By Michael A. Smith, MD
Despite the cosmetic industry’s promises of youthful skin, aging men and women seem to be spending more money on serums and creams, yet remain unsatisfied with the results.
Well, maybe we can help all of those skin care products work better. What if the missing link is food? Let’s take a look at the best foods for healthy and youthful looking skin.
We suggest adding several servings a day of the foods below to really feel better about your skin…and your body!
Your Skin Likes Yellow & Orange Colored FoodsCarrots, apricots and yellow squash are rich in vitamin A – a vitamin essential for healthy, younger looking skin. Vitamin A is composed of two broad groups of compounds: retinols and carotenoids. The retinols, besides supporting the retina in your eyes, also act as hormone-like growth factors for skin epithelial cells and mucosal cells lining your gut and lungs.
These important compounds help to nurture and support the growth and differentiation of skins cells within the different layers of your skin. Without vitamin A, skin cells won’t develop properly and will result in dry, itchy, lackluster skin.
Beans, Peas and Lentils Invigorate SkinThere are a couple of things that the legumes (beans, peas and lentils) will do for your skin. First, they provide ceramides, a specialized type of fat. Ceramides lock in moisture deep within the layer of your skin. And let’s not forget that moist skin looks and feels younger and supple.
Legumes also are a source of protein for the skin. When protein is eaten, your digestive system breaks the protein into the building blocks – amino acids. The amino acids pass into the blood and are carried throughout the body. Your cells can then select the amino acids they need for the construction of new body tissue, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and blood cells.
This is why every cell needs protein to maintain its life. Skin cells are constantly wearing out, needing to be replaced. Legumes can supply the necessary protein for healthy skin cell turn over and replacement.
Your Skin Really Needs Omega-3 FatsOmega-3 fats from oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are so important for healthy skin. The omega-3 fats form part if the skin cell membrane that helps to hold the skin cell together. A healthy cell membrane translates into a healthy skin cell.
Secondly, omega-3 fats can help to ease inflammation throughout your body, including in your skin.1 Lowering inflammation within your skin can help to reduce the appearance of red, irritated skin. Try to eat 2-3 serving of oily fish every week. But to really benefit from omega-3 fats, we also suggest a daily, high-quality fish oil supplement.
Your Skin is Nutty for NutsNuts round off our suggestions because they are satisfying snacks and they provide all of the nutrients mentioned above: Vitamin A, ceramides, protein and essential fats. It would do all of us some good to reach for a handful of nuts, instead of fried chips, the next time we need a quick snack.
But there’s a caveat…nuts contain a lot of calories. So just be aware of that when snacking on them. It’s really easy to overdo it!
And remember, many of the best foods for your skin also promote good health overall. That’s why focusing on a healthy diet in general will also go a long way in promoting healthy skin.
So eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Include nuts, seeds and beans in your favorite meals. Opt for whole-grain breads and pasta. Limit sweets. Strive for variety as you're making healthy choices!
- Nutr Clin Pract. 2009 Aug-Sep;24(4):508-12.
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