Radiant skin, shiny hair, healthy nails and sparkling eyes: Isn't that what every woman wants? Although the skin-care market is brimming with products that promise all of these things, nothing makes you as beautiful on the outside as feeding your insides with a healthy diet. "Your skin is the largest organ in the body," says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson. "If you're not nourishing your body with the right nutrients to sustain optimal health, it's going to show on your skin, no matter what you use." An increasing number of studies have shown the underlying importance of "beauty foods," super-nourishing fruits, vegetables, nuts, teas and other everyday foods that make a trip to the grocery story as vital as a day at a spa. For example, a dull, patchy complexion can be a blinking neon sign that you're not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon. Dull hair and brittle nails? You may need to rev up your protein intake with beans or lean meats. "These foods are going to give you the biggest punch," says Simpson, a contributing editor for New Beauty magazine and Aesthetic Trends & Technologies. "It's a lifestyle change, but over time you're going to see those (skin) conditions improve."
Most experts say eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to ensure healthy benefits, but here are some super foods Simpson says can help you put your best face -- and hair, nails and body -- forward. Wild Salmon Why it makes you look good: Salmon contains skin beautifying omega-3 fatty acids that hydrate and help reduce redness and inflammation. Salmon also contains selenium, which improves various skin problems and overall skin health. "Salmon is one of those super foods," Simpson says. If you don't like the taste of salmon, you can take omega-3 supplements. Also eat: sardines and mackerel Blueberries Why they make you look good: They're sweet and loaded with vitamin C and immune-boosting antioxidants that stimulate collagen production to help keep skin smooth and supple. Berries also help combat toxins in the body and free radicals, those nasty molecules that cause skin to age prematurely. Also eat: blackberries, pomegranate and strawberries Pumpkin Seeds Why they make you look good: Pumpkin seeds have lots of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps slow down skin aging, and those omega-3 fatty acids that keep your skin smooth and your hair shiny. Studies also have shown them to reduce the appearance of acne and other skin problems.
Also try: chickpeas, sunflower seeds and chia seeds Beans Why they make you look good: Beans are high in protein but are also very lean, making beans a great part of any nutrition plan. They also provide the fatty acids your nails need to stay strong and prevent splitting. Also try: eggs, chicken, lean meats and lentils Green Tea Why it makes you look good: "You can't get enough of green tea," Simpson says. It hydrates you, which helps your skin; it's loaded with antioxidants that have been shown to protect skin from sun damage; and it has an active ingredient that promotes a healthy metabolism. Choose a premium or organic blend to get the most active ingredient, Simpson advises. You also can find this ingredient in skin creams if you want a double-dose of those good-for-your-skin benefits. Also try: white tea and black tea Oysters Why they make you look good: In addition to being a low-fat source of protein, which is great for healthy hair, shellfish contains high amounts of zinc, a mineral that can help prevent acne, boost your immune system and aid healing, Simpson says. Shellfish also contains B vitamins, which can make hair look shinier. Also try: clams, mussels and lobster Tomatoes Why they make you look good: Tomatoes are full of fiber and vitamin A, which aids in the development of skin cells and the maintenance of skin cell health. A vitamin A deficiency can lead to dry skin. And tomatoes have lots of lycopene, which studies have shown helps protect the skin from UV stress (you still don't want to forgo the sunscreen).
Also eat: tomato pastes, carrots and sweet potatoes
Why they make you look good: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that mops up free radicals, such as those produced by overexposure to the sun, that lead to the premature aging of skin. It also contains bioflavonoid, which promotes stronger collagen in the skin. Collagen helps skin look young and plump.
Also eat: grapefruits, cantaloupes and lemons
Simpson considers these the worst foods for your skin. Eat them in moderation.
- Salt. Salt causes tissues to swell, and the subsequent deflating results in skin that is less elastic. Have you noticed how your face gets puffed up if you've eaten too many salty snacks the previous day?
- High sugar. You want to keep your blood sugar balanced to keep your skin looking healthy. Sugary snacks cause a large insulin spike and then a crash. This spike can trigger an inflammation in the skin's cells, and that reaction may lead to increased sebum levels that could clog up the glands.
- Caffeine. Caffeine can be beneficial to your skin, but too much can prevent your body from making good use of the vitamins and minerals from your food. Caffeine is also a natural diuretic, so if you drink too much, it may cause dehydration. And your skin needs fluids to look good.
- Alcohol. You know what a hangover feels like. Well, that's what alcohol does to your skin, making it dry, irritated and sallow-toned.
- Processed meats. The salt and preservatives in these meats can leave your skin looking dehydrated, dull and lifeless.