For most people winter is not all hot cocoa and chunky knit sweaters. With freezing temperatures and brutal winds come dryness of the face, hands, and feet -- often followed by inflammation and cracking of the skin. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, thus it warrants extra protection. So next time you find yourself in a "flaky" situation, add foods to your diet that will fight dry skin from the inside out. Give your winter regimen an upgrade with these six skin-nourishing foods that will banish dehydration and boost your natural glow.
Dark chocolate contains high levels of flavonals, an antioxidant that works to hydrate your skin, leaving it feeling supple and firm. Cocoa also contains the flavonoid epicatechin, which when applied topically has been proven to minimize puffiness. When ingested, it can increase blood flow to the skin, raising the nutrient and oxygen supply to keep the skin at its best. For maximum improvement, eat chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao. A few squares a day should do the trick!
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Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that keep the skin cells functioning at their finest, allowing the skin to simultaneously absorb nutrients and release waste. Studies confirm that the oral intake of omega-3s can significantly reduce skin inflammation...These healthy fats are believed to suppress your body's response to irritation by attracting water to the skin cells, helping to reduce inflammation throughout your entire body.
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When it comes to skin health, leafy green vegetables are key -- and spinach is our all-time favorite. Spinach is made up of 92 percent water, which penetrates cell membranes to hydrate the skin, making it more robust and less wrinkled. It is bursting with vitamins and minerals that promote healthy skin; the folate in spinach strengthens the skin cells' ability to renew and repair, while the plant compound lutein protects us from UV rays. In addition, vitamins C and E prevent damage from free radicals, reducing the affects of aging skin. It turns out Popeye had the right idea all along!
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4. Green Tea
Green tea releases antioxidants called catechins that contain anti-inflammatory properties, boosting the blood flow of oxygen to the skin -- and carrying key nutrients along with it. A 2011 study showed that participants who drank polyphenol-rich green tea every day for 12 weeks end up with smoother, more elastic skin and one-quarter less sun damage than the control group. To enhance your tea experience, add in a splash of citrus to retain antioxidants in the body and reap the skin effects for a longer period.
Green tea also contains tannins that -- when applied topically -- can reduce the skin's puffiness. Apply chilled tea bags to your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes to see the affects firsthand.
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Carotenoids -- plant pigments that are responsible for the pumpkin's orange hue -- neutralize free radicals to keep the skin from aging too quickly. Vitamins C and E, as well as enzymes found in pumpkins cleanse and hydrate the skin for a more radiant complexion. Vitamin C is essential to collagen production (found on the skin's second layer), a protein that increases skin elasticity and firmness. The skin stops naturally producing collagen at age 25, thus it's important to boost your supply in other ways. Studies show that eating foods high in vitamin C will cause fewer wrinkles and less age-related dry skin. So go ahead and eat that second piece of pumpkin pie -- afterall, it's for your face.
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6. Olive Oil
Dry skin is often associated with a lack of fatty acids. Luckily, olive oil contains approximately 73 percent of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. These, along with oleic acids, help lubricate skin cells and diminish the affects of again. In a 2012 study, researchers discovered that a higher consumption of olive oil (more than 2 teaspoons a day) was linked to 31 percent less signs of aging compared to participants who ate less than this amount. Olive oil surpassed the other oils tested, including peanut and sunflower. In addition, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil will keep your skin feeling soft all season long.
[FYI: Here's How to Make Your Olive Oil Last Longer]