According to the World Watch Institute, people in the United States spend $8 billion annually on cosmetics. In addition to this spending, billions are also paid for cosmetic surgery. People might be overlooking an easier and less expensive way to achieve a youthful glow. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham think that eating foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and salmon can help our skin look young.
Citrus fruits, the group that includes oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, contain the essential nutrient vitamin C. This vitamin is an antioxidant, a substance that helps prevent and repair damage to cells. This damage can come from medications, sun exposure, and the environment.
Vitamin C is also necessary for the formation of collagen, a protein that gives skin tissue firmness and strength. Firm skin means fewer wrinkles. Healthy skin cells also mean improved moisture retention to combat dryness.
Other sources of vitamin C include most berries, kiwi, papaya, green and red peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and melons.
Tomatoes help the skin in two ways, first as a source of vitamin C and second as a source of the antioxidant lycopene. This nutrient also gives tomatoes their red color. For those readers that enjoy fresh tomatoes, consider that these vegetables offer the most lycopene when eaten cooked. And being fat-soluble, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when eaten with a source fat, such as heart-healthy olive oil.
Tomato sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup all contribute this important nutrient. Other sources of lycopene include watermelon and ruby red grapefruit.
Another pigment that offers benefits for skin is beta-carotene, found in orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, pumpkin and other winter squashes all offer this nutrient. Beta carotene is used by the body to make vitamin A, and is also another antioxidant. Note a trend here?
Although not orange in color, dark green veggies contribute beta-carotene to the diet, too. Spinach, kale, turnip greens, peas, green peppers, and broccoli are rich sources of this nutrient.
Last on the list are fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. These provide the essential fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids. Most know that omega-3’s protect the heart, but these fats also promote healthy skin by keeping moisture in the cells and helping to form collagen. Although animal sources of omega-3’s have been shown to be stronger when compared to plant sources, the body can convert some the plant omega-3’s to a form used by the body. Plant sources include walnuts, soy, flax, and chia seeds.
Next time you shop for that perfect shade of eye shadow, make sure to pick up some fresh produce and salmon, too. (Check Eating Well for tempting recipes.)