon to a mug of warm water in the morning to encourage digestion," recommends Kelly.
One 200-calorie serving of walnuts has 2776 mg of omega-3 essential fatty acids and is a great source of protein and copper, a mineral that boosts collagen production.
“Slather it on the skin or suck down a spoonful and glow," says Kelly. It's antibacterial and antifungal, which is beneficial for maintaining clear skin. “When ingested, it is metabolized by the liver and used for energy instead of being stored as fat," she says.
Ready to get glowing? Try one of these simple, no-cook recipes. And for more of Kelly's delicious recipes, look for her new book Body Love, out March 2017.
Photos courtesy of Kelly LeVeque | Words: Hilary Presley