16/07/2024

Care Health

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The Link Between Greens and Skin Health

The Link Between Greens and Skin Health

It’s one thing to wish for calm, clear skin… and another to put in the effort it takes to achieve it. Even if you invest in the best skincare products and treatments that money could buy, what you put on your skin will only go so far. (Unless genetics are on your side and you wake up day after day, year after year, with nary a bump or blemish in sight. I, for one, am simply not amongst these blessed folk.) For most people, what you put into your body will have a major impact on how healthy and glowing your skin will be. While consuming a diverse range of fruits and veggies will surely help, prioritizing green vegetables—including a smattering of green superfoods—might be the special sauce to take your skin wins to new heights.

Below, with the help of Amy Shapiro MS, RD, of Real Nutrition in New York City, we’re covering the biggest benefits of greens for your skin. And later: her top hacks to help you boost your intake of greens with ease.

5 Benefits of Green Vegetables for Skin

The fact that greens are *incredibly* beneficial for your health likely isn’t news to you. But if they’re not regularly in your meal rotation, chances are their skin benefits will inspire you to add them to your cart on your next trip to the grocery store.

“Eating more plants will help to improve skin integrity, hydration, and decrease signs of aging,” Shapiro shares. Here’s why.

1. Greens Are Packed with Antioxidants

“Greens contain antioxidants that protect your skin from oxidative damage,” Shapiro begins. Per a 2021 review in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, oxidative stress—which is caused and accelerated by everything from pollution and UV light to psychological stress and a poor diet—won’t only damage cell health and contribute to aging and disease risk, but also show up on your complexion. This can result in:

  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Wrinkles
  • Roughness
  • Dryess

While topical antioxidants (such as a handy vitamin C serum) can bolster environmental defenses and keep skin aging at bay, the antioxidants in your greens can do the same from the outside in. Moreover, as a 2020 review in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology notes, greens pack the highest antioxidant counts across all veggies, thus solidifying their protective, pro-aging potential.

Some of the best antioxidants for skin, which you’ll find in different amounts depending on the specific greens, include:

  • Vitamin A. According to Shapiro, this fat-soluble vitamin helps protect the skin from the sun. Moreover, a lack of vitamin A can contribute to dry skin. (Topical forms of vitamin A, namely retinol and retinoids, are also amongst the top derm-approved products for their anti-acne and anti-aging prowess.)
  • Vitamin C. It bears repeating that vitamin C is powerful for skin health whether ingested or applied. “This powerful antioxidant fights free radicals, decreases signs of aging, helps the body to produce collagen, and improves the healing factors of the skin,” Shapiro shares.
  • Vitamin K. While vitamin K isn’t the most popular letter vitamin, it has antioxidant properties that can end up improving your complexion. As Shapiro explains, “It helps to strengthen blood capillaries, allowing for oxygen and blood flow to get to the skin to keep it healthy and glowing.”
  • Carotenoids. Although antioxidant, anti-inflammatory carotenoids have yellow, orange, and red pigments (and thus are typically known to exist in the likes of tomatoes and carrots), you can also find them in green veggies. According to a 2022 review in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kale is a good source that will also boost collagen and elastin for pro-aging skin benefits. Shapiro adds that two specific types of carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, “help protect skin from UV light and therefore will decrease signs of aging and oxidative damage.” A 2021 review in the journal Nutrients notes that you can find both carotenoids in greens such as spinach, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and chlorella.

2. Greens Are Full of Water

“Plants are full of water [and] staying adequately hydrated helps to keep skin healthy and hydrated,” says Shapiro. Of course, you should sip on H2O throughout the day, but you can also rely on all fluids and water-rich foods to meet your daily quotas.

In the world of green veggies, the most hydrating ones include:

  • Cucumber (96 percent water)
  • Lettuce (96 percent water)
  • Celery (95 percent water)
  • Zucchini (94 percent water)
  • Broccoli (92 percent water)

3. Greens Support Natural Detoxification

Dietary fiber doesn’t only promote gut health; intake is also beneficial for blood sugar balance, weight maintenance, cardiovascular health, and even your skin. “When we eat more greens, we get more fiber,” says Shapiro. While she cites fiber recommendations for adults as 25 to 40 grams per day, a mere 7 percent of adults in the US reach these quotas. If you want to be one of them—reaping the benefits of natural detoxification for regular digestion and skin wins—pack your plate with greens aplenty.

“With adequate fiber, our bodies eliminate toxins through bowel movements, [helping to] keep our skin healthy and vibrant,” Shapiro explains.

4. Greens Are Essential for Healthy Diet

According to Shapiro, getting more skin-friendly, health-boosting greens in your rotation has the innate potential to discourage less-than-healthy eating patterns. “When we eat more greens (and other plants), we ‘crowd out’ other foods like packaged and processed items, which can disrupt skin health,” she shares. And, of course, greens are a crucial component of a colorful, well-rounded diet.

5. Green Superfoods Can Pack Omega-3s

Shapiro says that a few powerful green superfoods—including algae, spirulina, and chlorella—contain omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to boasting benefits for brain and heart health, omega-3s “help to keep our skin hydrated and moist instead of dry and cracked,” the dietitian explains. “This will help with skin integrity, aging and overall appearance.”

Tips to Boost Your Intake of Greens for Better Skin

Hopefully, the intel shared above has convinced you to get more greens in your diet, stat. Shapiro suggests the following tips to put thought to action—resulting in a clearer, more radiant complexion.

Try a 2×2 Method

“I recommend including two cups of vegetables at least two meals per day,” Shapiro shares. (This is in addition to enjoying at least two servings of fruit per day—with the overarching goal of eating the rainbow and not just greens alone.)

For opportunities to add greens into your meals, heed Shapiro’s inspo by:

  • Breakfast: Adding spinach to eggs or a smoothie, topping avocado toast with nutrient-dense microgreens
  • Lunch: Enjoying a salad, swapping grains for greens in a bowl
  • Dinner: Tossing peas into pasta, sauteeing spinach in casseroles

“Adding greens is super easy—especially greens like spinach, as they are very versatile and mild,” she notes.

Cook or Blend Your Greens

Not the biggest fan of greens but still want to reap their bountiful benefits for your skin and health? When you cook your greens—say, in a stir fry or a soup—Shapiro says they basically shrink down into nothing. Similarly, blending fresh or frozen leafy greens into a smoothie is a surefire way to boost your intake while accommodating your palate preferences.

Enjoy Green Juices (in Moderation)

If you’re like me and love a good green juice, you’ll be able to up your micronutrient intake with each sip. However, Shapiro advises limiting them to one a day—namely if your go-to packs a lot of sugar. “Many [green drinks] contain vitamins and minerals in large doses, so there is no need to drink multiple servings in one day,” she explains. “Additionally, these drinks do not provide the same quality or amount of dietary fiber, so you will lose that benefit.”

Remember: Fiber is your friend, which you’ll get by eating your greens and other plants in their whole forms.

Opt for Convenience

Find yourself buying greens just to end up balking at the effort it takes to prep them? Shapiro suggests buying them ready to go to encourage greater intake. “If washing and prepping gets in your way, you can simply buy salad kits, boxes of greens, or bags of frozen greens,” she shares. (Read: No excuses.)

Take a Green Supplement for Skin

To amplify skin health courtesy of greens and their micronutrients, you may want to include a detox supplement for clear skin, such as HUM’s Daily Cleanse, in your routine. It packs 14 detoxifiers, including chlorella and spirulina, plus no shortage of antioxidants and minerals (such as zinc, which has been shown to help alleviate the likes of acne and dermatitis).

When taken consistently over time and alongside a plant-forward diet rich in greens and a host of other whole foods, you can anticipate both a healthier complexion and a stronger sense of well-being.