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The Good-Skin Fix: What to Eat for Better Skin and a (Mostly) Happy Wallet, too

What NOT to eat + what to eat to make skin glow with health.
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Turns out that focusing on better skin nutrition can help meet at least three 2009 resolutions: 1) to spend less; 2) to lose weight; and 3) to get on a less stressful, healthy-living track.

"The skin is a good indicator of what's going on inside," says Dr. Joey Shulman, D.C., registered nutritionist and author of The Natural Makeover Diet: 4 Steps to Inner Health and Outer Beauty. "For example, if you eat too many pro-inflammatory foods, such as sugar, refined flour, fried food, alcohol and saturated fats, you'll wake up looking puffy and red."

Rather than pricey "miracle" products or procedures, the good-skin fix can be as simple and budget friendly as a diet change, which, in addition to improving skin (in as little as a week), could improve the numbers on your bathroom scale. "Replace the bad stuff with dark leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes – vitamin A-rich foods," says Shulman.

Naturopath Dr. Alan C. Logan, author of The Clear Skin Diet and research-and-development co-ordinator for Genuine Health, agrees. "In North America, 50 per cent of consumed vegetables is potato (mostly frozen), onion, iceberg lettuce and processed tomato. We need more colourful fruit and veg, such as blueberries, fresh tomatoes and kale. The deeper the colour of the produce, the more dense it is in polyphenols, naturally-occuring antioxidants."

Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods also rank high in the good-skin eating plan because they boost skin's natural moisture levels. Shulman recommends cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds, as well as omega-3 fortified eggs and milk. Another hydrating must is water, which gets overlooked in the winter. Shulman suggests green or white tea as alternatives. "They're anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, plus white tea can help deal with sugar cravings because it's on the sweet side."

According to Logan, green tea and fish oil both help reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone the body releases under stress. "Cortisol attacks collagen, the scaffolding of the skin," he says. "Fish is skin's best friend. Orally consumed fish collagen also provides the body with raw materials to manufacture the collagen skin needs," he adds.

Dr. Michael Davies, a dermatologist at SpaMedica in Toronto, says "a well-balanced diet is best, but supplements can help when we can't get what we need." He recommends, and himself takes, daily doses of 1000mg of vitamin D (available at drugstores). "The fact is that a whole day in the sun without protection won't produce enough natural vitamin D," he says. "Wear sunscreen; take the supplement."

Other supplements that can act as a diet safety net, especially in times of stress, are Genuine Health greens+ Healthy Skin, Perfect Skin and O3mega+glow. A University of Toronto clinical study released last month suggests greens+supplements, by lowering acidity in the body, may help decrease cortisol. Imedeen is another skin supplement brand with clinical trials behind its ingredients. As well as collagen-boosters, a key component is lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in fresh tomatoes.

A version of this story appeared in Metro News.