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The ABCs of a Healthy Skin Diet

What you put on your plate is even more important than what you put on your skin.

Whole-Wheat Bread, Muffins, and Cereals; Turkey, Tuna, and Brazil Nuts

The mineral selenium is the ingredient that makes all these foods important in a healthy skin diet. Experts say selenium plays a key role in the health of skin cells. Some studies show that even skin damaged by the sun may suffer fewer consequences if selenium levels are high.

For instance, in two clinical trials, researchers at Edinburgh University showed that when levels of selenium were high, skin cells were less likely to suffer the kind of oxidative damage that can increase the risk of cancer. The results were published in 2003 in both the British Journal of Dermatology and the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. And a group of French researchers found that oral doses of selenium, along with copper, vitamin E, and vitamin A could prevent sunburn cell formation in human skin.

What's more, Lipsky says that filling up on whole-grain products leaves less room for the "white" foods that are a worse choice for skin health. These include white-flour items (bread, cake, and pasta), sugar, and white rice. All can affect insulin levels and cause inflammation that may ultimately be linked to skin breakouts.

Green Tea

This beverage deserves a category all its own in any article about a healthy skin diet. The skin-health properties in this beneficial drink just can't be beat.

"It has anti-inflammatory properties, and it's protective to the cell membrane. It may even help prevent or reduce the risk of skin cancer," says Lipski.

Indeed, a study published recently in the Archives of Dermatology shows that whether taken orally or applied to the skin, green tea can reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet light (such as the burning rays of the sun), and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Heller adds that the polyphenols in green tea have anti-inflammatory properties that are also beneficial to skin health overall.

Water

While the exact amount you should drink each day varies, no one disputes the role good hydration plays in a healthy skin diet. When that hydration comes from pure, clean water -- not liquids such as soda or even soup -- experts say skin cells rejoice.

"It is my belief that our skin needs at least a half gallon of good clean water -- that's about eight glasses -- every day," says Lipski.

While any good, clean water will keep your body and your skin hydrated, Lipski says hard water, the kind high in minerals, is especially good. Using water softeners to de-mineralize drinking water may reduce some of the potentially helpful effects.

"A water softener may help your plumbing, but it's hard water that is better for your health," she says.

In addition to keeping cells hydrated, water helps cells move nutrients in and toxins out, which Lipski says automatically leaves skin looking better.

She adds that when we're properly hydrated, we also sweat more efficiently. Doing so helps keep skin clean and clear as well.

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