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.
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.
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.
Beta-carotene, found in dark green leafy veggies and yellow-orange produce, can also be higher in vegan diets, and it protects skin against inflammation and helps with cell growth.Not to say you can’t get these nutrients without a vegan diet, but if your meals and snacks mainly consist of plant-based foods, you will boost your odds.Keep in mind, going vegan is not necessarily a surefire way to a better complexion, explains Kirkpatrick. “It is a myth that all vegan diets are healthy because there are plenty of vegans who do not replace their calories in the proper way, which puts them at a higher risk of bad complexion and more serious disease than the meat would ever provide.”