If you've looked closely in the mirror recently and have realized your skin just isn't as naturally radiant as it used to be, you may benefit from changing your diet to get that glow back. "There are three things to focus on when you want lit-from-within skin," says nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox book series. "Putting the right nutrients in, pulling the toxins out, and staying hydrated." The best part is that you don't have to wait very long to see the results: "It can take as little as three days to see a refreshed complexion," Snyder says. "Your skin turns over every 24 to 28 days, so you may see even greater change in a month. The longer you continue, the more your radiance will increase." Here, she shares the best—and worst—foods to eat for a youthful complexion.
One of the best hydrators out there, coconut also contains lauric acid, iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, Snyder says. It boosts collagen production, restores elasticity, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and undereye circles.
Sorry to say it, but sugar binds to protein and fat in a way that accelerates aging and free-radical damage. It also prevents the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E—all of those vitamins needed for healthy skin. ("Consuming sugar is one of the fastest ways to get undereye circles," Snyder says.)
Even though you may have heard it referred to as low glycemic, Snyder says its fructose content is actually higher than that in high fructose corn syrup, which promotes oxidative damage and the breakdown of collagen.
Dairy stimulates excess mucus, which builds up in the intestines and makes it hard for waste to be eliminated. Congestion like this leads to acne and dull skin.
This detoxifying food helps purify the blood of free radicals and, thanks to its fiber content, clears waste from the internal organs. ("When your body is toxin free, it shows on your skin," Snyder says.)
Skip: Excessive Animal Protein
Eating too much protein puts a heavy burden on the body to try to digest it all. "Not only do we not need all of that protein to function properly—quite the opposite—but all of that energy spent digesting is not spent repairing and cleansing the body, so it's robbing you of your beauty energy," Snyder says. "Girls and women ages 14 to 70+ only need about 46 grams of protein per day, and men need 52 to 56 grams."
Thanks to curcumin, an antioxidant flavonoid found in turmeric, this spice cleanses the blood so well that it leads to a healthier complexion, Snyder says. It also increases circulation and helps heal body tissue.
Skip: Trans Fats and Cooked Oils
You've probably heard of the dangers of trans fats, which can be found in processed, packaged, and fried foods, but you may not know that healthy fats like olive oil can turn into trans fats once heated. "The only oil I recommend cooking with is coconut oil, which is also good for your skin when used sparingly," Snyder says. "It's a saturated, cholesterol-free oil that remains stable up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. For many dishes though, like when you're sauteing garlic and onion for soup, you can just use vegetable broth or water."
Lemons help cleanse the liver, and are high in vitamin C and enzymes, which lead to fewer wrinkles, refreshed skin, and improved digestion. Snyder starts each day with a cup of hot water and lemon.
If you can't pronounce it or don't recognize an ingredient, you probably don't want to consume it. "So many weird preservatives and ingredients that really don't belong in food at all are added to packaged and processed food and drink," Snyder says. "Stick to recognizable ingredients—real food."
Spinach is high in beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A, a great skin rejuvenator. It allows for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, helps prevent wrinkles, removes dead skin cells from your body, and makes room for fresh, new cells. On top of that, spinach also contains lipoic acid, which helps the regeneration of vitamins C and E.
Coffee addicts may be crying inside, we know, but it dries out your skin. It's also acidic and rids your body of valuable nutrients that make your skin glow. Try switching to green tea, which contains less caffeine and packs a punch when it comes to youth-promoting antioxidants.