While a fresh blowout and a hint of blush can help you look your best, some of the most potent beauty weapons are found in the supermarket. Your food picks have an enormous effect on your appearance, says nutritionist Keri Glassman, R.D., author of The O2 Diet: The Cutting Edge Antioxidant-Based Program That Will Make You Healthy, Thin, and Beautiful. And you'll see results fast. "In just 28 days—the lifecycle of your skin—a nutritious diet can impart a glow that no cream can accomplish alone," says Ellen Marmur, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City and author of Simple Skin Beauty. Boost your good looks by adding more of these items to your cart.
1. Blueberries and pomegranates
Both of these fruits are bursting with antioxidants called anthocyanins, which help protect you from fine lines and dryness by neutralizing the free radicals that weather your skin. Plus, their high vitamin C content enhances the production of collagen, which keeps your skin nice and plump, says Glassman. (And weighing in at less than 100 calories a cup, they have the opposite effect on your waistline.)
2. Dark chocolate
Teenage breakouts used to be blamed, at least in part, on wolfing down too many candy bars. But according to Marmur, chocolate has never been proven to cause blemishes. In fact, the sweet stuff contains high levels of flavonoids, potent antioxidants that can help protect your skin from sun damage and amp up blood flow to your tissues, keeping skin nourished and glowing, says Glassman.
Look for chocolate that's at least 70 percent cacao (it has more antioxidants), and use restraint. If you've been known to take down a giant chocolate bar in one sitting, buy individually wrapped nuggets instead and stick to one or two (about one ounce) a day.
Popeye may eat these leafy greens to build big muscles, but the benefits go far beyond bulging biceps. Spinach is another powerhouse of vital nutrients and antioxidants that help fight inflammation and free-radical damage—precursors to fine lines and wrinkles. It's also loaded with a kind of antioxidant called lutein, which helps eyes stay healthy and bright. Most important, spinach is an all-star source of vitamin A (beta-carotene), which helps speed up skin cell turnover and keeps skin supple, says Marmur. (And from this beta-carotene, your body generates its very own retinol, which makes skin firm and resilient.)
All this and it's nearly calorie-free: One cup of raw spinach has just seven calories and 55 percent of your RDA of vitamin A (700 IU). For variety, swap spinach for kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard—all of which have similar look-pretty powers.
You don't have to gnaw more nuts than a squirrel to enjoy their many perks—smoother skin, healthier hair, brighter eyes, and stronger bones. Eating just one ounce of walnuts (about 14 halves) by themselves or in your salad, pasta, or dessert will supply you with your daily dose of the nutrients (namely omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E) that are responsible for these radiant results. Other top nuts include hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds.
Eating one cup of plain low-fat yogurt knocks off nearly half of your RDA of calcium with about 450 milligrams of the nutrient—and calcium is key for strong nails and teeth. Plus, eight ounces is packed with two grams of zinc (25 percent of the RDA), which helps calm skin inflammation, treat rosacea, and prompt regeneration of cells, notes Marmur.
A new adage should be, "A tomato a day keeps the dermatologist away." Whether this red fruit is sliced, diced, stewed, or simmered, it helps protect skin against damage from the sun and other environmental factors thanks to its key ingredient, the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is actually highest in cooked tomatoes—yet another reason to opt for a red sauce over a cream-based one.
Healthy fats aid the body's absorption of lycopene and other nutrients, so eat one serving of tomatoes a day with a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of vinaigrette, or a slice of avocado, says Glassman.
Inside that plain brown wrapper is a green gift of vitamin C, which can help stimulate collagen synthesis, repair damage to skin-cell DNA, and keep blood vessels and hair follicles strong, says Marmur. A single kiwi has nearly all the vitamin C you need in a day but only 42 calories. Add some slices to your breakfast, toss pieces into a smoothie, or dice it and serve atop fro-yo.
If you're seeking smoother skin, jump for soy! Research shows that the isoflavones in soy foods—including tofu, soy milk, and edamame—can ease inflammation and stave off collagen breakdown, leaving skin with a more even tone and fewer wrinkles. There's no RDA for soy, notes Glassman, but a serving per day is both safe and helpful. Add soy milk to your morning cup of coffee and toss half a cup of boiled edamame into a salad or pasta dish.
9. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash
These orange wonder veggies contain a bonanza of beauty-boosting beta-carotene, which your body converts into skin-smoothing retinol, thereby helping to protect your skin from past and present sun damage, says Glassman.
10. Green tea
Warm up to this soothing brew's antioxidants, called catechins, which can help prevent certain skin cancers and stave off sunburns, says Marmur. The variety of tea with the highest concentration of catechins is called matcha.
For all the pretty perks, drink two cups a day. If you aren't into tea, try sprinkling green matcha powder (available at health-food stores) into a yogurt parfait or homemade smoothie. And if you're trying to cut down on caffeine, worry not. With just 26 milligrams of caffeine per six-ounce cup, green tea has about half as much as a cup of black tea.
Creams of the Crop
Let's face it—a girl can eat only so much spinach and soy. Fortunately, this spring's harvest of beauty products is packed with foodie ingredients. While eating your nutrients always trumps slathering them onto your skin, certain beauty products contain powerful compounds that, when isolated and targeted, are great supplements to a healthy diet, says Christine Chin, an aesthetician and spa owner in New York City.
Rahua Voluminous Hair Spray
$28, rahua.com Instead of relying on alcohol to thwart oily roots, this product incorporates corn extracts, which siphon away excess moisture from your hair and allow your hairstyles to have a soft, flexible hold, says Chin.
Naturopathica Carrot Seed Soothing Serum
$40, naturo pathica.com Carrots have a longstanding reputation as beauty VIPs, thanks to their high levels of natural vitamin A, which this smoothing serum calls upon to calm red or irritated skin, says Chin.
Clarins UV Plus HP 40 Day Screen
$38, clarins.com The latest version of this best-selling day cream stars cantaloupe extract, which contains an antioxidant enzyme that helps neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals on the skin and helps repair past UV damage, says Glassman.
Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle & UV Damage Corrector
$44.50, clinique.com This pomegranate-infused cream from Clinique uses extracts of ellagic acid from the sweet seeds to help protect skin, reduce wrinkles, and prevent future damage.
Say Yes to Blueberries Eye Firming Treatment
$20, at drugstores Prized by healthy eaters for their sweet taste and rich concentration of antioxidants, blueberries add a blast of antioxidants to your skin when applied topically around your eyes.