Maintaining a healthy diet will allow your body to absorb all of the vitamins and minerals it needs in order to carry out all of the physiological functions required to for you to look AND feel your best. Your diet has a very significant impact on the health, and ultimately the appearance, of your skin. Here’s a quick guide to some of the vitamins, minerals, and macromolecules that can help your skin if you include them in your diet!
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s)
Signs of aging skin can begin in your mid-twenties. When old cells collect on the surface of your skin, your skin is left looking dull because it is textured and the appearance of uneven and fine lines and wrinkles is magnified. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s) help the turnover process of dead skin cells, which reduces the signs of aging and helps your skin look smooth. Pineapple and papaya contain high amounts of AHA’s. Not only are AHA’s present in many cosmetic products, but fruit enzyme peels and facials are also gaining popularity. Enzyme peels and facials are even available at my office, the McLean Dermatology & Skincare Center!
Iron, like many of these other minerals and vitamins, is essential to human life. Two-thirds of the iron in your blood is present in the blood and serves a number of metabolic roles. Iron is present in hemoglobin, the protein in your blood that transports oxygen to tissues. Consequentially, the iron you consume in your diet will not only help you maintain your overall health, but it will also encourage healthy looking skin. When you consume the daily recommended intake of iron, your skin will be supplied with the oxygen-rich blood it needs to look radiant, rosy, strong, and smooth. A lack of iron in your diet can lead to pale skin, hair loss, pruritis (itching), weak nails, or a condition called angular cheilitis, which can lead to painful cracking around the lips. The RDA for iron for men ages 19 to 50 is 8 mg each day while the RDA for women ages 19 to 50 is 18 mg each day, 27 mg per day while pregnant, 10 mg per day during lactation, and 8 mg per day for postmenopausal women. Iron can be found in a wide array of foods because there are two forms of dietary iron, heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin, so it can be found in animal foods such as red meats, fish, and poultry. Nonheme iron is found in plant foods, such as lentils, beans, spinach, raisins, oatmeal, grits, and whole-wheat bread.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are the good fats in your diet! Specifically, they are found in plant and marine oils. The best source for omega-3 fatty acids are in fish and nuts. When it comes to your skin, omega-3’s help improve the strength of hair and nails and help reduce skin inflammation. In addition to serving many other roles in your body, Omega 3’s also help reduce acne, help moisturize dry and scaly skin, and can improve skin texture. To meet the recommended daily amount (1.1 grams per day) a can of tuna and a handful of walnuts is a solid choice. Eating a 6 oz. piece of grilled salmon along with a mixed greens is also an easy option. Other great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include spinach, collard greens, flaxseed, edamame, dry roasted pecans, canned sardines and catfish.
Antioxidants & Vitamin C
You can look in the cosmetics department at any retailer and see “antioxidant” on product labels from cleansers to eye creams to foundation primer, and for good reason... this ingredient packs a powerful punch and it does just as much good when incorporated into your eating habits. Antioxidants are in fruits and vegetables, some of which you eat everyday. Red beans, acai berries, blueberries and cranberries are just a few antioxidant rich foods. A surprising source that can be found in almost every kitchen is honey! Antioxidants protect against UV damage and help combat the free-radicals associated with wrinkles. There are numerous benefits of Vitamin C. Vitamin C fights free-radical damage to our cells and also boosts wound healing. When applied to the skin directly, it can reverse sun damage and age spots on the skin. Adding a healthy amount of Vitamin C into your diet will have a great payoff as well. Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are loaded with Vitamin C, green vegetables like broccoli and kale also contain a good amount. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron, so get the maximum benefit from Vitamin C, combine with foods that contain iron. By adding fresh cut strawberries to oatmeal for breakfast you will have 28% of the recommended daily amount, follow this up with eating at least 1 piece of citrus per day. Women should have at least 75mg of Vitamin C per day and Men at least 90mg.
Calcium plays a vital role in building and maintaining your bone health. Calcium also participates nerve signaling and the secretion of hormones and enzymes. Dairy products have the highest absorbable levels of Calcium. Milk, swiss cheese, nonfat yogurt (which has 40% of the recommended daily amount!), salmon, sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses (great when used as an alternative to sugar when baking), turnips, kale, firm tofu and low-fat macaroni and cheese are just some of the many different types of foods that provide healthy amounts of calcium. When it comes to your skin, calcium helps to alleviate dryness by restoring lipid barriers and reduces premature aging. The recommended daily amount for an adult is 2,000mg. Choosing from the following list of quick, healthy snacks will satisfy your daily recommended intake of calcium: Two six ounce servings of low-fat yogurt, an eight ounce glass of milk, or a fruit & cheese plate!
Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Biotin has been available in the form of a capsule for many years, being marketed as a solution for weak hair and fingernails. Biotin can also stimulate hair and nail growth. The top food producer for biotin is swiss chard, a leafy green vegetable found in salads. Carrots are also a great way to include biotin into your diet. Strawberries and raspberries also contain biotin, even though in lower amounts are still a great source. There is not a strict recommended daily intake for biotin, however an adequate amount is 30 micrograms, equivalent to 1 egg along with a fruit and nut bar (peanuts have very high levels of Vitamin B7).