You really are what you eat, especially when it comes to your face, hands, elbows, and everything in between. Skin is one of the most powerful indicators of health. Wrinkles, dry or oily skin, acne, and inflammation all are signs of poor internal health, often brought on by consuming unhealthy foods and lacking of skin-healthy nutrients.
Does your skin really need nutrients?
A research from Australia found a direct link between diet and complexion; after studying the dietary habits of more than 400 elderly people, scientists concluded that those who ate more vegetables, fish, and olive oil over the years had fewer wrinkles than those who had a high intake of red meat, butter, and dairy.
Health experts say that vitamins and minerals in all forms play an integral role in a healthy complexion, whether the source is food, supplements, or even a jar of cream. So which nutrients do you need to keep your skin healthy and looking its best?
Here’s a quick checklist on what to eat to meet your skin’s specific needs: -
- How it helps your skin: Vitamin A is a free-radical scavenger. Created by factors like pollution, and UV rays, free radicals cause skin damage, breaking down skin’s structure. Vitamin A also fights acne breakouts and blemishes, lowering production of pore-clogging oil. Plus, it helps wounds heal and is used in new tissue formation.
- Find it in these foods: Green and yellow vegetables — like spinach, peppers, asparagus, broccoli and squash — are rich sources of vitamin A. You’ll also find vitamin A in low-fat dairy products, egg yolk, peaches, apricots and cantaloupe.
- How it helps your skin: Vitamin B promotes “smooth skin and may help prevent the formation of blackheads,” according to Better Nutrition. B-vitamins also help carry out cell functions and encourage oil production, so not getting enough can lead to flaky, dry skin.
- Find it in these foods: Load up on protein, like red or white meats, fish, eggs and peanut butter. Certain grains, like brown rice, also contain vitamin B.
- How it helps your skin: This powerful antioxidant helps repair and grow tissue, protects against free radicals and aids in skin healing from burns or wounds. It also keeps skin firm by preserving collagen. In addition, vitamin C boosts the immune system and may also defend against cardiovascular disease.
- Find it in these foods: Because our bodies don’t produce vitamin C, we must take it in through diet. Get your daily dose from broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, fruit juices, beets, avocados, asparagus, tomatoes and peppers. Reach for extra helpings of these foods if you smoke, drink alcohol or take anti-depressants, because these factors can reduce vitamin C levels.
- How it helps your skin: First, vitamin E slows “production of an enzyme called collagenase, which breaks down collagen, causing the skin to sag and wrinkle. Plus, it helps skin retain moisture.
- Find it in these foods: Go nuts — literally! Almonds are especially rich in vitamin E. You can also get vitamin E through lean meats, salmon, legumes and leafy vegetables.
Fats: Omega-3s and omega-6s
- How they help your skin: We often view all fats as unhealthy. But, we’re not talking donuts and onion rings or saturated fats that can spike cholesterol levels. Instead, the healthy fats you want to consume are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These good fats, like omega-3s and omega-6s, minimize inflammation and dryness. As such, they’re especially important for people with eczema and psoriasis. On a cellular level, good fats form a lipid barrier that holds in water and allows waste products to exit. Omega-3s and omega-6s can also keep our immune and cardiovascular systems healthy.
- Find them in these foods: Fresh deepwater fish, including mackerel, salmon and tuna contain omega-3s. Also, find them in seeds and nuts like almonds, pecans or walnuts. Get omega-6s in oils like olive oil, sesame oil, primrose oil and sunflower oil.
- How they help your skin: Flavanols are antioxidants that may lower your risk of sunburn. In one study, after women consumed a drink with flavanols every day for over 12 weeks, they had 25 percent less skin redness in response to UV exposure and also improved their skin texture and hydration. Flavanols also boost moisture levels so skin feels soft and smooth, instead of dry or rough.
- Find them in these foods: Dark chocolate. Aim for three or four ounces per day.
- How it helps your skin: One German study found that this antioxidant reduces sensitivity to UV rays by 32 percent. In turn, this might make skin less vulnerable to sun damage, such as age spots and wrinkles. However, you must still wear sunscreen to get sufficient sun protection. In general, lycopene lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.
- Find it in these foods: Tomatoes, tomato sauce, guava, red papaya and watermelon. Our bodies can absorb lycopene better from cooked tomato products versus uncooked tomatoes.
- How it helps your skin: This antioxidant minimizes UV damage to skin cells, which may lower your sunburn risk. According to a research from Texas Tech University, low blood levels of selenium increase your risk for skin cancer.
- Find it in these foods: Tuna, whole grains, turkey and Brazil nuts.
- How it helps your skin: The second most abundant element on earth, silicon is needed for formation of collagen and connective tissue. Plus, it slows the aging process and keeps your hair and nails healthy.
- Find it in these foods: Ensure your diet has enough silicon by consuming bell peppers, soybeans, oats, whole grains, brown rice and green leafy vegetables.
- How it helps your skin: Because it affects oil production, zinc may help to stave off acne. Zinc also preserves collagen, preventing sagginess and wrinkles, and aids wound healing.
- Find it in these foods: Zinc’s an easy mineral to incorporate in your diet. It’s found in lamb, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, lima beans, egg yolks and mushrooms.
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