Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." That's French for "tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." Since then, the phrase has evolved into its much more popular version, "you are what you eat" [source: Keyes]. It doesn't mean that eating chicken makes you a chicken, but rather that eating healthy -- as many vegetarians do -- makes you healthy, or vice versa. There is a lot of truth to this, but experts say it shouldn't have you jumping to any conclusions about skin health.
There is no documented evidence that a vegetarian diet has any effect on the skin, good or bad [source: Leffell]. Likewise, there is a lack of scientific studies showing that meat consumption has a negative effect on skin [source: Orlow].
If you notice that all of your vegetarian friends seem to have healthy skin, this is most likely the result of another factor or a coincidence. Generally, fruits and vegetables contain many natural nutrients that could have a positive effect on skin health. An increased level of consumption might yield positive results, but again, this doesn't mean that those who also include meat in their diets should be any worse off [source: Orlow].
Skin problems are often the result of free radicals bouncing around inside our bodies, which cause damage on an atomic level and lead to premature aging of the skin in the form of blemishes and wrinkles [source: Bouchez]. Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E can neutralize free radicals and prevent this from happening, so an increased consumption of these might help reverse some of the negative effects. Vitamins A, C and E are readily found in fruits, nuts and vegetables -- foods that vegetarians tend to eat [source: Bouchez]. And some experts believe that vegetarians who eat healthy may also avoid other habits, such as smoking, that are bad for the skin [source: Alley].
At the end of the day, you don't have to be a vegetarian to have healthy skin -- you just need to maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables and stay away from habits that could damage your skin. Keep reading to find out what else you can do to keep your skin healthy.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Alley, Holly. "Vegetarianism." UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension Service. 1995. (Accessed 9/2/2009)
- Bouchez, Colette. "Nutrients for Healthy Skin: Inside and Out." Medicine Net. (Accessed 9/2/2009). http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50505
- Keyes, Ralph. "The Quote Verifier." Barnes and Noble.com (Accessed 08/19/2009). http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Quote-Verifier/Ralph-Keyes/e/9780312340049
- Leffell, David, MD. Personal Interview. August 20, 2009.
- Orlow, Seth, M.D., PhD. Personal Interview. August 20, 2009.
- Tarascio, Juniper Russo. "Ten Health Benefits of Vegetarianism for Women." Associated Content. Apr. 14, 2009. (Accessed 08/14/2009)http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1626337/ten_health_benefits_of_vegetarianism.html?cat=5