Is your skin getting the nutrition it needs? A balanced diet (á la Best Life) that contains six nutrients in particular will promote radiant skin today and help stave off wrinkles tomorrow. (Don’t forget to use sunscreen, too, which will protect against ultraviolet radiation that injures DNA in skin cells and triggers the formation of skin-damaging and disease-causing free radicals.) Are you getting enough of the following six skin nutrients?
Carotenoids. A study in the journal Experimental Dermatology found that people with higher concentration of carotenoids (plant pigments that include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene) in their skin have fewer and less pronounced wrinkles.
• Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens and turnip greens
• Sweet potato
• Tomatoes (fresh and canned)
• Tomato paste and sauce
Vitamin E. This antioxidant fights sun damage and skin cancer and helps maintain the skin barrier so bacteria don’t penetrate as easily, according to a review by researchers at Boston University Medical Center. (It’s also in skincare products.)
• Vegetable oils (particularly canola, peanut, olive and soybean oils)
Vitamin C. In addition to its antioxidant powers, this vitamin is also critical for the formation of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin looking firm and also provides elasticity.
Vitamin D. It seems paradoxical: The natural way to get vitamin D is through sunlight, which in turn, ages your skin. But vitamin D helps protect against DNA damage caused by UV radiation. If you’re doing what you should—limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen—you’re not getting enough vitamin D. (You need 600 IU daily if you’re age 50 or younger; 800 IU if you’re over 51.) You can also get the vitamin through your diet: Some food sources, such as the ones below, contain a little D, but many people will need to take a supplement to get the full amount.
• Milk and fortified soymilk (contains 100 IU per cup)
• Fortified foods, like cereal, spreads (including the Smart Balance varieties) and orange juice (can contain anywhere from 100 to about 400 IU)
• Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel (which range from about 250 IU to 1,000 IU per 3½-ounce serving)
Omega-3 fatty acids. They help create and maintain the stratum corneum, the outer layer of skin, and promote wound healing. They also fight inflammation caused by UV damage, and actually raise the threshold at which your skin burns so you don’t burn quite so quickly. There are different types of omega-3 fats—EPA and DHA are the most potent; plant-based ALA is also beneficial.
• Fatty fish, such as arctic char, salmon, sardines, trout (rich in of EPA and DHA)
• Canola oil
• Chia seeds
• Flaxseed oil
• Ground flaxseed
Resveratrol. This powerful antioxidant helps protect against free radical damage in the skin.
• Peanut butter
• Red wine
• Red and purple grapes
• Red and purple grape juice
Which of these foods will you be adding to your diet?