Top 4 essential nutrients for glowing complexion

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skin-health-enhanced(NaturalHealth365)  While many people think of the number 13 as particularly unlucky, there are others who have reason to feel far more negatively about the number 11.  (For the uninitiated, the “elevens” are the frustrating – and permanent – parallel wrinkles that can develop between the eyebrows.)  Brown spots, broken capillaries, dry skin, and irregular pigmentation can also appear with normal aging.  The primary culprit?  Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunshine – which break down the skin’s connective tissue and deplete precious stores of the collagen and elastin fibers needed to give resilience, support, and youthful plumpness to the skin.

Scientific research shows that certain foods, such as lycopene-rich tomatoes, may help shield the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays, potentially helping to restore moisture – and a more radiant appearance – to the skin.  Let’s see which foods pack the most “bang for the buck” in promoting skin health.

Cold-water fish contains omega-3 fatty acids to promote skin health

Anti-inflammatory omega-3s may help combat the age-related decrease in natural oils and fats on and in the skin, potentially reducing sagginess and fighting dryness.  According to registered dietitian Nicole Hopsecger, omega-3s can also help protect collagen while boosting the skin barrier function that helps to seal in moisture.  In fact, when it comes to skin health, omega-3s really are the “gift that keeps on giving.”  Some studies suggest that these healthy fats can promote speedier wound healing, reduce the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays and even decrease the risk of skin cancer.

You can boost your dietary intake of omega-3s by eating cold-water oily fish, such as wild-caught salmon and sardines.  You can also supplement with fish oil, which contains a pair of valuable omega-3s known as DHA and EPA.  Consult your integrative doctor for guidance on supplementation.  (Pro tip: vegetarians and vegans can get omega-3s through flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds, and chia seeds – although in smaller amounts).

Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidant vitamin C

Vitamin C could be the “MVP” of nutritional support for the skin. Not only is it a potent antioxidant that can help neutralize free radicals, but it is needed to produce collagen.  Good dietary sources include grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, red bell peppers, and kiwi.  Surprisingly, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, contain generous amounts of vitamin C as well.

In fact, a cup of red cabbage contains 85 percent of the adult recommended intake for vitamin C for the day!  While the Office of Dietary Supplements recommends only 90 mg of vitamin C a day for adults, natural health experts advise much higher amounts for optimal well-being and skin health.  (Pro tip: You can also find vitamin C in skin care creams).  Enjoying fresh citrus fruits, berries and veggies really may help brighten, enhance and protect the complexion.

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Grapes contribute protective polyphenols

While fruits and vegetables clearly benefit the skin, grapes “take it to the next level” by contributing a treasure trove of nutrients for skin health.  Purple, red, and green grapes provide resveratrol and quercetin, two plant compounds that are currently “wowing” researchers with their health-promoting benefits.  Remember: most of the resveratrol and quercetin are contained in the skins – so don’t even think about peeling grapes before eating them.

In addition, grapes contain anthocyanins, a type of natural plant pigment with antioxidant effects. They are also water-rich, helping to promote the proper hydration that is so important for skin health, and high in fiber, which supports efficient elimination to remove toxins and waste from the body.  If you opt for grape juice, make sure you are getting 100 percent pure, unsweetened juice.  Better yet, make the juice fresh – at home – with your own juicer.

Avoid commercially sold grape juice “drinks” and “cocktails,” as they may be blended with inferior juices.

Tomatoes contain a skin-protective plant pigment

Lycopene is the plant pigment, or carotenoid, responsible for the brilliant red color of ripe tomatoes.  And researchers are learning it may protect the skin against sun damage.  In one surprising study, people who ate canned tomato paste were less likely to get sunburned!  In addition, a recent animal study suggested that dietary intake of tomatoes could even help to prevent skin cancer.

Tomatoes and tomato products worked better than lycopene supplementation in suppressing sun damage, leading scientists to speculate that more than one constituent in tomatoes might be responsible.  Two more reasons to eat tomatoes for skin health: they are high in antioxidant vitamin C and are a liquid-rich food that can help you stay hydrated.  Be aware, though: tomatoes are not a “silver bullet” against sunburn and should never be used to replace sensible sun protection.  That said, the research on the skin-protective effects of lycopene is certainly promising.

Dermatologists recommend supporting skin health by drinking plenty of water, using sensible sun protection, and avoiding excessive alcohol and inflammatory foods such as highly processed foods, “fast foods,” and refined sugar.  And, if you haven’t already done so, now is an excellent time to stop smoking.  In addition to causing other adverse health effects, smoking contributes to wrinkles.

While no food can permanently erase wrinkles or restore skin to its teenage luster, proper nutrition can greatly improve the appearance of the complexion and ease the damaging effects of the sun.  And that’s no small thing.

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