The good-skin diet
How to get the seven vitamins you need for a beautiful complexion
We've all heard the mantra, "You are what you eat." This saying took on new meaning for me, however, after strolling around the grocery store, peeking into carts. Those filled with white bread, doughnuts, soft drinks and potato chips were often pushed by people with pasty complexions and lifeless hair. And those loaded with fresh spinach and strawberries, fat-free milk, whole-wheat bread and salmon had shoppers with rosy, smooth skin and shiny hair behind them.
The truth is, what you eat does affect how you look -- today and down the road. Here's a rundown of the nutrients you need for healthy, glowing skin.
This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for the maintenance and healing of epithelial tissues, with skin being the largest expanse of epithelial tissue you've got.
Egg yolks, oysters and nonfat milk. You can also get vitamin A from foods rich in beta carotene (see below), which the body can convert into vitamin A.
German researchers found that as little as 30 milligrams a day (the equivalent of 1 1/2 cups of cooked carrots) can help prevent/reduce the redness and inflammation associated with sunburn. "Beta carotene accumulates in the skin, providing 24-hour protection against sun damage," says Ronald R. Watson, Ph.D., professor of public health research at Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson. Also, when combined with vitamin E, other carotenoids (cousins to beta carotene) like lutein seem to reduce redness associated with sunburn and reduce skin sensitivity to sunlight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dark-colored produce, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, broccoli and spinach
B vitamins help convert calories into energy for skin metabolism and are components of enzymes that maintain normal skin function (including functioning of the oil-producing glands, which keep skin moist and smooth). That's why poor intake of almost any B vitamin can cause dry or scaly skin.
Poultry, red meat, fish, bananas, tempeh, whole grains, brewer's yeast, peanut butter and eggs
When taken internally, this vitamin helps maintain collagen -- the underlying supporting structure of skin. But sun exposure (and stress) can drain vitamin C from the skin, leaving it vulnerable to damage from the environment (why anti-aging creams and sunscreens have been infused with this potent antioxidant).
Citrus fruits and juices, kiwi, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet peppers and green peas
This antioxidant helps slow the aging of skin cells by reducing the production of an enzyme called collagenase, which breaks down collagen, causing the skin to sag and wrinkle, according to a study in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine. And sun exposure can deplete vitamin E from the skin, making it more vulnerable to sun damage (why vitamin E is found in skin-care products from moisturizers to body washes).
Salmon, legumes, extra-lean meat, almonds, leafy vegetables, and olive and sesame oils
The damaging effects of ultraviolet light are minimized by this antioxidant mineral, thereby reducing your risk for sunburn. In fact, low blood levels of selenium also increase your risk for skin cancer, say researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
Tuna, wheat germ, sesame seeds and whole grains
This trace mineral helps maintain collagen and elastin fibers that give skin its firmness, helping to prevent sagging and wrinkles. It also links together amino acids that are needed for the formation of collagen -- essential in wound healing.
Seafood, turkey, pork, soybeans and mushrooms