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Look good, feel good: Top foods for beauty, health

Thursday January 29, 2009

Shine inside and out with Doctor Nicholas Perricone's favorite fare
Megan O. Steintrager

Today - There are so many reasons to eat healthfully. Of course, the one that rightfully tops most people's lists is that a nutritious diet can increase your chances of living a longer, more robust life.

But looking good is a terrific side effect of healthier eating, and the happy news is that many of the same foods that can help your heart, brain, and other vital parts of the body are also great for your external appearance. To get the lowdown on eating pretty, we asked celebrity dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone, the author of numerous best-selling books, including "The Perricone Prescription" and "The Wrinkle Cure," for his top beauty foods. We then matched each food on Perricone's list with delicious Epicurious recipes.

The keywords for most of Perricone's recommendations are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants help protect the body from free-radical damage: cell damage that is linked to cancer, heart disease, and a host of other illnesses. "Antioxidants can impede and even repair the damage to skin cells that come with aging," Perricone writes in "The Wrinkle Cure." "Soft, radiant, younger-looking skin is the gratifying result."

The other big "A," anti-inflammatory, refers to foods that are believed to fight chronic, low-grade inflammation in the body — this is inflammation that exists on a molecular level as opposed to visible inflammation from sunburn or a sprained ankle. "Research indicates that the effects of this chronic, low-grade, invisible inflammation is at the basis of aging and age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and autoimmune diseases — and even wrinkled, sagging skin," Perricone claims in "The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet."

So say hello to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superstars such as asparagus, wild salmon, and dark chocolate, and good-bye (or at least "see you later") to wrinkles, dull skin, and other signs of aging.

Blueberries
This perpetual topper of "superfood" lists gets the thumbs-up from Perricone for being one of the greatest sources of antioxidants, as well as a potent anti-inflammatory.

Apples
Who needs exotic tropical fruits? This old standby is bursting with anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting phytonutrients, as well as the antioxidant quercetin, says Perricone. Apples also pack a big dose of fiber, which can help you slim down by filling you up.

Wild salmon
This fish is rich in long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids, which Perricone calls the most beneficial kind. Omega-3s bolster heart health, may fight depression, and help keep skin young, supple, and radiant. Wild salmon also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Nuts
Nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds are good sources of heart-healthy short-chain (plant-based) omega-3 essential fatty acids. Nuts are also high in an amino acid called arginine, which Perricone says can not only help reduce cholesterol and boost the immune system but also increase lean muscle and burn fat, giving you a sleeker physique.

Dark Leafy Greens
Greens such as kale and spinach contain antioxidants called carotenoids that can reduce the risks of heart disease, neutralize carcinogens, protect your eyes, enhance immune response, and help your skin by blocking sunlight-induced inflammation, which can lead to wrinkles and skin cancer.

Asparagus
This fiber-rich favorite provides copious amounts of rutin, a bioflavonoid that Perricone says may help prevent broken capillaries. It's also a great source of the antioxidant glutathione.