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Foods to Help Keep Your Skin Healthy

How what you eat and drink can affect your skin

1. Antioxidants

Many dermatologists believe that the major antioxidants (vitamin A, C, and E) can help decrease the risk of sun and other environmental damage by disarming wrinkle-causing "free radicals" -- unstable molecules that damage cells.

Vitamin A. A recent study of healthy men and women in the Netherlands found a significant link between the level of vitamin A in the blood and skin condition. Getting your carotenoids (phytochemicals that your body converts to vitamin A) from foods is your safest bet, because you're far more likely to get too much vitamin A from supplements than from foods rich in carotenoids.

Top food sources of vitamin A include carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, mangoes, spinach, cantaloupe, greens, kale, Swiss chard, and tomato-vegetable juice.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent topical (that is, on-the-skin) antioxidant, but only in its active form -- the same form you get from food. Of course, including vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables in your daily diet is a good thing to be doing for your health, anyway.

Top food sources of vitamin C include orange juice, grapefruit juice, papayas, strawberries, kiwis, red and green peppers, cantaloupes, tomato-vegetable juice, broccoli, mangoes, oranges, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, cauliflower, and kale.

Vitamin E. More research is under way on the possible benefits of vitamin E as an ingredient in products that you rub on the skin, but for now it seems to benefit the skin most as a skin conditioner.

Food sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives, spinach, and asparagus. But it's difficult to get much of this vitamin from foods, so many people take a supplement. (Be sure to take no more than 400 international units per day so you don't ingest too much.)

2. Choose 'Smart' Fats

Heart- and joint-friendly omega-3 fatty acids may be skin-friendly too. The omega-3s from fish may help to guard against sun damage, according to a few recent studies on fish oil supplements.

Anti-aging expert Nicholas Perricone, MD, author of The Wrinkle Cure, has advocated a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3s for better skin, says Rubin, "and there is some scientific data to support that type of diet."

While there's certainly more to be learned about the benefits and risks of fish-oil supplements, it makes sense to increase your intake of foods high in omega-3s.

Top food sources of omega-3s include fish, ground flaxseed, walnuts, and brands of eggs that are higher in omega-3s. Switching to a higher omega-3 cooking oil, like canola oil, can help increase your intake, too.

The Dutch study noted above for its findings about vitamin A also found monounsaturated fats to be associated with favorable skin pH (the balance between acidity and alkalinity that is important for healthy skin).

Top food sources of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, almond oil, hazelnut oil, avocados, olives, almonds, and hazelnuts.

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