Want healthier skin and fewer wrinkles? Men and women can look younger and lower their risk for skin cancer, psoriasis, eczema and more by eating certain foods. The following foods have been scientifically proven to boost the health, strength and appearance of your skin…
Yellow Bell Peppers
Yellow bell peppers are one of the most abundant sources of vitamin C. The body depends on vitamin C to form collagen, a protein that provides strength, support and elasticity to skin, hair, muscles and other tissues. Collagen also assists with cell regrowth and repair. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, which can lead to reduced elasticity of the skin and more wrinkles.
The relationship between vitamin C and skin appearance was studied in more than 4,000 women in a report published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that higher dietary intake of vitamin C was associated with lower likelihood of skin dryness and fewer wrinkles, as assessed by dermatologists. These results were independent of age, race, sun exposure, body mass index and physical activity.
Why not eat oranges, famous for their vitamin C, instead? A typical large orange contains 163% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin C. That’s good—but just half a yellow bell pepper contains nearly 300% of the DV of vitamin C. (Red and green peppers have less vitamin C than yellow ones but still are excellent sources.)
Eat yellow peppers raw to maximize the nutrient content. Vitamin C is sensitive to cooking and, as a water-soluble vitamin, leaches into cooking water. If you prefer to cook yellow peppers, keep the heat as low as possible for your recipe. Use the cooking juices, too (whenever possible), so that the vitamin C in the water is not wasted.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of carotenoids, the antioxidant pigments that give many foods their bright red, orange, yellow and green colors—and help keep skin cells healthy.
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In a study published in British Journal of Nutrition, participants who ate more carotenoid-rich vegetables had significantly fewer facial wrinkles.
Eating carotenoids also can make you look healthier overall and more attractive to others. Carotenoid levels in skin contribute to healthy skin coloration. In fact, researchers from University of St. Andrews, Scotland, found that people whose faces were rated as healthy by others had consumed an average of 2.9 fruit and vegetable portions each day…and whose faces were rated separately as attractive had consumed 3.3 daily portions.
Carotenoids are fat-soluble, which means that they’re better absorbed when paired with a fat-containing food—so sprinkle nuts or drizzle olive oil over your sweet potatoes for a delicious skin boost.
Although protein in your food does not directly affect protein in your body’s collagen, some research shows that amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are related to collagen synthesis in the skin.
Some amino acids are “essential,” meaning that they’re necessary for life but are not made in the body. They must be provided by food or supplements. Salmon contains all the essential amino acids—and essential amino acids play a unique role in skin health. In a study published in Amino Acids, researchers found that consuming a combination of essential amino acids significantly increased the rate of collagen synthesis in mice with UV-damaged skin.
Salmon also is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which was found to be positively associated with skin elasticity in older women in a study published in British Journal of Nutrition.
Don’t love fish? Essential amino acids also are found in poultry, eggs, beans and whole grains.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help the body make the collagen needed for healthy skin. Omega-3s help reduce inflammation and have been shown to reduce symptoms in inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis and acne.
The European Journal of Cancer published research comparing omega-3 fat intake to the development of malignant melanoma in more than 20,000 women. Data showed that higher intakes of omega-3s were associated with an 80% lower risk for skin cancer, leading researchers to conclude that these fats “have a substantial protective association” against melanoma.
Like essential amino acids, omega-3 fats are vitally important but are not made in the body. You must get them from your diet or supplements. Aside from walnuts (and salmon, discussed above), other excellent sources of omega-3s include flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, canola oil and tofu.
Raspberries and Pomegranates
There is exciting research on collagen and how it is affected by ellagic acid, an antioxidant found in certain fruits and vegetables.
A study published in Experimental Dermatology found that mice who received ellagic acid had significantly reduced collagen breakdown from UV light, compared with mice who did not receive ellagic acid. The treatment group also developed fewer wrinkles. While most research focuses on the treatment of skin damage, this study was unique in its ability to show the role of nutrition in the prevention of collagen breakdown, wrinkles and skin damage.
Foods that are high in ellagic acid include raspberries and pomegranates (as well as blackberries, strawberries and cranberries).
Zinc is an important ingredient for skin health because it supports the regeneration of new skin cells. The benefits are most apparent with skin repair and wound healing, but zinc also may be able to help with other skin problems such as rashes, eczema and acne.
A study published in BioMed Research International found a correlation between participants’ zinc levels and the severity of their acne symptoms. Researchers believe that this is partly due to zinc’s ability to inhibit the overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium that contributes to acne.
Legumes were the focus of another study in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Researchers found that higher intakes of legumes, such as chickpeas, appeared to protect against sun-induced wrinkles in people with a variety of ethnic and geographic backgrounds.
Chickpeas are a good source of zinc, as are other beans, oysters, poultry, tofu, oatmeal and zinc-fortified cereals.