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5 Foods to Improve Your Skin

Orange Treephoto © 2005 Steve Webel | more info (via: Wylio)
While we recommend a daily sunscreen (even in the winter), there are options for taking care of your skin from the inside out. The foods we eat provide nutrients which will benefit hair, skin, and nail growth. Read on for some tips on nutritious foods that pack a punch when it comes to skin improvement.


Eating more vitamin C-rich foods may help to ward off wrinkles and age-related dryness, suggests research from 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin C’s skin-smoothing effects may be due to its ability to mop up free radicals produced from ultraviolet rays and also its role in collagen synthesis. Collagen is fibrous protein that keeps skin firm and vitamin C is essential for collagen production. Other research suggests that vitamin C may also protect skin cells by promoting the repair of DNA that’s been damaged by UV rays. You can find vitamin C in a multitude of cosmetics, but why not go straight to the source for a tasty boost of vitamin C: strawberries, red bell peppers, papaya, broccoli and oranges are all excellent sources.


For those of you who love coffee, it is nice to know it may play a role in lowering the risk of skin cancer. In one study of more than 93,000 women, published in theEuropean Journal of Cancer Prevention, those who drank even a single daily cup of caffeinated coffee reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. And the more they drank—up to about 6 cups or so per day—the lower their risk. These findings add to a body of research that suggests caffeine, in both coffee and tea, is the protective ingredient.


Consuming more lycopene—the carotenoid that makes tomatoes red, carrots orange and gives pink grapefruit and watermelon a pink-red hue—may keep your skin smooth and protect it from sunburn. In a study published in 2008 in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, researchers found that of the 20 individuals studied, those who had higher skin concentrations of lycopene had smoother skin. And in another study, participants who were exposed to UV light had almost 50 percent less skin reddening after they ate 2 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste or drank about 1 2/3 cups of carrot juice daily, in addition to their regular diet, for 10 to 12 weeks. Supplements, however, weren’t as effective: in the same study, those who received a lycopene supplement or synthetic lycopene weren’t significantly protected against sunburn. And lycopene isn’t the only carotenoid that shields your skin from UV damage; others, including lutein, found in corn,kale, spinach, summer squash and egg yolks, and beta carotene, found in pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach and carrots, appear to also have a protective effect.


Soyfoods, including edamame, tofu and soymilk, may help to preserve skin-firming collagen—which begins to decline starting in our twenties—because they’re rich in isoflavones. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, mice fed isoflavones and exposed to UV radiation had fewer wrinkles and smoother skin than mice that were exposed to UV light but didn’t get isoflavones. The researchers believe that isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown. Like lycopene and vitamin C, isoflavones also act like antioxidants, scavenging for and mopping up free radicals caused by sun exposure.


The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids, respectively) found in fatty fish (tuna, sardines, trout and salmon) may shield cell walls from free-radical damage caused by UV rays, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Omega-3s also help to prevent skin cancer by reducing inflammatory compounds that can promote tumor growth, says Homer S. Black, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department of Dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Those same fish may help keep your skin looking youthful, too, as EPA has been shown to preserve collagen. Aim to eat two servings of fatty fish each week: not only are the omega-3s good for your skin, they’re good for your heart too.

The delightful thing is that all of these foods provide many health benefits far above improving skin, so there really isn’t any reason NOT to add these to your diet.

Sources: By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., http://www.eatingwell.com.

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