Is your way of noshing helping or hurting your complexion? We asked top docs for their take on the face-friendliness of six popular diets. Read on to see if yours passes the beauty test, and find out how you can alter what you eat for A-plus skin.
The lowdown: Fish, leafy greens, olive oil, and fruit are the stars of this heart-healthy diet. But the benefits don’t end there—eating Mediterranean may also protect against melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, a recent Italian study suggests. On the cosmetic front, omega-3 fatty acids in fish help keep skin-cell membranes strong and elastic.
Olive oil, tomatoes, and red wine also have antioxidants that help block the chemical reactions that lead to sun damage, explains Leslie Baumann, MD, chief executive officer of the Baumann Cosmetic and Research Institute in Miami Beach, Florida.
The lowdown: Whether you skip meat and other animal products for your health, ethical reasons, or both, you probably eat more fresh produce and whole grains as a result—good news for your skin. The antioxidants in these eats neutralize the free radicals that contribute to wrinkles, brown spots, and other signs of aging.
Veggie diets tend to be low in fat, so incorporate ground flaxseeds and olive and safflower oils to help your skin retain water, making it more supple, Dr. Baumann says.
The lowdown: Cutting back on white bread, pasta, and refined sugar can also lower the stress hormone cortisol and minimize breakouts, says dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. Plans that swap in whole grains, fresh produce, and lean meats also up antioxidants, blemish-busting zinc, and collagen-building protein.
But beware of meat-heavy plans. "Too much animal fat can result in an increased production of free radicals, which are thought to interfere with normal cellular processing," says aesthetic dermatologist Lisa Airan, MD.
Drink lots of water to keep skin hydrated. Choose fish and other lean proteins, not just red meat. Eat antioxidant-rich leafy greens daily.
The lowdown: Cutting down on saturated fat is great for your heart and waistline. A diet low in animal fat also stems the production of free radicals that can prematurely age skin, Dr. Airan says.
Still, your skin needs some fat, especially the good kind found in nuts and olive oil. Fat helps your body absorb complexion-friendly antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, and strengthens cell membranes—and ultimately your epidermis—for a dewier, more supple face.
The lowdown: Raw-foodists—who nosh mainly on produce, nuts, and sprouted beans and grains—believe that not cooking food preserves its natural enzymes, aiding digestion, energy, and weight loss. Though these claims aren’t universally accepted by doctors, there’s no denying that these foods make for a happy complexion. What’s more, the healthy oils in nuts, avocados, and olive oil keep skin cell membranes strong and pliant. The downside: "When you eat very little meat, it’s challenging to get enough of the building blocks for collagen," Dr. Airan says