[By Charlene Choi]
Our skin is very reflective of our inner health, you can tell a lot about a person’s diet just by looking at his or her skin. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a simple recipe you could whip up in the kitchen to get beautiful, glowing skin, at any age? Well there is—or at least there are foods high in nutrients that can help skin look its best.
However, with our hectic lives, it can be hard to eat right all the time. What’s more free radicals that we encounter in our daily lives (from pollution to UV) breaks down our skin’s collagen to wreak havoc in the form of wrinkles, inflammation and skin discoloration. Other factors that affect the look and health of our skin include airborne pollutants, toxins in our food, sleep deprivation, stress and dehydration.
While it’s best to get vital nutrients from food, making up any shortfall with supplements is a good idea. Beautiful skin comes from the inside out so here are the nutrients (and the foods you’ll find them in) to add to your daily diet for healthier skin.
Essential fatty acids
Skin benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids help nourish your skin by reducing inflammation and androgen production, a hormone linked to acne.
Best food sources: Salmon and small, fatty fish such as anchovies, sardines and herring are all good choices. Soybeans and ground flaxseeds are good vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Recommended dose: The Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., says 1.1 grams (1,100 mg) per day for women represents an adequate intake. One teaspoon (5 mL) of flaxseed oil equals 2.5 grams of omega-3 fats; a four-ounce (120 g) piece of salmon contains 1.5 grams; ¼ cup (60 mL) of walnuts has two grams.
Skin benefits: It’s essential for healthy skin because it helps to form new cells, inside and out.
Best food sources: You can get vitamin A from vegetables that are dark orange (carrots, sweet potatoes) or dark green (broccoli, spinach, kale) and, to a lesser degree, from eggs and dairy products.
Recommended dose: The RDA for vitamin A is 3,000 International Units (IU). Consider this: The amount of vitamin A in just one medium sweet potato exceeds this daily requirement.
Skin benefits: They help to neutralize collagen-damaging free radicals.
Best food sources: You’ll find them in beans, berries (blueberries, red grapes and blackberries), nuts, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and other orange or red fruit and vegetables. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant because it can slow down free radical damage on the inside and outside of skin. Vitamin C is abundant in fruit, especially citrus (oranges, grapefruit and lemons), and veggies; in fact, a red pepper contains more C than an orange.
Recommended dose: There is no RDA for antioxidants, only an ORAC [oxygen radical absorbance capacity] score. Foods high on the ORAC score may be able to protect cells and their components from oxidative damage, and therefore improve the look of skin.
Skin benefits: It keeps skin moisturized and helps wounds heal.
Best food sources: Vitamin E is found in oils—nut, olive, vegetable—whole grains, seeds and avocados.
Recommended dose: The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams a day. A ¼ cup (60 mL) of sunflower seeds contains about 12 milligrams, for example.
Skin benefits: It ensures healthy, well-oxygenated blood. Without enough oxygen, skin looks dull and is slower to rejuvenate new cells.
Best food sources: Red meat, eggs, spinach, liver and seafood.
Recommended dose: The RDA for iron is 18 milligrams for women. About three ounces (75 g) of round steak contains 3.1 milligrams of iron; ½ cup (125 mL) of boiled, drained spinach contains 3.4 milligrams of iron. To bump up low levels, consider a supplement, but talk to your doctor first.
Skin benefits: Zinc is an immune system booster, and when you have a stressed-out immune system it will show in your complexion.
Best food sources: Oysters are a fantastic source of zinc, as are meats, seafood, whole grains and nuts.
Recommended dose: The RDA for zinc is eight milligrams. Six oysters contain a bonanza of almost 77 milligrams. Eat ¾ cup (175 mL) of a bran breakfast cereal and you get 33 milligrams; three ounces (90 g) of cooked Alaska king crab has 6.5 milligrams.