The old adage “you are what you eat” not only applies to our overall health and nutrition, but to how our skin looks and feels, as well.  

As the largest organ in the body, our skin can benefit from the same nutritional approach we take for heart and general health. In fact, new research suggests eating foods rich in protein and certain vitamins and minerals may provide valuable anti-aging effects.

“While there’s no mistaking how our diet affects our overall health, we’re just beginning to understand how certain foods—or lack thereof—can impact our skin’s health,” says dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Perhaps the simplest way to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and ensure your skin is getting optimal nutrition from the foods you eat is to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Daily Food Guide recommendations, commonly referred to as the food pyramid. These include:

  • Choosing and eating at least three ounces of whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, crackers or pasta
  • Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including more dark green and orange veggies
  • Consuming calcium-rich foods like fat-free or low-fat milk and other dairy products
  • Opting for a variety of low-fat or lean meats, poultry and fish

“The foods recommended by the USDA as part of a healthy diet contain valuable vitamins and minerals that have proven health benefits for our bodies,” Dr. Taylor said during a recent presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology’s SKIN Academy. “Research has shown that the antioxidants in vitamins C and E can protect the skin from sun damage and help reduce damage in skin cells caused by harmful free radicals, which contribute to aging skin. Similarly, we have long known that the B vitamin biotin is responsible for forming the basis of skin, hair and nail cells, and vitamin A—found in many fruits and vegetables—maintains and repairs skin tissue. Without an adequate supply of these vitamins, you may notice it in the appearance of your skin, hair and nails.”  

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