8 Foods for a Healthier You
Nuts, Carrots, & Vitamin C
3. Go Nuts for Walnuts.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in certain fish (more on that later), and in some plant foods, have been shown to improve skin health. Walnuts are one of the best sources of the plant-based type of omega-3 fat.
"Walnuts are also high in arginine, an amino acid that helps relax constricted blood vessels and improve blood flow," says Walter Willett, M.D., chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. Better circulation provides a steadier supply of nutrients to the skin, which can improve your complexion. (Think of how your skin looks after you get some mild exercise, which also helps improve blood flow.) Walnuts also contain the inflammation-fighting antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, which protect arteries from damage from free radicals.
Enjoy nibbling on a handful of walnuts as a healthy snack instead of chips, or try toasting them on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to enhance their flavor. (Shake the sheet occasionally and watch carefully to avoid burning.) Top yogurt or a salad with chopped toasted walnuts, and for an extra omega-3 bite, drizzle your greens with delicious walnut oil.
4. Munch a Bunch of Carrots.
Carrots contain powerful antioxidants called carotenoids, which themselves contain beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that the amount of vitamin A stored in your body as well as contained in your diet is critical for skin health. High vitamin A levels improve the ability of the skin to retain moisture, which helps keep it soft and smooth.
High vitamin A levels also result in lower acidity of the skin surface, which helps protect against inflammation (meaning breakouts). In addition, the carotenoids in your diet can penetrate the upper levels of the skin and help neutralize the damage caused by free radicals that are produced by exposure to UV rays, says Dr. Heber. (Eating carrots, of course, is no substitute for sunscreen, and some face creams containing vitamin A may make skin more sensitive to the sun.)
It's easy to spot beta-carotene-rich foods, thanks to their bright orange hues -- think carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and mangoes. Include two daily servings (a serving size is half a cup) of carotenoid-rich foods to protect your skin from the inside out.
5. Put Yourself on Orange Alert.
There's a lot to smile about with oranges and other citrus fruits, among the best sources of skin-supporting vitamin C. This antioxidant vitamin is needed by your body to make collagen, which is an essential part of the connective tissue that keeps skin from sagging.
And vitamin C can protect your dazzling smile: A State University of New York at Buffalo study of more than 12,000 adults found that those who consumed less than 60 mg of daily C had one-and-a-half times the risk of developing gum disease as those who consumed 180 mg of the vitamin. Symptoms of gum disease include tender, swollen or infected gums and bad breath that doesn't go away.
Choose two servings a day of C-rich foods such as a whole orange and a 6-ounce serving of grapefruit juice. Squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime into your water glass. And for a delicious veggie crunch, try adding vitamin C-rich green and red bell peppers to a stir-fry or pasta recipe.