What is considered good nutrition for the body is also good for the skin. Since skin is the largest organ of the body, what you eat plays a more important role than what you put on your skin. The less attention you pay to what you eat, the more problems crop up with your skin.
Most experts agree that eating a balanced diet is the best way to feed your skin. So, what is a balanced diet? Scientific evidence supports that a balanced diet has all essential nutrients available in the right amounts to promote optimal health. Even though nutrient needs vary somewhat with age, size, and activity, a balanced, healthy diet is needed by all. The healthiest diet is one with adequate, lean protein, healthy fats that are high in omega-3’s fatty acids, healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains that are high in fiber, and a large amount of fruit and vegetables. The latter provides the source for antioxidants and phytonutrients that not only protect the skin, but that provide its healthy glow.
Certain specific nutrients play an even more vital role in healthy skin production. Vitamin A, found in low-fat dairy products, and beta carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, is in dark green and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables. It plays a significant role in maintenance and repair of skin tissue. Taking more than you need does not make a difference. However, if you are slightly low in these nutrients, it will show up as dry, flaky skin. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, melons, berries, broccoli, pepper, and tomatoes reduces oxidation and free radical damage. It also strengthens capillaries to prevent them from breaking, which results in improved skin color and tone. Most importantly, vitamin C has collagen-stimulating properties that make skin firm and give it tone. Vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, healthy oils, wheat germ, and whole-grain products, and spinach has the same anti-aging factor. Research has shown that a diet adequate in selenium found in whole grains, seafood, garlic, and eggs to be protective from skin cancers. Omega-3’s healthy fatty acids are found in salmon, sardines, trout, seafood, flax, canola oil, olive oil, and walnuts. These acids decrease inflammation throughout the body and may help prevent white- and black-heads, as well as dry skin.
Adequate fluid intake, especially water, is important in hydrating the skin. Liquids that contain high levels of caffeine do not hydrate as well as those that do not. While there is no scientific data to support the eight glasses of fluid per day, it is a good benchmark goal. Exact amounts depend on body size, activity, and climate. Try to avoid de-mineralized water; the body—including skin—needs those minerals for normal function. Studies on the benefits of drinking tea have shown its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to be good for skin. Preliminary studies show that it may even decrease the risk for skin cancer.
Seventy percent of our skin is made up of collagen tissue which supports skin and keeps it firm. Skin is in a constant cycle of breaking down and repairing itself. The older we get, the less efficient this system works, which leads to wrinkles. How fast the system breaks down depends on our genetics, our environment, and our nutrition. Most often it leads us to looking for ways to slow down the aging process of the skin. Topical vitamin A, known as retinol, is used extensively in skin care to increase collagen formation and to prevent aging of the skin. Like vitamin A, topical serums and creams containing vitamins C and E have hit the market. However, many contain forms of vitamins that do not penetrate the skin and offer no value. Look for vitamin C fortified products that contain the more expensive ascorbyl palmitate that can be better absorbed. The research on vitamin E has not been conclusive in effectiveness in anti-aging of the skin and may cause allergic dermatitis in some individuals.
Overall, the answer to healthy, glowing skin is to make sure you are eating a balanced diet with a high level of fruit and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection that comes from a healthy diet is the most important aspect for healthy skin. Supplementing with a multi-vitamin may help, but does not make up for an overall poor diet since many compounds in food needed for healthy skin are not in a pill. Secondly, drink plenty of fluids, use sunscreen, and augment with good skin products.