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We've all heard the mantra, "You are what you eat." Now you’re wondering – “If I eat healthy foods, will it really make a difference in my skin?"

This saying took on new meaning for me after strolling around the grocery store, peeking into carts. Those filled with white bread, doughnuts, soft drinks and potato chips were often pushed by people with pasty complexions and lifeless hair. And those loaded with fresh spinach and strawberries, fat-free milk, whole-wheat bread and salmon had shoppers with rosy, smooth skin and shiny hair behind them.

The truth is, what you eat does affect how you look -- today and down the road. Here's a rundown of the nutrients you need for a good skin diet – and healthy, glowing skin.

Benefits of Vitamin A

This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for the maintenance and healing of epithelial tissues, with skin being the largest expanse of epithelial tissue you've got.

Best Vitamin A foods Egg yolks, oysters and nonfat milk. You can also get vitamin A from foods rich in beta carotene (see below), which the body can convert into vitamin A.

Beta carotene benefits

German researchers found that as little as 30 milligrams a day (the equivalent of 1 1/2 cups of cooked carrots) can help prevent/reduce the redness and inflammation associated with sunburn. "Beta carotene accumulates in the skin, providing 24-hour protection against sun damage," says Ronald R. Watson, Ph.D., professor of public health research at Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson. Also, when combined with vitamin E, other carotenoids (cousins to beta carotene) like lutein seem to reduce redness associated with sunburn and reduce skin sensitivity to sunlight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Best sources of beta carotene Dark-colored produce, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, broccoli and spinach.

Now that you’re heard about the benefits of vitamin A and beta carotene, read on to discover what other nutrients you need for a good skin diet.

[header = More healthy foods for your good skin diet: the role of vitamins B, C & more.]

Eating a variety of healthy foods, rich in vitamins and nutrients, really can improve the appearance of your skin.

Find out the roles that B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium and zinc play in your good skin diet.

B vitamins

B vitamins help convert calories into energy for skin metabolism and are components of enzymes that maintain normal skin function (including functioning of the oil-producing glands, which keep skin moist and smooth). That's why poor intake of almost any B vitamin can cause dry or scaly skin.

Best sources of B Vitamins Poultry, red meat, fish, bananas, tempeh, whole grains, brewer's yeast, peanut butter and eggs

Vitamin C

When taken internally, this vitamin helps maintain collagen -- the underlying supporting structure of skin. But sun exposure (and stress) can drain vitamin C from the skin, leaving it vulnerable to damage from the environment (why anti-aging creams and sunscreens have been infused with this potent antioxidant).

Best Vitamin C Foods Citrus fruits and juices, kiwi, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet peppers and green peas

Benefits of Vitamin E

This antioxidant helps slow the aging of skin cells by reducing the production of an enzyme called collagenase, which breaks down collagen, causing the skin to sag and wrinkle, according to a study in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine. And sun exposure can deplete vitamin E from the skin, making it more vulnerable to sun damage (why vitamin E is found in skin-care products from moisturizers to body washes).

Best sources of Vitamin E Salmon, legumes, extra-lean meat, almonds, leafy vegetables, and olive and sesame oils

Selenium

The damaging effects of ultraviolet light are minimized by this antioxidant mineral, thereby reducing your risk for sunburn. In fact, low blood levels of selenium also increase your risk for skin cancer, say researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Best sources of Selenium Tuna, wheat germ, sesame seeds and whole grains

Zinc Facts

This trace mineral helps maintain collagen and elastin fibers that give skin its firmness, helping to prevent sagging and wrinkles. It also links together amino acids that are needed for the formation of collagen -- essential in wound healing.

Foods High In Zinc Seafood, turkey, pork, soybeans and mushrooms

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