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Will Going Vegan Give You Great Skin?

Experts dish on the complexion pros (and cons) of ditching meat and dairy.

| March 21st, 2013
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Will Going Vegan Give You Great Skin?

You already know that a healthy diet is synonymous with healthy skin. But what about vegan diets? Can you chalk up a youthful, glowing complexion to ditching chicken and ice cream? Whether you nix animal products for health reasons, ethical reasons or both, we got the lowdown from our experts on how this affects your pretty face.

So what exactly does meat do to our skin?

For starters, it can be loaded with saturated fat, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Unhealthy arteries means your skin isn’t getting the glow-inducing nutrients it needs to stay healthy. One study found red meat consumption in particular is positively associated with increased inflammation in the body, which worms its way into your skin to break down collagen and elastin (the building blocks of a youthful complexion).

MORE: The 30-Day Meat-Free Challenge to Help Your Skin

It may even contribute to breakouts, according to one study that concluded acne is linked, in part, to our western diet of excessive animal proteins. Researchers recommended we limit the total leucine—an amino acid found in meat—intake predominantly provided by animal protein to decrease acne on our skin.

Ditto for dairy.

One study examined the diets of 47,355 women and found a positive link between milk and acne. That’s because the majority of milk we consume is produced by pregnant cows, meaning there are high levels of hormones present. That can be an open invitation to oil secretion, breakouts and acne.

But if you think simply ditching the meat and dairy is the answer to a more flawless complexion, it’s not.

“The benefits that you get from removing meat and dairy from your caloric intake all depend on the foods that you choose to replace those calories,” explains Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., YouBeauty Nutrition Expert. In other words, a vegan who replaces the calories with more fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods will see a major benefit in her complexion and overall beauty.

MORE: Eat Carrots, Look Prettier

That’s because fruits and veggies have a higher water content than cooked meats, and eating foods with high water content (like cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe) help hydrate our skin, plump out fine lines and bring on a radiant glow.

Same goes for essential nutrients. A well-balanced vegan diet is typically higher in vitamin C, says Kirkpatrick. “Vitamin C is needed for collagen metabolism, which increases the elasticity of the skin, providing a smoother and less-wrinkled complexion.” You can get your highest dose in foods like papaya, strawberries, oranges, kale, lemon, cauliflower and garlic.

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