ELLE: You’re known for eating incredibly healthy. What are some of the foods you recommend for better skin?
Nicholas Perricone: There are so many good super-foods that benefit the skin. Some of my favorites are:
Fish: Wild salmon and other cold water fish (sardines, herring, trout, etc…) are great sources of protein, necessary to maintain and repair the body, including the skin, on a cellular level. They are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, which keeps skin radiant, supple and wrinkle free. Wild salmon’s pink or red color, owes its pigment to astaxanthin, a super carotenoid anti-oxidant with potent anti-inflammatory properties. What does that mean for your skin? Astaxanthin improves the elasticity and reduces the appearance of fine lines.
Olives and olive oils: We need a source of good fats in our diet to help us absorb nutrients from our vegetables and fruits, keep our cells supple, our skin glowing and wrinkle-free, our brains sharp, and our mood upbeat. We also need fat to burn fat. Extra virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, which helps us to absorb the omega-3s and other vitamins and nutrients from our foods.
Watercress: Watercress has high potassium content and therefore it is considered useful in treating acidity and purifying the blood. By cleansing the blood, watercress has been useful in treating skin eruptions, eczema, acne, rashes, and other skin infections.
Turmeric: is a superb anti-inflammatory thanks to its superior antioxidant properties and its high levels of the super antioxidant curcumin. It also increases blood levels of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, an important antioxidant and vital in the body’s detoxification system, to keep skin clear, firm, toned, and radiant.
Blueberries: Like all of the foods on this list, blueberries are an outstanding source of many phytochemicals including the anthocyanins that act as antioxidants (in addition to many other benefits). They work around the clock to protect skin from premature aging and damage and protect the cell from DNA damage. Blueberries also have great anti-inflammatory properties—remember inflammation is not just linked to disease—it is a major cause of wrinkling and sagging in the skin.
Dark Chocolate: A chemical from cocoa protects skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure and prevents the skin from aging. Go for extra dark chocolate—at least 70 to 85% cocoa content. By weight, cocoa has more antioxidants than blueberries, green tea, and red wine! Chocolate and cocoa protect the cardiovascular system, significantly reducing the incidence of atherosclerosis.
Cantaloupe: Vitamin C, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, and vitamin A have all been shown to prevent sun damage and to improve skin quality. Cantaloupe is also wonderfully hydrating to the skin.
Coconut: They help strengthen the skin’s connective tissues to help keep skin soft, smooth and supple. Both coconut oil and coconut water increase skin radiance and antioxidant protection to prevent infection and fight off free radical.
Avocados: Avocados are antioxidant powerhouses—but as you will discover, they have truly unique regenerative properties. Avocados contain oleic acid, the chief fatty acid in olive oil, which has been shown to dramatically cut the levels of a gene involved in the development of breast cancer.
ELLE: It sounds like a lot of those are fresh, natural foods. What are the foods that will do the most damage to your skin?
NP: Foods that are high in sugar or saturated fats can cause inflammation, which will only accelerate aging. Those foods include: bacon (except turkey bacon), bagels, breads, candy, cereals (except slow-cooking oatmeal), cornstarch, corn syrup, doughnuts, fast food, flour, fried foods, hot dogs, ice cream, frozen yogurt, jam and jelly, margarine, molasses, muffins, noodles, pancakes, pasta, pita break, popcorn, potatoes, relish, rice, soda, white sugar.