7 Foods that make you pretty

If you want younger, better looking skin, think beyond the sunscreen (but use that too) and tinker with your diet. "Good nutrition is a fundamental building block of healthy skin," says Leslie Baumann, MD, a dermatologist in Miami Beach. The natural ingredients in food help do everything from speed the pace of exfoliation to protect skin from the UV damage that causes brown spots and wrinkles. Here, 7 everyday foods that are guaranteed to make you glow.

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1. Romaine Lettuce
Why You'll Glow: Six leaves provide more than 100% of your DV of vitamin A, which revitalizes skin by increasing cell turnover. The mineral potassium in romaine "gives skin a refreshing boost of nutrients and oxygen by improving circulation," says Lisa Drayer, RD, author of The Beauty Diet.

Health Bonus: That same serving of romaine contains 45% of the DV of vitamin K, which a recent study shows activates a protein that supports vascular health--making a future with bulging leg veins less likely.

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2. Tomatoes
Why You'll Glow: Eating red helps keep skin from turning red. Volunteers who consumed 5 tablespoons of high-in-lycopene tomato paste daily for 3 months had nearly 25% more protection against sunburn in one study. Even better, skin had more collagen, which prevents sagging. Another reason to toss an extra tomato into your salad: German scientists report that higher skin levels of this antioxidant correlate to fewer fine lines and furrows.

Health Bonus: Research suggests that lycopene may also lower your chances of heart disease: In one study, women with the highest levels of it had a 34% reduced risk.

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3. Strawberries
Why You'll Glow: A cup has up to 130% of the DV of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that boosts production of collagen fibers that help keep skin smooth and firm. More C may mean fewer fine lines too: Women with lower intakes were likelier to have dry, wrinkled skin. Early research also shows that ellagic acid, an antioxidant abundant in strawberries, protects the elastic fibers that keep skin from sagging.

Health Bonus: Strawberries may lower your risk of cancer by inhibiting the development of malignant cancer cells. In one study, people eating the most strawberries were 3 times less likely to develop the disease.

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4. Apples
Why You'll Glow: Quercetin, an antioxidant in the peel of many varieties, provides hefty protection from the "burning" UVB rays that trigger skin cancer. A few offering the biggest dose: Monroe, Cortland, and Golden Delicious.

Health Bonus: Eating two or more apples a week for 1 year reduced the risk of dying from heart disease by 15% in one study of 34,000 healthy postmenopausal women. Whatever variety you choose, be sure to eat the peel, the source of nearly all the antioxidants.

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5. Eggs
Why You'll Glow: Lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found in eggs, more than quadrupled protection against the UV damage that leads to lines, brown spots, and cancer in one study on women. Skin was also markedly softer, firmer, and better hydrated.

Health Bonus: Eating just one egg a day significantly increases blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin (but not cholesterol), which may stave off macular degeneration by protecting the retina from light damage, finds a study in the Journal of Nutrition.

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6. Almonds

Why You'll Glow: "Eating a handful of almonds every day boosts levels of vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants for skin health," says Baumann. You'll get a surge in moisture too--a boon for those prone to dryness.

Health Bonus: Though nuts are high in calories, women who ate them at least twice a week were less likely to gain weight than those who rarely did, in a new study of over 50,000 women.

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7. Walnuts
Why You'll Glow: These nuts are storehouses of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that's a key component of the lubricating layer that keeps skin moist and supple. A 1/2-ounce serving of walnuts provides 100% of the recommended daily intake of ALA.

Health Bonus: Eating walnuts at dinner may deliver better shut-eye. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center discovered that walnuts contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

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[photo credit: Getty Images]




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