1. Dark, leafy greens
Function: Combat acne and help prevent break-outs.
Richly coloured, leafy greens such as spinach are full of anti-oxidants, which are essential for healthy skin and warding off dangerous free radicals that can lead to skin cancers. They're also a great source of iron. "Women who don't get enough iron sometimes find dark circles under their eyes," says Elizabeth Somer‚ author of The Origin Diet (Henry Holt). Leafy greens also contain zinc. In one Swedish study, acne-prone patients who added a zinc supplement to their diets saw 85% of skin blemishes clear up after three months. Zinc also helps break down damaged collagen‚ allowing new collagen to form.
2. Olive oil
Function: Defeats dryness in skin and promotes radiance.
A certain amount of fats and oils are essential in a diet and are key to a smooth‚ supple skin. People with persistently dry, flaky skin will find that adding fats and oils to their regular food intake results in moister, more elastic, youthful-looking skin within a few weeks. One tablespoon of olive oil a day, either in salads or used to prepare food, is usually sufficient to replenish dull, dry skin. And if clogged pores are a problem‚ the essential fats in olive oil help clear them by thinning the oils they secrete.
Function: Moisturises, helps eliminate toxins and promotes general well-being.
"Dehydrated skin looks ashen and grey and hangs off the face‚" says Dr Ncoza Ndlova, cosmetic, occupational and general dermatologist. "Water is the best dull skin reviver." Hydrated skin looks moist and plump‚ which makes existing wrinkles less obvious. To see results, make sure you drink at least eight glasses of water daily – more if you work out.
Function: Keeps skin elastic and youthful.
Skin-sensational broccoli packs some of the highest levels of the anti-oxidant Vitamins A and C in any food‚ as well as skin cancer-fighting chemicals‚ says Wilma Bergfeld‚ MD of clinical research in the department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, USA. And Vitamin C helps keep skin elastic and prevents bruising, while Vitamin A aids in healing acne from the inside out by boosting resistance to infection‚ says Dr Nicholas Perricone‚ assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine, USA.
Function: Fight wrinkles and promote firmness.
Berries are a great source of polyphenols (powerful anti-oxidants that are currently being studied for their anti-ageing capabilities). Berries have also been shown to protect short-term memory and balance. Blueberries pack three times the anti-oxidant punch of an orange and a hefty handful of strawberries contains all the anti-oxidant Vitamin C your body requires each day to reconstruct your collagen‚ the "scaffolding" that keeps skin from sagging.
Function: Reduces inflammation and helps lubricate skin.
Salmon is teeming with omega-3 fatty acids‚ which attack arid skin areas and help reduce inflamed blemishes. These fatty acids are also found in mackerel‚ bass and trout. Alternatively, 2g of fish-oil supplement (available at health stores) contains the same amount of healthy fats as 114g of salmon. Or try adding flaxseed oil and nuts to your morning cereal. Fatty fish and nuts also contain zinc‚ which heals acne flare-ups and increases cell growth.
Function: Prevents flaking skin and wrinkles.
Melons are full of carotene-like compounds such as lycopene‚ which reduces the deep-down collagen damage that causes wrinkles. Three slices a day are recommended. Melon rind is also a great source of beta carotene‚ which is converted to Vitamin A. This nutrient prevents keratonic plugs‚ the rough patches that are often found on the back of the arms and elbows.
Function: Prevents blemishes.
Whether in its original fuzzy form or transformed into tofu‚ the soya bean is a skin-saver. It's full of chemicals that act like oestrogen and may help prevent acne. Dermatologists recommend eating several servings per week (85g of tofu or half a cup of soya beans equal one serving). Another soy bonus is that it's loaded with Vitamin E‚ which boosts new cell growth, heals scar tissue and keeps skin moist.
Function: Help prevent wrinkles and promote a healthy glow.
Crunch all you want – carrots are bursting with the beta-carotene your body transforms into Vitamin A‚ which is key to keeping wrinkled skin at bay. You'll also find this nutrient in other orange fruits and vegetables‚ such as apricots and sweet potatoes.
Function: Eliminates toxins and encourages cell growth.
Go for the slow-cooked‚ non-instant oatmeal traditionally served as a breakfast porridge. You'll get a dose of fibre that‚ once converted‚ helps filter toxins and raises your clear-skin potential. It's also rich in Vitamin B‚ which promotes new skin cell growth.