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8 Power Plants


If you're looking to give your skin an overhaul, choose one or more of these eight power foods the next time you reach for a snack, make a meal or buy a skincare product. These fruits, grains, nuts and herbs are all high in phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that act as antioxidants to target cell-damaging free radicals (highly reactive molecules found in our bodies and in the environment that are believed to contribute to ageing and disease.) So, inside or out, the eight foods profiled here work to make you healthy and beautiful.

Oatmeal

One of the world's most nutritious grains, oatmeal got the US Food & Drug Administration's seal of approval for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Fibre-filled oatmeal also keeps the gastro-intestinal tract running smoothly.

On Your Skin

When it comes to treating dry, itchy skin, nothing beats oatmeal: Oats contain the antioxidant phytic acid, a fatty acid that's soothing to the skin, explains New York City dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross. (Phytic acid clings to the skin and acts as a barrier to help lock in moisture.)

Tea

Research from the National Cancer Institute in the US points to a range of health benefits from catechins (found in green, black and white tea) ranging from improved cardiovascular health and anti-cancer activity to immune-system strengthening.

On Your Skin

Tea's antioxidant properties are well-known: It may be useful in thwarting the photo-ageing caused by sun damage. Specifically, green tea is being studied to determine whether it works to prevent skin cancer, explains Dr Alexa Boer Kimball, an assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California. It's thought that polyphenols - catechins are one type of these antioxidants may slow the inflammation process that begins with sun exposure and, in a domino-like effect, leads to DNA mutations that result in cancer.

Raspberries

This fruit is best known for its liver protecting function. Recent studies by the Hollings Cancer Institute at the University of Carolina have also proven that ellagic acid found in raspberries prevents the development of cancer cells. The best part is that ellagic acid is not easily destroyed by heat or by can processing, which means that these red gems keep their potent cancer preventive powers.

On Your Skin

Their antioxidant qualities not only cleanse the body internally, but also have whitening properties. When used topically, raspberry extracts can help even out dark spots for a clear complexion.

Licorice

This aromatic herb has been used for ages as an expectorant (think of the nasty-tasting syrups that do wonders for coughs). Another possible health benefit: An acid present in black licorice, glycyrrhizin, has been used in Japan for more than 20 years as a treatment for chronic hepatitis.

On Your Skin

Licorice is finding its way into skin hydrators, where it offers anti-inflammatory benefits, explains Dr Howard Murad, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. It also seems to help lighten hyper-pigmentation marks on the skin.

Rosemary

Best known for its lovely aroma, this herb is rich in antioxidant compounds, some of which have anti-tumor properties, says Keith W. Singletary, a professor of nutrition at the University at Urbana-Champaign in Illinois.

On Your Skin 

Extracts of this herb can be found in moisturisers.

Chocolate

Lovers of this sweet treat take note: Chocolate isn't the bad guy that it's made out to be. Two recent studies, from the University of California, Davis and the University of Cologne in Germany, showed that eating chocolate - dark chocolate, in particular- has heart protective benefits thanks to polyphenols, substances that protect cells against damaging free radicals. 

On Your Skin 

Chocolate extract is being added to skin products as an anti-inflammatory agent. Cocoa butter - which, like chocolate, is made from cocoa beans - also is a popular skin soother.

Soyabeans

These high-protein legumes are packed with potassium and isoflavones, which can act as antioxidants. Research suggests a link between regular consumption of soybeans (up to 25g daily) and healthier cholesterol levels.

On Your Skin 

"Soy is rich in antioxidants, so while it battles away at free radicals, skin can go about its business and operate at its peak;" says Miami-based dermatologist Dr Frederic Brandt.

Almonds

Like many nuts, almonds are rich in vitamin E and protein, explains Samantha Heller, senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. Studies also show that almonds may help reduce the risk of heart disease; they're rich in monounsaturated fat, which may lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol while preserving HDL ("good") cholesterol.

On Your Skin 

Almond oil is especially rich in fatty acids - key components of the skin's outer layer of cells that keeps moisture in and bacteria out. It is also very soothing.

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