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Complexion Saving Foods

By Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Posted On Apr 16, 2012

Healthy skin is more than just having a great skin care regimen. Your nutrition plays an essential role, too.

By: Jennifer A. Grossman

If you want to age beautifully and naturally, you’ve got to be good to your collagen. The most abundant protein in the body and a crucial component of the skin’s natural support structure, collagen is highly vulnerable to the effects of time. As you age, collagen production slows and a combination of free radicals, poor diet, sun exposure and pollution weaken your collagen.

Antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E) are the top dietary agents that protect your collagen from free radical damage. The richer foods are in color, the higher their levels of antioxidants. In particular, opt for purple foods—such as berries, red grapes, purple cabbage and pomegranates. They also contain pigments called anthocyanins, which strengthen the connective tissue that helps skin stay taut.

To boost the building blocks of collagen and keep your skin radiant, choose foods high in zinc and calcium. Zinc works to clear skin by taming oil production (a cause of acne), and calcium is a super mineral that regulates skin cell turnover and helps build a protective barrier against ‘environmental insults.’ For your zinc fix eat shellfish (oysters, crab, shrimp and lobsters), pumpkin seeds, beef or lamb. Calcium-rich foods include yogurt, cheese, cereal, salmon, tofu and of course, milk.

Copper is one of those rarely talked about minerals that actually plays an essential role in skin health. Copper works together with zinc and vitamin C to help develop elastin, the fibers that give your skin its ability to stretch and return to its shape. Asparagus, sesame seeds, cashews, soybeans and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources.

Among vitamins, C is critical for maintaining the health of your skin, supporting collagen formation and skin cell turnover. Both vitamins C and E counteract the effects of sun damage and help protect against free radicals. For ample vitamin C you can choose produce in a wide array of colors, including strawberries, red bell peppers, broccoli, pineapple, dark leafy greens, kiwi and oranges.

Other important vitamins? Biotin (or vitamin B7) is a nutrient that contributes to the health of skin, nail and hair cells, and protects against dry skin and rashes. Meanwhile, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of ailments, including psoriasis; Dole Nutrition Institute’s mushroom powder is a whole food source of vitamin D that can be mixed into smoothies, soups, juice and entrees.

Beauty From The Inside Out

Your skin is a reflection of your overall health and nutrition, which basically means, “You are what you eat.” The proof lies in the skin issues we deal with on a daily basis. Acne and Rosacea, for example, are inflammatory-based conditions. Therefore foods that are anti-inflammatory can be beneficial. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, for example, are anti-inflammatory agents that help keep skin elastic and moist (good circulation!). Top sources include sardines, black cod, salmon, trout, walnuts and flax seed.

Age spots and wrinkles can count on sun exposure as their biggest donor, but a healthy dose of beta-carotenes acts as a sort of internal sunscreen. They work to boost your skin’s ability to resist the damaging effects of sunlight and improve elasticity, not to mention giving your skin a rosy hue as they accumulate under your skin. Get your beta-carotene skin fix by prioritizing orange foods—including sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, carrots and cantaloupe—in addition to some green sources like spinach and kale.

At the Dole Nutrition Institute, we’re big believers in getting your nutrition from whole foods, not supplements. Science is still discovering how nutrients work synergistically within the matrix of other compounds found in foods to deliver benefits. When you isolate nutrients there may be unintended consequences. For example, beta-carotene supplementation has been found to increase lung cancer risk among current and former smokers. Also, when you favor whole foods—especially fruit and vegetables—you’re getting the water needed to plump skin up. So fill that plate with fruits and veggies, and start eating your way to better skin.