Eating For Healthy Skin

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

November is Healthy Skin Month, and all too often people forget that healthy skin starts on the inside of your body. What you put into your body is reflected on the outside, through your skin, which is your body’s largest organ. One of the most powerful tools in your healthy skin arsenal is a well-balanced diet loaded with the right nutrients.

Fruits & Vegetables
We all know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is beneficial in a number of ways, including helping to prevent chronic diseases and stave off weight gain. Many of those benefits are due to the fact that fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can be harmful to skin cells, causing premature signs of aging. Adding a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies to your diet should be a regular part of your beauty regimen.

Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can work wonders for a tired complexion. To achieve naturally radiant skin, up your intake of foods that contain omega-3 fats. Fatty fish, such as albacore tuna, mackerel, salmon, halibut, herring, lake trout, and sardines are all high in omega-3s. If you’re not a fan of fish, try incorporating walnuts, ground flax seeds, fortified eggs, or canola oil into your diet.

Foods Loaded with Beta-Carotene
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant (it’s a precursor to vitamin A) found in orange and yellow pigmented fruits and vegetables, as well as some green leafy vegetables. New research reveals that people perceive the skin of those who eat more fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene as more attractive than those who had tan skin from the sun. Produce high in beta-carotene includes carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, dark green vegetables, apricots, cantaloupe, mango, nectarines, peaches, asparagus, cherries, prunes, and plums. Eat these fruits and vegetables with some heart-healthy fats to help absorb the beta-carotene.

Drinking adequate amounts of water can help ensure your skin stays hydrated all day long. If you fall short on H2O, your skin will end up looking dry, tight, and flaky. Dehydrated skin is less resilient, making it more susceptible to wrinkling. If drinking enough water seems to be difficult for you, try carrying around a water bottle with you everywhere you go. You can take sips throughout the day, rather than waiting until you’re already dehydrated to search for water.

Should I Take Supplements?
It’s always better to get the nutrients you’ll need for healthy, glowing skin from food rather than taking individual supplements. Of course, even if you’re eating all of those supple-skin foods, you cannot forget to wear sunscreen. Be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF every day to prevent damage from both UVA and UVB rays.

For more information on nutrition, visit online at www.operationfoodsearch.org.