For most people, winter is not all hot cocoa and chunky knit sweaters. Alongside those cozy comforts come freezing temperatures and brutal winds that can result in dryness of the face, hands, and feet, and in some cases, inflammation on other parts of the body. Your skin protects you against the elements, which means it needs some extra protection come winter, too. Next time you find yourself in a "flaky" situation, try soothing it from the inside out. Adding these foods to your diet will help fight dry skin by banishing dehydration and boosting your natural glow.
Dark chocolate contains high levels of flavonols, an antioxidant that works to hydrate your skin, leaving it feeling supple and firm. Cocoa also contains the flavonoid epicatechin, which has been proven to minimize puffiness when applied topically. When ingested, dark chocolate can increase blood flow to the skin, raising the nutrient and oxygen supply within the body that helps keep skin at its best. For a concentrated dose, eat chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao. A few squares a day should do the trick!
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. What's more, research confirms 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 and helping to reduce inflammation throughout your body.
When it comes to skin health, leafy green vegetables are key. Spinach is bursting with vitamins and minerals that promote healthy skin composition and it consists of 92 percent water, which penetrates cell membranes to hydrate the skin, making it more robust and less wrinkled. 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 effects of aging skin. It turns out Popeye had the right idea all along!
Green tea releases antioxidants known as catechins, which 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 ended 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 effects firsthand.
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, so 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.
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 effects of aging. In a 2012 study, researchers discovered that higher consumption of olive oil (more than 2 teaspoons a day) was linked to fewer 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.