As the largest organ in our body, our skin deserves our attention. Warmer spring temperatures means that we’ll be shedding some of our heavy winter clothes, which means you may be thinking more about your skin! Too often, we try to fix our skin from the outside in rather than the inside out. Your diet can play a huge role in the appearance and health of your skin. The following are 7 best nutrients for healthy, glowing skin and how to incorporate more into your diet.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A has been used for years as a topical treatment for treating sun damage and acne. Although the majority of research has focused on the topical use of vitamin A, a diet with an adequate amount of the vitamin can also be beneficial. Vitamin A acts as a switch, which promotes the maturation of new skin cells. Two different forms of Vitamin A are found in foods: retinol and beta-carotene. Make sure to include zinc in your diet as well since this mineral is needed to help transport vitamin A in the blood and convert it to retinal in the eye to prevent night blindness.
- Eat these: sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, red bell peppers, cantaloupe, beef liver, broccoli, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps your body build collagen which is the structural component of almost all cells – including skin, teeth, and hair. This vitamin is also a powerful antioxidant so it helps protect against free radical damage like that caused by UV rays from the sun. Due to it’s important role in the synthesis of collagen, observational studies have found those with higher intakes of vitamin C often have healthier skin and fewer wrinkles. Higher intakes of this vitamin have also been correlated with a decrease in dry skin as vitamin C may play a role in preventing water loss in the skin.
- Eat these: red bell peppers, oranges, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for the maintenance of healthy skin and occurs naturally in 8 chemically different forms. The main role of vitamin E is to act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. One interesting way it protects your skin from sun damage is by absorbing the energy from UV radiation so it doesn’t damage cells – especially when combined with vitamin C. Vitamin E is the most abundant micronutrient found in the outermost layers of the skin. More exposure to UV radiation decreases levels of the vitamin in the skin, so bumping up your intake of foods high in vitamins E and C over the summer may be beneficial. (Sun screen is still a must however!)
- Eat these: almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, olive oil, peanuts and peanut butter, spinach, and broccoli.
- Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is often overlooked, but plays an important role in preventing cell damage and promoting wound healing. In fact, approximately 6% of the total amount of zinc in the body is found in the skin. Like vitamin C, it helps build new cells and repair damaged ones and is often included in topical treatments for acne and diaper rash. It also protects against UV radiation and is actually included in many sunscreens. On a side note, zinc is also very important for healthy hair and insufficient intake can lead to thin, dull hair.
- Eat these: whole grains, nuts, seeds, tempeh, beans, lentils, fish, and meat (especially red meat).
- Essential Fatty Acids: Fat is one of the main components of our skin so it is important to eat a diet that incorporates healthy fats to maintain healthy and supple skin. In fact, the fat in your diet can significantly effect the fatty acid profile in your skin! High intakes of Omega 3 fatty acids seem to be able to protect against UV radiation and sunburn. Eating more Omega 3’s (as well as vegetables, olive oil, and legumes) may also help decrease wrinkling in skin that receives a lot of sun exposure.
- Eat these: salmon, sardines, walnuts, and chia seeds.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are a type of phytochemical found in plants that provide their vibrant colors and are known to act as antioxidants. Flavonoids found in green tea, called catechins, appears to promote healthier skin by helping block UV penetration, promoting DNA repair, reducing free radical damage, and limiting inflammation. Both green tea and green tea supplements have been studied and both show potential benefits. Although they haven’t been studied as extensively in relation to skin, the other various phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, cocoa, and red wine are also powerful antioxidants which could promote healthy skin.
- Eat these: green tea, fruits, vegetables, and cocoa.
- Selenium: Selenium is trace element that is an important component of the antioxidant, glutathione, which helps prevent damage from free radicals in the skin, especially damage caused after sun exposure. Selenium also helps maintain skin elasticity to prevent premature aging of the skin.
- Eat these: wheat germ, seafood, brazil nuts, eggs, whole grains
Lastly, although not necessarily a nutrient, water/adequate hydration is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Aim to drink at least 6-8 eight ounce glasses of water or herbal tea a day.