Eat for your looks

The secret to clear, glowing skin lies in what you eat. Here’s how the right diet can do wonders for your complexion.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The secret to clear, glowing skin lies in what you eat. Here’s how the right diet can do wonders for your complexion.

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Besides being the main culprit in causing obesity, sugar is also bad for your skin and ruins your smile. Scientists have found that sugar ages you faster and any dentist will tell you it’s a major risk factor for tooth decay, says nutritionist Lee Holmes, author of Eat Yourself Beautiful ($43.40 from Books Kinokuniya). “Refined sugars are the worst but even too much of the natural sugars found in fruit can be bad for your looks,” says Lee.


“Shellfish are a good source of minerals such as magnesium and zinc,” says dermatologist Dr Michael Freeman. These minerals help you make collagen, the protein responsible for skin elasticity and the replacement of dead skin cells. They also help prevent stretch marks, cold sores and thinning hair. “Have shellfish once a week and you’ll be doing your skin, hair and nails a favour,” adds Dr Freeman.

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Before you go crazy in the confectionary aisle, milk chocolate or white chocolate doesn’t do you any good whatsoever, says Lee. “Look for dark chocolate with 70 per cent cocoa or more,” she advises. Research shows that one of the many health benefits of flavanols, antioxidants found in chocolate, is that they can plump up skin, keep it hydrated and also protect it from sun damage.


You may believe that your survival depends on three square meals and a couple of healthy snacks a day but science shows otherwise, says Dr Freeman. “I don’t recommend total fasting but intermittently restricting food intake to 500 calories a day can have an amazing effect on the appetite-regulating hormone leptin,” he explains. “Doing this just twice a week will help you drop unwanted kilos and improve your skin health by allowing your body to rid itself of damaged cells.”

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They’ve been back on the menu since it was proven that they don’t raise cholesterol. “Eggs do, however, give you a boost of protein for tissue repair and contain all the B-vitamins as well as vitamins D, E and A, important for skin, hair and teeth,” says Lee. Two 60 g eggs will also provide a healthy serve of micronutrients like selenium and zinc for shiny hair and lovely skin.

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We need fats in our diets – even some saturated fats. “The truth is, some really healthy foods contain saturated fats, including eggs, fish, chicken and coconut,” says Lee. “The next time you’re in the dairy section, choose full fat instead of reduced-fat products. You should still avoid anything containing trans fats and make sure you get enough of the essential fatty acids like omega-3s that keep your skin supple, evenly toned and wrinkle-free,” advises Lee.


“Green smoothies have anti-ageing qualities and can even help undo the effects of sun damage,” says Dr Freeman. You can make a green smoothie by adding veggies like kale, spinach and celery to your morning juice. “Green tea is also good for your complexion because it contains antioxidants that protect your skin. If you don’t like green tea, studies have shown that the caffeine-free African tea, rooibos, is also packed with antioxidants.


Most of your dinner plate should be taken up with veggies, and you’ll need five serves a day to stay healthy and looking good. “Go for colourful vegetables including plenty of dark leafy greens, which are packed with nutrients,” says Lee. Remember that some skin-friendly minerals like selenium come directly from soil and are less likely to be present in hydroponic vegetables, so make sure to include farm or garden produce wherever possible.


Although their nutritional value varies, a small handful of raw, unsalted nuts can do wonders for your skin, providing vitamin E, plant sterols, and a whole range of micronutrients to keep you looking young. They do contain fats, but eating 30 g a day can also help keep your weight in check, says Lee.


Berries are full of anti-ageing phytochemicals, and vitamin C to help with skin repair and healthy gums, says Lee. The ellagic acid in berries can even prevent wrinkles and UV damage by blocking the enzymes that cause collagen breakdown as well as the molecules that trigger inflammation. W

Text: Bauer Syndication / Photos : corbis,

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