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A Vegan's Guide to Healthy Skin

One of the easiest and healthiest things you can do for your skin is to switch to a plant-based diet that is low in refined sugar and processed foods. Diet plays such a critical role in the look and feel of your skin-it really is an outward expression of your overall health. Animal-based proteins contain hormones that wreak havoc on the skin, causing painful acne and a generally dull complexion.

A simple tip for improving the look of your skin is to avoid specific foods that you know cause an allergy or sensitivity. Any food that creates inflammation in your body will also cause problems with your skin-the most common culprits are dairy, sugar, and wheat. You can keep a food diary to figure out which foods give you the most trouble. It's also important to eat fresh, unprocessed foods that are rich in silicon, sulfur, zinc, and iron. These minerals are essential for boosting your immune system and maintaining the overall health of your skin. Another way to brighten your skin is to make sure you avoid smoking and limit your coffee intake-smoking is linked to early aging, and coffee gives the skin a dull appearance.

Many people shy away from veganism because they assume it's too difficult to get the nutrition that is necessary to stay healthy. Not true! Simply follow these guidelines and you'll be on your way to gorgeous, glowing skin in no time.

Protein Sources

Protein is an essential part of maintaining a healthy, glowing complexion. The biggest concern people have when eliminating animal products from their diet is how they will get enough protein, but there's no need to worry-adults who eat animal products actually tend to get too much protein, and your daily requirement can be easily met without consuming meat. Soy-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, and soymilk are great options. Nuts, seeds, and beans are also very high in protein, and seitan (a wheat-based product) is also a good choice. People are often interested to learn that vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and corn, are excellent sources of protein.

Whole Grains, Vegetables, and Fruits

A staple in everyone's diet should be lots of whole grains and fresh, unprocessed foods. It's a good idea to eat vegetables in a variety of colors because they often contain more vitamins and nutrients. Dark leafy greens are an important part of a vegan diet because they are excellent sources of calcium and iron. Whole grains can be found in quinoa, brown rice, barley, and whole-wheat bread and pasta. You should try to get at least three or four servings of vegetables and whole grains a day.

Fruit is another part of a healthy vegan diet because it is a great source of fiber. Choose at least one serving of fruits that are high in vitamin C, such as melons, strawberries, or citrus fruits.

Fats/Oils

Healthy fats and oils are an essential part of a good diet-the trick is learning how to distinguish them from their unhealthy counterparts. It is best for 15-20% of your daily caloric intake to come from fats. Canola and olive oils, nuts and seeds, avocado, and nut butters (such as almond and peanut) are excellent sources of healthy fats. You may have heard about the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids-they are necessary for a healthy brain and heart, and they also improve the quality of your skin. Omnivores usually receive their Omega-3 from fish, but vegans can find it in walnuts and flaxseed.

Vitamins

A few of the most important vitamins for vegans are calcium, iron, vitamins D and B12, and iodine. Most people think that you need to consume dairy in order to get enough calcium, but dark, leafy greens are actually a much better source. Dairy contains hormones and saturated fat, whereas one cup of cooked greens (such as collards) is packed with more calcium than dairy with zero of the negative side effects.

Vitamins D, B12, and iodine are critical for proper nervous system, brain, heart, and thyroid function. B12 comes from soil bacteria, which isn't present in most modern-day, genetically modified crops. Studies have shown that most Americans are deficient in vitamin D (which comes from exposure to sunlight) due to the use of sunblock, increased time indoors, and air pollution. The usual sources of iodine are iodized salt and sea vegetables such as kelp and wakame, so if you are reducing your salt intake it may be necessary to supplement at least 150 mcg each day.

Vegans usually need to look for vitamins B12 and D in fortified foods and supplements. 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D is recommended, and anywhere from 250-5000 mcg of B12 would be beneficial for most people.

More information about adopting a vegan lifestyle: