Written for Elle.com
Give your topical creams some backup, and care for your face naturally, as well. Nutritionist Dana James shared her favorite things to eat for a flawless complexion.
You’ve probably used papaya in a facial scrub, but are you eating it, too? The fruit is a vitamin C serum and exfoliant all-in-one. It contains two days’ worth of vitamin C, which helps to brighten and tighten skin. It’s packed with vitamin A compounds, which regulate cell turnover in much the same way that a topical retinol-A does, albeit gentler. Papaya also contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which helps decrease redness in the skin by combating inflammation.
The Easy Recipes: A golden smoothie made with papaya, almond milk, and raw honey is a skin elixir. Or try fish topped with a papaya, carrot, and cilantro salsa.
You’ve heard of coconut water. Now it’s time to get acquainted with its even richer counterpart, coconut kefir, which is made by fermenting coconut water with beneficial bacteria. A shot of coconut kefir contains 15 billion CFU of probiotics, which is three times more than most commercial yogurt. These beneficial bacteria keep skin clear by crowding out pathogenic microbes, which can cause acne and hormonal imbalances. Coconut kefir is naturally sweet, which means it can also help to appease cravings for our skin’s biggest foe, sugar.
The Easy Recipes: Drink coconut kefir first thing in the morning on an empty stomach; this will keep more of the probiotics alive.
Black Sesame Seeds
If late nights, alcohol, and indulgent food have taken a toll (no judging!), black sesame seeds help restore your skin’s radiance and elasticity. Packed with essential fats, oleic acid, amino acids, potassium, and fiber, these seeds are so abundant in skin-beautifying nutrients that they deserve to be added to every meal—and probably could be!
The Easy Recipes: Sprinkle black sesame seeds over an organic green salad, add them to avocado on toast, or toss them through a quinoa salad.
Beets reverse dull skin by stimulating the lymphatic system and removing waste from our cells. Beets can also increase the oxygen-carrying ability in the blood by 400 percent, bringing brightness and vitality to the skin. They may even help reduce the appearance of cellulite by strengthening the dermal skin layer.
The Easy Recipes: 16 ounces of beet juice will have skin looking peachy and pretty for up to 12 hours. If juice isn’t your thing, try a roasted beet salad or grate raw beets into a spinach salad.
Lemon juice helps remove fat-soluble toxins and old hormones, which may trigger breakouts and worsen oily skin. Lemon juice also emulsifies fats, which helps keep skin hydrated. Not to be left out, the lemon rind contains the flavonoid limonoid, which kills bacteria in the mouth and intestines, preventing bacterial-driven acne flare-ups.
The Easy Recipes: Starting your day with hot water and lemon is no secret in the beauty world, but to get the detoxifying benefits, you’ll want to use the juice of at least half a lemon. Also add more lemon into your diet by using a lemon and olive oil dressing (versus a balsamic vinaigrette) and by topping sautéed vegetables with organic lemon zest.
Red cabbage contains anthocyanins, the same purple pigment found in blueberries. These phytonutrients help decrease the formation of wrinkles and inhibit hyperpigmentation. Red cabbage has six times more vitamin C than green cabbage. It also contains the detoxifying nutrient sulforaphane, which helps clear toxins from the body that can lead to fine lines.
The Easy Recipes: Red cabbage looks pretty added to a kale salad and makes a refreshing summer slaw when paired with grated carrots and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
If you’re only eating pumpkin seeds in October, you’re missing out. Loaded with zinc, vitamin E, sulfur, and omega-3 fats, the seeds heal, nourish, restore, and hydrate the skin. They can also repair blemish marks when you’ve had a breakout.
The Easy Recipes: Eat them raw because their delicate fats are destroyed when exposed to too much heat. Snack on them, toss them into an arugula salad, or add a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds to a smoothie.
Heading to the beach or poolside? Start your day with a fresh tomato juice. The lycopene in tomatoes helps prevent UVA and UVB damage. An eight-ounce glass gives you a sun protection factor (SPF) of 5, so don’t forget to add some sunscreen! Tomato juice also brings back life to dull skin—that’s why a Virgin Mary is served at brunch (okay, perhaps not, but that’s why you’ll drink them)!
The Easy Recipes: To avoid pesticides, drink organic tomato juice. Alternatively, enjoy a tomato and watermelon gazpacho; watermelon has similar sun-protecting properties as tomatoes.