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Eat Right To Keep Healthy Skin

Lots of people spend hundreds of dollars on all the "latest, greatest" skin-care products. You may even have been tempted to pick up a product that promises to keep your skin looking vibrant and young, wiping away wrinkles overnight.

But, says Health magazine contributor and clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, all the skin-care and beauty products in the world won't keep your skin looking good if you're not eating the right foods.

Clinical studies have found that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and omega-3 fatty acids can help skin retain its healthy glow and look youthful.

You may be surprised to learn that you'll often find a lot of the healthiest foods along the walls when you're shopping: the fresh fruits and vegetables, the whole grain breads, the fresh seafood section, and more.

According to Heller, foods for healthy skin include those rich in lycopene. That's a pigment that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color. It's a proven antioxidant, and antioxidants are important because they reduce the risk of several types of cancer and they prevent the formation of harmful byproducts of metabolism called free radicals.

Free radicals are thought to be responsible for damaging the body's cells, as well as their genetic makeup. In addition, studies are showing that lycopene in combination with other carotenoids may help to reduce sunburn and damage to skin from ultraviolet rays. And when you protect the cells from damage and disintegration, you also guard against premature aging.

So in order to prevent damage to your skin, keep it looking younger, and give yourself added protection from the sun, you should include lycopene in your diet. And you can get it in a variety of foods. Among them: tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit.

Next up, beta-carotene. It's a form of vitamin A, and is an antioxidant that offers added protection against sun damage. Vitamin A is essential for vision, growth, healthy skin and your immune system. Beta-carotene can be found in deep yellow, orange and red foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, spinach, mango and apricot.

Vitamin C, Heller points out, is another antioxidant that helps in the production and protection of collagen. And collagen is important to skin health because it provides structural support to skin, maintains resiliency and shape and assists with wound healing. Some great sources of vitamin C, besides orange juice, are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, strawberries and kiwi.

Vitamin B is also essential. If you're not getting enough of it, you're susceptible to skin disorders such as dermatitis, cracked lips, dry, flaky skin and skin lesions. There are several vitamins that make up the vitamin B complex, and they all work together to help keep skin healthy. You can find vitamin B in several food sources, including fat free milk, cheese, yogurt, ready to eat cereals made from whole grain, bananas, chick peas, oats, peanuts, chicken breast, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, black beans, lentils, and asparagus.

Something else to get a lot of: omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help with the passage of nutrients into cells, and act as a systemic anti-inflammatory. Inflammation triggers cells to clog pores, and that can cause acne. Omega-3s also offer protection against ultraviolet ray-induced skin lesions, and decrease ultraviolet-induced inflammatory responses. Omega-3s can be found in foods such as salmon, walnuts, tofu, flax seed oil, ground flax seeds, canola and olive oil.

And, advises Heller, don't forget to keep drinking plenty of water. Aside from being essential for all the compounds already mentioned to do their jobs, water keeps skin looking healthy and even young. In addition to keeping cells hydrated, water helps cells move nutrients in and toxins out. And when we're properly hydrated, we also sweat more efficiently, which also helps keep skin clean and clear.

Some things that have a negative effect on the health of skin include smoking, alcohol, air pollution and, most importantly, sunlight. That can damage skin and cause the destruction of collagen fibers and increase the risk of skin cancers.

Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun is the biggest cause of skin aging and pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions. Ultraviolet light dramatically increases oxidative damage to the skin. Micronutrients in foods can act as sponges to soak up destructive ultraviolet, help protect skin from harmful oxidants, repair skin damage, and modify biochemical skin responses to ultraviolet rays.