A Beauty Spa in Your Refrigerator

You just might discover the best cosmetic medicine not at your local plastic surgeon or spa but at your local grocery store. Experts have identified an increasing number of "beauty foods" that act to add youthful qualities to skin, hair and teeth. For example, salmon and other omega-3-fatty-acid-rich foods help smooth wrinkles. Cranberries help whiten teeth. And spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard help produce glossy, well-conditioned hair.

"Taking care of your skin is from the outside in, as well as the inside out," says Dr. Joely Kaufman, a Miami Beach dermatologist who is an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and does aging research. "A good skin care regimen involves both topical and dietary regimens."

Many scientists say the key to younger-looking skin is ingesting as many antioxidants as possible. Free radicals produced by sunlight and chemicals in our environment damage collagen in the skin, leading to the appearance of aging. Antioxidants "eat up" free radicals. Foods rich in antioxidants include green tea, oranges, pomegranates, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, romaine lettuce and egg yolks. Not to be forgotten is red wine - or, if you're concerned about alcohol, red grapes and red grape juice.

 In addition, foods rich in vitamins C and E that nourish and protect the skin include bell peppers, orange juice, lemons, whole grain cereals, peanut butter and avocados. For healthy teeth, a compound in cranberries and cranberry juice prevents bacteria from sticking to teeth, thus fighting plaque. Also good plaque fighters are black and green teas - and they even protect teeth from decay. Oddly, raisins, too, have antibacterial qualities.

For healthy hair, it's good to eat spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard, which have lots of vitamins A and C. These are necessary for the body to produce sebum, the natural hair-conditioning oil from hair follicles. Kidney beans, lentils and other legumes provide protein for hair growth, as well as crucial iron, zinc and biotin.


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