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Diet and your skin: What to eat to keep your skin looking its best

It has often been debated what if any effect our diet has on our skin.  Does chocolate lead to acne?  We’ve all heard these sorts of questions.  Well several studies have recently shown that a diet rich in certain nutrients can give your skin a healthier glow.  Other foods, when avoided, may prevent break outs or poor skin appearance. Here’s a short list (put together by the authors of Eat This, Not That) of skin friendly nutrients and the best foods in which to find them.

Vitamin E: Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which is a powerful anti-oxidant which scavenges free radicals which can cause skin breakdown.  In one study where participants consumed 14mg of vitamin E (about 20 almonds), they had less evidence of UV skin damage after sun exposure.

Omega 3 fatty acids: The omega 3’s are essential fatty acids, meaning you don’t make them on your own and have to get them through the diet.  They are linked to lower triglycerides and have several beneficial effects for the heart.  Flax seeds are packed with omega 3’s. In one skin study, participants that consumed a half teaspoon of flax seed for 6 weeks had more plump and hydrated skin with less redness and irritation.  Salmon is also a great source of omega 3’s.

Almonds for better skin

Lycopene: This free-radical found most commonly in tomatoes can also give extra protection from UV radiation.  Cooking tomatoes will concentrate this nutrient.  Lycopene is also found in watermelon.

Vitamin C: This is a key ingredient in collagen and is found in lots of foods, including citrus fruits and carrots.  Sweet potatoes are an excellent source.  One study showed that consuming 4mg daily over time can reduce the formation of wrinkles by as much as 11%.

Folic acid: Leafy green vegetables are a great source of this nutrient, which is integral to DNA repair.  Studies have shown that those who eat a diet rich in green vegetables including folic acid have half as many skin tumors as those who have diets sparse on these vegetables.

Omega 6 fatty acids: Described as the ultimate moisturizer, omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to reduce scaly, itchy skin and may be of great benefit to people with eczema.  Safflower oil is an excellent source.

Vitamin A: This fat soluble vitamin helps reduce the overproduction of surface skin cells, reducing skin oils and clogged pores.  Carrots are a great source.

Catechin: This anti-oxidant is prominent in hot green tea. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.  It has been shown to reduce the effects of sun damage in people drinking 2-6 cups daily.

green tea for good skin

Flavanols: Dark chocolate is rich in this anti-oxidant shown to reduce the roughness of skin and prevent skin cancer.

A good rule of thumb is to eat a diet high in vegetables, incorporating as many colors as possible.  Avoiding foods with a high glycemic index has also recently been associated with clearer skin.  In addition, dairy has been recently linked to acne and anecdotal evidence has spurred a number of new studies.  Bottom-line, a healthy diet will be evident in a brighter, healthier countenance.