When it comes to nutrition, our skin often reflects what’s going on inside our body. Feeding children a balanced diet, high in essential vitamins and minerals, can have beneficial effects on the health of their skin. The following is a list of skin-friendly foods and the nutrients that they contain.
|Berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries), plums, apples, green tea, artichokes, spinach, beans/legumes (black red and pinto), prunes, raisins, pecans.||These foods are all rich sources of antioxidants. Reactive oxygen species, or ROS, are molecules produced by the body in response to things like sun exposure and pollutants. When present in large amounts they can cause damage to both the structure and genetic information of skin cells. Antioxidants minimise the damage caused by ROS, protecting the cells to some extent. Antioxidants are also able to reduce skin inflammation. Inflammation can destroy the elastin and collagen fibres which give skin its plumpness and flexibility.|
|Shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster), nuts (cashew, brazil, peanuts, walnuts, pecan), seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin), organ meats (liver, kidney, brain), legumes (beans and peas).||Copper is a mineral which aids in the development of elastin, the fibres which give skin both its elasticity and firmness.|
|Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring, trout), walnuts, flax seeds, canola or safflower oil.||Essential fatty acids (Omega 3) are necessary for maintaining the membranes (casings) of skin cells. As a result, EFAs play a role in skin flexibility and repair. The membranes of skin cells behave like a barrier, protecting the contents of the cell and allowing for the passage of material in or out. A robust membrane allows the skin cells to better retain moisture, appearing firmer and smoother. EFAs can also help reduce dry or irritated skin and combat inflammation.|
|Organ meat (liver, kidney, heart), lean meats (beef, lamb, pork fish, chicken), eggs, green leafy vegetables.||Iron assists with the production of elastin and collagen fibres in the skin, it is essential for proper skin growth and maintenance.|
|Brazil nuts, fish (tuna, halibut, sardines, salmon), shellfish (oysters, shrimp, mussels), liver, kidney, whole grain breads and cereals, wheat germ, brown rice, sunflower seeds.||As with vitamins C and E, selenium has antioxidant properties that help protect the skin from sun damage. Selenium works to increase the density of skin, making skin appear fleshier. It also affects skin condition, reducing dryness and roughness.|
|Carrots, liver, chili peppers, apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, low-fat dairy products, broccoli.||Vitamin A (carotenoids) is vital to the development, maintenance and repair of skin cells. Vitamin A increases the renewal of skin cells and deficiency can cause dry, flaky skin.|
|Broccoli, tomatoes, papaya, mangoes, red/yellow peppers, parsley, potatoes, kiwi fuit, grapefruit, guava, oranges.||Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralise and stabilise reactive oxygen species (ROS) – molecules which can damage skin cells. Antioxidants protect the cells by mopping up any excess ROS.|
|Sunflower seeds, safflower and sunflower oil, almonds, olives, spinach and other leafy greens, whole grains (wheat, oats, bran), tomatoes.||Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant, reducing the harmful effects of ROS. When working together, vitamins C and E are particularly good at reducing the risk of damage from sun exposure which can lead to skin aging and cancer. Vitamin E also helps to heal and maintain skin tissue.|
|Water, herbal tea (not including sweetened or diuretic infusions), fruit or vegetable juice (in moderation).||Drinking plenty of water helps to keep skin hydrated, making it appear softer and suppler. Water is also important to skin health because without it skin cells cannot properly transport nutrients in and get rid of harmful waste products. Adequate fluid intake also aids in the process of sweating, keeping the skin clear.|
|Oysters, wheat germ, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, lean meat (beef, lamb, pork).||Zinc is a mineral which moderates the production of oil (sebum) by the skin, helping to clear acne.|
*It is important to note that excess supplementation with some of these vitamins and minerals (vitamin A, copper, zinc and selenium) can be dangerous. Always speak to your child’s doctor before commencing dietary supplements.
**Nuts, dairy products and shellfish are some of the most common foods to induce allergic reactions. Introduce these foods to your child’s diet gradually and seek immediate medical attention if a reaction occurs.
Fraser, J 2006, ‘The top five foods for healthy skin’, retrieved 15 August 2011, http://www.naturalnews.com/020409.html>.
Bouchez, C 2006, Foods for Healthy Skin: You Are What You Eat, WebMD, retrieved 15 August 2011,http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/features/skin-food>.