When it comes to beautiful skin, we often stick to the surface — and there’s no shortage of cleansers, creams, sunscreens and makeup promising to help us look our best. It’s easy to forget our skin is our body’s largest organ and part of a complex system. What we eat and drink plays a big role in how our skin looks and feels — and how it ages.

So what foods top the list for healthy, glowing skin? Remember, loading up on a single item won’t suffice — it’s overall diet that makes the difference. Experts recommend these healthy choices to nourish your skin from the inside out:

Food to enjoy

Dark green veggies and bright orange fruits and vegetables. According to experts, vitamin A is one of the most important nutrients for skin health. Our bodies convert the beta carotene in fruits and vegetables into this essential vitamin. Try some leafy greens like kale, spinach and broccoli — and add a colour splash with carrots, pumpkin, mangoes, oranges, apricots and sweet potatoes.

Low-fat dairy. Need an alternative to fruits and veggies? Experts warn that if you have diabetes or a thyroid condition, your body might not be able to turn the beta carotene in foods into this essential vitamin, so it’s necessary to get a more direct form.

Food like yoghurt have another benefit: probiotics help digestion — which in turns helps the skin and other organs. Just beware of added sugars that can cause inflammation.

Colourful fruits. Think berries, plums, cherries, black grapes and prunes their bright, deep colours means a healthy helping of free radical-fighting anti-oxidants. Free radicals damage collagen, which keeps skin plump, flexible and looking younger. Add some protection and you can fight the signs of premature aging and degeneration.

Fruits and vegetables also offer vitamin C, which is essential for producing collagen.

Foods high in fatty acids. Enjoy some salmon, nuts and healthy oils. Those fatty acids are essential for healthy cell membranes — which hold moisture in and keep harmful things out. Healthy membranes are better passageways for letting wastes and nutrients in and out of cells. Oils also lubricate the skin to make it look healthy and glowing.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are particularly well known for fighting inflammation — which is good for your heart as well.

Whole grains. Think twice before banishing those carbs! These products bring selenium into your diet — an important mineral for healthy skin cells, say experts. Past studies even suggest that people who have high levels of selenium offer help protect the skin against damage from the sun.

Tuna, turkey and brazil nuts will also do the trick.

Lean meats and seafood. You know zinc is good for the immune system, but did you also know it’s good for healing? If you don’t have enough of it, you can expect blemishes, stretch marks and dull skin.

Water. True, there’s some controversy surrounding how much you need, but experts agree getting plenty of fresh, clean water is essential. Not only does it keep cells hydrated, it helps to flush out toxins (especially as we sweat) and bring in the nutrients. If you can, try to get some minerals in your water too. Believe it or not, hard water is better than soft.

Green tea. While water trumps sodas, juices and soups, there are many reasons to add this hot beverage to your daily routine. This healthy drink is packed with polyphenols that help reduce inflammation and protect the skin membrane. It can also help reduce and repair damage from the sun’s rays. Enjoy it with a little ginger or honey for some variety (ginger also offers anti-oxidants.)

Don’t care for the flavour? Topical products containing green tea offer the same benefits.

Foods to limit

Refined grains and sugars . You know the culprits: white sugar, white flour, white rice… and all the goodies made from them. These ingredients are known to cause inflammation in the body — including the skin. (For information, see Can food fight inflammation?)

High-fat foods. Fried foods, rich desserts, high-fat dairy and chocolate can trigger skin reactions like blemishes as well as cause system-wide inflammation. However, experts warn we don’t have to cut them out completely — just enjoy them in moderation.

Excess alcohol. Alcohol can trigger a number of skin conditions, including rosecea, psoriasis and eczema. Sometimes a small amount can lead to trouble, but many people can tolerate alcohol in moderation.

Any food to which your are allergic, sensitive or have an intolerance. If your body can’t properly digest it, it’s going to show in any number of unpleasant symptoms — including acne outbreaks and triggering skin conditions like rosacea. People with skin conditions often know which foods can trigger a flare-up, like alcohol, spicy foods or sugar. (For more information, see Food allergy or intolerance?)

Not surprised by these lists? Yes, you’ve seen similar ones before. What’s good for the heart and the brain is also good for your skin because our body’s organs work together. A balanced diet that includes these vitamins and minerals is part of a healthy lifestyle — and it’s a part that will show.

Sources: About.com, Science Daily, The UK Daily Mail, WebMD

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Julián Rovagnati

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by:
Elizabeth Rogers