As a registered dietitian I am always encouraging my clients to not just wear color, but eat it! Fruits and vegetables owe their beautiful hues to phyto ( plant nutrients)- so the vibrant red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue and even white produce you eat is not just nice to look at but also provide head to tow benefits.

The US News and World Report ranking of the best diets of 2016 selected the DASH ( Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), Mediterranean and Flexitarian among the top picks. One of the similarities of these three plans is the emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

Ok, we all know that fruits and vegetables are good for our hearts, our waistline and our eyes, and our bones, BUT our skin can also benefit from an abundance of produce on the plate.

The skin’s wish list is for caloric balance- not too much but not too little, optimal intake of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fluid. At the same time, overconsumption of sugar may affect not just our waistline but our jawline, as excess sugar intake may increase the likelihood of collagen breakdown so the skin is not as elastic as it should be. Does this mean you can never have a cupcake? Of course not, but perhaps satisfying some of the sweet craving with fruits and vegetables can help your skin as well as what is within.

Antioxidants which are substances in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and oils protect cells from damage and disintegration. One of the antioxidants is carotene. Think carrots and sweet potatoes and that beautiful orange color. WE have a high concentration of carotenoids in the skin and they function to reduce UV light sensitivity. The skin carotenoids actually give us a healthy color that is a lot safer than tanning beds. Of note, if you eat a diet that is loo low in fat, you may not store enough carotenoids and your skin may take on yellow/gray tones. Ugh.

Studies have shown that eating enough fruits and veggies over an 8 week period of time results in measurable skin color changes. Ever notice that when you make the effort to eat well, people comment on how good you look? That is much more than your waist size!

The increase in fruits and vegetables results in increased skin redness which contributes to a healthy skin appearance. This can be due to the effect of lycopene ( a plant nutrient in fruits and veggies) and/or the effect fruits and vegetables on the skin’s blood perfusion. In addition the polyphenols in grapes, peanuts, tea and even wine may contribute beneficially to the health of the elasticity of the arteries as well as endothelial health. So to put it another way, 1 additional serving of fruit or vegetable daily ( ½ cup or a piece of fruit the size of a tennis ball) can change skin color in only 6 weeks.

We all know that drinking enough fluid is important. Dehydration or subhydration increases skin dryness. I always recommend minimizing calories in beverages so best choices are: water, milk, unsweetened coffee/tea, small amounts of fruit juice, vegetable juice. So what about alcohol? Excess consumption can increase the production of free radicals and increase the breakdown of collagen. Plus, excess alcohol is a source of calories, can elevate triglycerides ( blood fats) and increase the risk of breast cancer as well as compromise liver health.

I have a lot of clients who pride themselves on keeping their fat intake to a minimum. NOT good for the skin. Monounsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados decrease oxidative stress. Studies have shown that olive oil lowers the risk of severe photoaging and that the omega- 3 fatty acids in salmon, sardines, flaxseed keeps skin cell membranes strong and elastic. If you eat a very high carbohydrate and very low fat diet you may have a more wrinkled appearance and skin atrophy.

In a review of the NHANES ( National Health and Nutrition Examination study) women who had a more wrinkled appearance had significantly lower intakes of protein, dietary cholesterol, phosphorous, vitamins C,A, K, and linoleic acid. Take home message here- don’t nutritionally disrespect your body or your skin may show the neglect.