Pomegranates may not be the first thing you reach for when filling up your canvas tote at the farmer's market, but consider this: The fruit can help you attain younger-looking skin, and it's also loaded with antioxidants, vitamins K and C, potassium, copper, zinc and iron. The fruit -- which is nearing the end of its season (commercial harvest typically runs from October to January) -- can help to prevent premature skin aging and keep our complexions smooth and radiant.
Check out these four beauty benefits of pomegranates:
1. It helps to hydrate dry skin. When compared to green tea, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur tells us that pomegranate juice is actually better at replenishing dry, dull skin. It is also a great plant-derived source of vitamin C, which studies have shown can decrease skin roughness when applied topically. For a topical treatment, dermatologist and author Dr. Debra Jaliman suggests that we apply pomegranate seed oil, as studies have shown it to promote regeneration of epidermis.
2. It combats inflammation from acne breakouts. A pimple forms when bacteria infects the oil glands of the skin. When this occurs, the body sends white blood cells called neutrophils to the site of the pimple; when these neutrophils digest the bacteria, they die mix with the bacteria and other debris in the pimple. This whole process also triggers inflammation, which is what is responsible for zits' red, swollen appearance. "The antioxidants in pomegranates will help to reduce that inflammation," says Dr. Marmur.
3. It protects our bodies against the sun and environment. Overexposure to harmful UV rays and pollution causes oxidative damage to our skin cells, and can increase one's risk of developing wrinkles, age spots, sunburn and even cancer. According to Dr. Marmur, the antioxidants (namely polyphenols) found in pomegranates help to protect our cells from such oxidative stress. Pomegranate-derived products have also been found to play a vital role in repairing DNA damage.
4. It stimulates collagen production. Our skin naturally begins to sag and lose firmness as we grow older. Pomegranates are full of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that has shown promising results in reducing collagen breakdown. Dr. Marmur says, "If you think of having a pillow and all the fluffy stuff goes flat, that happens to the skin when you lose collagen and elastin. Pomegranates help to plump up skin and boost your blood supply to get rid of that tired look." By stimulating collagen-producing cells called fibroblasts, Dr. Jaliman says that pomegranates can help to minimize skin wrinkle activity.
Do you use pomegranates in your beauty routine? Tell us your secrets!
You should probably take it easy with these foods:
Ever wake up feeling a little puffy around the eyes? Too much salt can cause some of us to retain water, which can lead to swelling, say New York City dermatologist Dr. Neal B. Schultz. Because the skin around the eyes is so thin, he explains, the area swells easily -- and leaves you cursing last night's popcorn when you catch your reflection the next morning. "These effects of salt are definitely age related," he says, and become more common in middle age.
Shrimp, crab, lobster -- and also certain leafy greens like seaweed and spinach -- are naturally high in iodine, and a diet with too much of this element can lead to acne, says Schultz. However, "these breakouts are based on an accumulated amount of iodine over time, so there's no relationship between eating high iodine foods one day and breaking out the next," he says. Instead, he advises that people who are particularly acne-prone consume these foods a couple of times a month rather than a couple of times a week.
Although its effects are probably still pretty small, according to Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist also in practice in New York City, some dairy products may contribute to skin problems. A 2005 study linked higher milk consumption to presence of acne. While the study had certain flaws, including the fact that participants were asked simply to recall how much milk they drank rather than record it in real time, more recent research, including a 2012 study in Italy, found a connection specifically between skim milk and acne. This is likely because of "a higher amount of bioavailable hormones in skim milk, since they cannot be absorbed in surrounding fat," explains Buka, which can then overstimulate the group of glands that produce our skin's natural oily secretions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In some people with rosacea, dairy products can also trigger the condition's tell-tale redness, Schultz says.
Starchy picks like white breads, pastas and cakes, and even corn syrup, Buka says, are best avoided for dewy skin (and maybe even for maintaining weight loss). Foods that are considered high glycemic can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. A small Australian study from 2007 found that eating a low-glycemic diet reduced acne in young men. But Schultz says there will need to be more research before we truly understand the relationship. However, if glycemic index does prove to be related to skin problems, and you find yourself breaking out after eating something like French fries, it may be due to the starchy insides rather than that greasy, golden exterior, according to YouBeauty.com.
If starchy foods that break down quickly into sugar are an issue, it's no surprise that straight sugar can be problematic for the skin in much the same way. High blood sugar can weaken the skin by affecting tissues like collagen, according to Daily Glow, and leave you more vulnerable to lines and wrinkles. Which is why it's likely not anything particular to chocolate, a rumored breakout culprit, that's giving you trouble, but the high sugar content of that sweet treat. If you're worried about breakouts, but dying for a nibble, stick with the dark stuff -- it packs the most health benefits, anyway.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, which means the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. It saps the natural moisture from your skin as well, which can make those wrinkles and fine lines seem like bigger deals, according to Woman's Day. It can also trigger rosacea outbreaks, Schultz says.
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