Tanning could not be more out of fashion, but summer's still prime time for a healthy glow. These farmer's market staples and in-season noshes will do wonders for your skin-from the inside out. By Kim Tranell, REDBOOK.
They're no substitute for slathering on sunscreen, but research out of the University of Newcastle found that tomatoes are kind of like nature's SPF-their lycopene gives skin extra protection against the damage caused by harmful UV rays. "Your body will best absorb the lycopene if you heat the tomatoes and add some healthy fat," says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, a Wellness Manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. "So chop them up and sauté them with a little bit of olive oil."
If you've been waiting all year for your corn-on-the-cob fix, we have great news. Aside from being an easy summer side, corn is rich in beta-carotene, a plant pigment that, when converted to vitamin A in your body, helps protect skin against sun damage. "Choose the corn that has the deepest yellow kernels," says Jennifer Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. "The deeper it is, the more beta carotene it has." Yellow corn also typically packs less sugar than its white relative, and that's a big bonus, says Dr. Wu. A high-sugar diet will zap the life from your skin, breaking down the proteins that keep it firm and elastic.
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Any fruit or veggie with a high water content will help hydrate skin from the inside out, says Kirkpatrick, But cucumbers aren't just great because they're about 96 percent H20-they also contain a small amount of silica, a lesser-known nutrient that "helps give you smoother, more nourished-looking skin," she says. To make a simple side salad, chop those cucumbers up, then toss 'em with thinly-sliced red onion, white wine vinegar, and dill.
In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, middle-aged women with diets higher in vitamin C were found to have less wrinkly, younger looking skin. You can get your C from citrus, sure, but early summer is actually peak season to pick up a papaya-which packs in two to three times your daily vitamin C needs. Not a papaya fan? Strawberries are a great summertime source of vitamin C too, says Dr. Wu.
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Just like cucumbers, watermelons are made up of mostly-yup, you guessed it-water. So munching on them contributes to fighting off brittle, dry skin caused by summertime sun and sweat. "The more hydrated you are, the more plump your skin looks," says Dr. Wu. "Even fine lines will appear to soften." This juicy fruit also scores extra points for being high in lycopene, the same anti-aging, skin-protective antioxidant found in tomatoes.
Get this: Research out of the University of Nottingham has not only shown that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids can give your skin a healthy glow-it's also found that people find that glow even more attractive than a sun tan. Many summer staples-especially those with a deep red, orange or green color-are rich in these beneficial plant pigments, but raw kale is an especially potent source. So why not ditch the iceberg and use the leafy green as your new summer salad base. If you don't love kale's tough texture or slightly bitter taste, just massage the leaves together with a dash of olive oil and sea salt first. This will soften it-and add flavor.
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Almost everyone loves a ripe avocado's deliciously creamy texture. And guess what? The same fatty acids that give this fruit its velvety feel can also smooth and soften skin. "Eating the healthy fat in avocados actually helps your skin replenish its own natural oils," says Dr. Wu. For a healthy super-skin recipe that screams summertime, dice up a rich, red tomato and toss it into your favorite guac. Then, use that guac to top off grilled salmon-an omega 3-rich fish that will also nourish your skin from the inside out.
Got the van packed for a beach-week with your family? In case you weren't already planning to take advantage of all of that delicious local seafood, here's some extra incentive to load up. Clams, oysters, mussels, lobster, and crab are all high in zinc, a mineral that keeps skin "elastic and resilient," says Dr. Wu.
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