The Diet Detective: The Best Foods to Nourish Your Skin

Your skin is important to your appearance. It's part of that "first impression." Since there is a lot riding on the story your face tells, I asked some top dermatologists and nutrition experts a few questions about the best and worst foods for your skin.

What can you add to your diet that will show results in your skin?

Green tea, red wine: Wrinkles are caused by a loss of three vital skin structures: collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. The goal in wrinkle treatment is to increase levels of these three substances, says Leslie Baumann, M.D., professor of dermatology at University of Miami and author of The Skin Type Solution (Bantam, 2006). Drink 2 to 4 cups of green tea per day.

"It has a high content of flavonoid/catechins, (which can help to strengthen collagen) and of theanine, an amino acid associated with relaxation and cortisol control," says Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., author of Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection (Hunter House, 2007). "Too much cortisol can induce disruptions in blood sugar and inflammation." Red wine has a flavonoid/collagen effect similar to green tea and is known for its relaxation effects and blood flow-promotion, he adds.
Water: Of course you need to drink water to prevent dehydration. "However, as far as skin is concerned, it is not how much water you drink but how well your skin holds onto the water," says Baumann. "Skin needs adequate levels of fatty acids, ceramides (a type of fat) and cholesterol to hold onto water. This is why vegans and people on low-cholesterol diets or cholesterol-lowering drugs have dry skin. Any liquid you drink can provide skin hydration; however, water consumption should be increased when drinking caffeine and alcohol, both of which can dehydrate you."

More: Hydration Basics

Omega-3s: "Healthy omega-3 fatty acids help maintain cell membranes so that they are effective barriers--allowing water and nutrients in and keeping toxins out," says Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., author of Joy Bauer's Food Cures (Rodale, 2007). "Omega-3s also seem to protect skin against sun damage. In a study of skin cancer, people who ate diets rich in fish oils and other omega-3 fats had a 29 percent lower risk of squamous cell cancer than those who got very little omega-3 fats from food." They are also anti-inflammatory, so they help reduce acne and facial redness. "Good food sources include oily fish, sardines, Pacific oysters, lake trout, flaxseeds, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs," adds Bauer.

More: 5 Oils Perfect for Everyday Use

Grains: Instead of refined carbs, eat more whole-grain carbs, which don't cause the blood sugar spikes that lead to the glycation (sugar breaking down) of skin proteins that accelerates wrinkling, says Talbott.
Vitamin C: It's involved in collagen production and protects cells from free radical damage. "Scientific studies found that when lab animals ate vitamin C-fortified food, their skin was better able to fight off oxidative damage,"says Bauer. Baumann adds that getting the proper amount of vitamin C in your diet can help reverse wrinkles. Good sources include peppers (red/green/yellow), oranges, strawberries, lemons and broccoli.

Vitamin E: This vitamin helps protect cell membranes and guards against UV radiation damage. "Some research suggests that vitamin E may work in combination with vitamin C to provide an extra boost of anti-aging skin protection," says Bauer. "I recommend eating wheat germ, avocado, fortified cereals, nuts and seeds."

More: 6 Green Super Foods to Add to Your Diet

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