New York City nutritionist, Lisa Drayer, MA, RD, knows that beauty doesn’t just depend on what skincare products or treatments you use. What you eat is equally important, and, in fact, she recommends “beauty foods” to enhance your appearance as well as your overall health. A sought after national television and radio guest, Lisa’s expertise includes beauty nutrition, weight management, pre and post-natal nutrition, and general wellness. In addition, she is currently a spokesperson for NECTRESSE™ Natural No Calorie Sweetener from McNeill Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA®.
At her Park Avenue practice in Manhattan, she sees private clients and is known for her 8 Weeks to Weight Loss and Wellness program. She is also the author of two books: The Beauty Diet: Looking Great Has Never Been So Delicious (McGraw-Hill, 2009) and Strong, Slim, and 30! Eat Right, Stay Young, Feel Great and Look FABULOUS (McGraw-Hill, 2007). Read on to learn more about how what you eat affects how you look.
What is the connection between diet and your appearance?
As a beauty nutritionist, my goal is to help people achieve wellness and enhance their looks through what they eat. While genetics undeniably play a role in what you look like and how you age, the food and beverages you consume on a daily basis also affect your physical appearance. When you eat poorly, it shows – potentially through dull hair, dry or wrinkled skin, or stained teeth. On the other hand, when you eat a diet rich in beauty foods, you will look your absolute best.
In your book, The Beauty Diet, you list the top ten “beauty foods.” What are they and why did these foods make your list?
Beauty foods are packed with the powerful nutrients your body needs to keep your cells refreshed and in good repair. The more you incorporate beauty foods into your diet, the greater you will feel and the better you will look. My top ten beauty foods are:
- Wild salmon: A rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon plays a key role in keeping the skin’s outer layer soft and smooth.
- Low-fat yogurt: This dairy product provides calcium for strong bones, good posture, a beautiful smile, and healthy nails. Yogurt also contains protein to benefit your hair and skin.
- Oysters: These gifts from the sea are the best whole-food source of zinc, an important mineral for skin renewal and repair. Zinc also nourishes your eyes, scalp, and hair.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are antioxidant superstars. The berries’ anti-aging properties help enhance your looks; plus, with 4 grams of fiber and only 80 calories per cup, they keep you slim.
- Kiwifruit: Rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, kiwis help neutralize free radicals and promote the synthesis of collagen to keep your skin supple.
- Sweet potatoes: The orange color of this sweet veggie is the result of its high beta-carotene content. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is essential to skin health.
- Spinach: This leafy green is full of beauty-enhancing nutrients and slimming fiber while being extremely low in calories. Its exceptional lutein content keeps your eyes healthy and bright.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which protects skin from sunburn. I recommend stocking your pantry with lycopene-rich tomato sauce.
- Walnuts: Smooth skin, soft hair and vibrant eyes can all be attributed to the dominant nutrients in walnuts, which include essential omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and the amino acid L-arginine.
10. Dark Chocolate: Rich in anti-aging flavanols, dark chocolate is a treat for your taste buds and your skin. Choose dark chocolate with at least 60 percent cacao and limit portion sizes to 1 ounce, or 150 calories.
Which foods are most likely to ruin your appearance and what alternatives do you recommend incorporating into your diet?
I recommend limiting your intake of sodium, sugar, and alcohol. Processed foods, canned soups, and condiments are big contributors of sodium in our diets—and too much can cause our body to retain water. Translation: tighter clothes and puffy eyes. Limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day—that’s about 1 teaspoon of salt.
Sugary foods and beverages not only add unwanted calories to our diets, they also contribute to wrinkles and acne. To maintain a youthful, clear complexion, limit your intake of added sugars to no more than six teaspoons per day or 100 sugar calories. To cut sugar from your diet without sacrificing sweetness, try low or no-calorie alternatives like NECTRESSE™ Natural No Calorie Sweetener, made from monk fruit extract, in place of sugar in your favorite foods and beverages.
Alcohol is a diuretic, so if you have more than one cocktail when you’re dining or at a party, your skin can become dehydrated, and this can contribute to dryness and wrinkles. For maximum beauty, avoid mixed drinks, which can contain several servings of alcohol, and drink one glass of water or seltzer for every alcoholic beverage you consume.
Do you also recommend exercise as a way to enhance your looks?
Absolutely! To get the whole package—a boost in confidence, a higher energy level, anti-aging benefits, and an all-around healthier and more beautiful body—you must add exercise to your routine. While most people are aware that exercise is essential to overall health, it also enhances your mood and makes you more graceful by improving coordination, posture, and balance.
What is your external skincare regimen, and how does it complement your beauty diet philosophy?
In addition to eating a diet rich in beauty foods, I use a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer daily, to keep my skin looking its best. I am also a huge fan of sunscreen—in fact, I wear sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays whenever I am spending a lot of time outside. I often look for products that contain topical beauty nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, because I think it’s important to feed our features from the inside and out in order to maintain a healthy, youthful appearance!
Most skincare professionals advise adjusting your skincare regimen according to the seasons. Do you make similar recommendations when it comes to diet?
I think it really depends on the individual. For example, if you sweat a lot during the hot summer months, you need to drink more water to stay hydrated and keep your skin moist. If you tend to have dry skin or brittle hair in the winter, you can probably benefit from more omega-3 fats in your diet. Pay attention to your body during the different seasons and feed your features accordingly.