WASHINGTON -- It takes a little more than soap and water to get a clean, glowing complexion. Sure, a nice moisturizer doesn't hurt, but next time you're in the market for a facial rejuvenation, skip the drug store and head to the grocery store instead.
"The interesting thing about skin is that it's an organ," says Kait Fortunato, a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates.
"Just like we eat to protect our internal organs, what we eat can affect the cells in our skin. You need proper nutrition to nourish your cells, prevent oxidation and allow for healthy skin."
So what should you be eating for clearer skin?
Fortunato says foods high in vitamin A (such as salmon, carrots and spinach), vitamin C (citrus and strawberries) and omega-3 fats (salmon, walnuts and avocados) all help achieve a clearer complexion.
These vitamins and nutrients help the skin in a variety of ways. Vitamin A is the main ingredient in the acne medication Accutane; vitamin C works as an antioxidant and fights free radicals, which can damage cells; and omega-3 fats help to lower inflammation.
Fortunato recommends a hydrating strawberry- avocado smoothie for the perfect food-delivered skin boost.
And don't forget the water.
"There's no research to prove [you need] eight glasses a day, but water is definitely important for healthy skin," she says.
Some celebrities claim giving up certain categories of foods, such as dairy, has improved their skin. But before you ditch the cheese, consider your individual dietary needs.
"There is some truth to the connection between eating dairy and breakouts, but this is varied per the individual," Fortunato says.
The hormones in dairy products increase levels of androgens, a type of hormone found in males. Fortunato says androgens can cause an increase in sebum production, which leads to acne.
"Androgens are the same hormones that increase during puberty, which explains the relationship with acne during this time," Fortunato says.
But this is not the case for everyone.
"If you are sensitive to dairy, there would be symptoms, including breakouts, and that would be a reason to limit your intake. If you are not sensitive to dairy, this is not something you would have to do."
Fortunato says food sensitivities aren't limited to dairy. A variety of foods can impact your internal and external health. And if you have a specific sensitivity, this can cause inflammation in your body and show up on your skin.
If you think you have a food sensitivity, Fortunato says, getting tested and working with a dietitian can help avoid breakouts and general discomfort.
Food limitations and sensitivities vary with each person, but everyone can benefit from balancing blood sugars, Fortunato says.
"Simple sugars, which digest very quickly, can cause glucose to enter your blood. This causes your body to release insulin, a hormone. Again, this can mess with the hormones inside your body, particularly the androgens, which can cause breakouts," she says.
As with everything in life, Fortunato says balance is key.
"What works for you might not work for others. And just because Cameron Diaz gave up cheese for clear skin doesn't mean your body will react the same way."
Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates and serves on the board for the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association. Kait focuses on individualizing her recommendations to have each client see results and live a healthier, more productive life, and she works to help people enjoy food and eat the foods they love. Kait lives in the D.C. area and loves trying new restaurants and activities around the city. Visit Kait's blog, Rebel Dietitian, and tweet her @Rebel_Dietitian for recipes, nutrition tips and activities in the Washington area.
Join Kait for a free health, wealth and happiness seminar May 14, 15 and 17. For more information, visit Kait's website.
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