BERRY GOOD: the best beauty-making foods

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Last week I gave you a couple of RECIPES for skin-boosting smoothies. This week, let me tell you more about the foods which have BEAUTY BENEFITS. These are the nutrients and SUPERFOODS that you should be incorporating in your weekly diet ..




Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) come in two classes, Omega-3 and Omega-6, and it's Omega-3 that have the most effect on skin and hair condition. Your body can't make EFAs, so these nutrients need to come from our food. Ideally, they should account for 15% of your calorie intake. Oily fish such as sardines, tuna and salmon are good sources of EFAs, as are nuts and seeds and their oils, organic eggs, prawns and soya beans. A quick way to increase your intake is to use sesame, rapeseed, walnut, soya bean or flax oils in the kitchen. At the same time, you should reduce your intake of saturated and processed fats because these can cancel out the beneficial effects of EFAs.


Not only can these nutrients protect us from minor infections, but antioxidants (which include vitamins A, C and E, some of the B complex vitamins, the minerals selenium, manganese and zinc, and certain enzymes) can also help prevent more serious, degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants play a major role in destroying free radicals - electrochemically unbalanced molecules that are continually generated within our bodies by chemicals, too much sun and stress, and which prematurely age skin. The main victim of free radical damage in skin is collagen, which keeps skin looking plump and elastic. Uncooked, highly coloured fresh fruit and vegetables are the best places to find high levels of antioxidants. Choose from: berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants); black grapes; Brazil nuts; broccoli; carrots; cherries; chestnuts; hazelnuts; kale; raisins; papaya; peas; peppers; prunes; spinach; sweet potatoes and tomatoes.


Involved in forming new skin cells, vitamin A helps keep skin supple and is vital for healthy eyes and hair. Dry, flaky skin can indicate a deficiency. The best sources are whole milk and butter, liver, oily fish and eggs. Vitamin A can also be manufactured by the body from beta-carotene.


An antioxidant, this works with selenium and has a powerful action against free radical damage. It also helps the skin retain moisture. Premature wrinkles, pale skin, acne, easy bruising and slow wound healing may indicate a deficiency. The best sources are vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, peanut butter, wheatgerm, wholegrains, avocados and sweet potatoes.


This is the plant form of vitamin A, which the body converts as required. It helps to protect us against the ageing effects of sunlight. For the best sources eat dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, watercress) and orange fruit and vegetables (apricots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and tomatoes).


Protects cells from free radical damage and helps counter dry skin. Works with vitamin E to support the immune system, so can help fight infection. Best sources: cereals, meat, offal, seafood, cheese, eggs, mushrooms, Brazil nuts, molasses, beans, wholegrains and wheatgerm.


B vitamins help to release energy from food for skin metabolism and have a role in keeping skin moist and smooth. Your best sources: milk, oily fish, poultry, red meat, offal, eggs, bananas, soya beans, wholegrains, wheatgerm, peanut butter, fortified breakfast cereals.


Vital to the immune system and the manufacture of collagen, zinc also speeds up healing. Lack of zinc can lead to stretch marks and stubborn blemishes. A dull complexion, white spots on fingernails, and dandruff are signs of deficiency. The best sources are seafood, red meat, offal, turkey, cheese, brewer's yeast, eggs, nuts, wholegrains and mushrooms.


A potent antioxidant, vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, the elastic tissue in skin that declines with age. Smoking, stress and sun exposure can drain vitamin C from the skin, leaving it vulnerable to damage. Best sources: peppers, potatoes, peas, kiwi fruit, strawberries and tomatoes.


Important for the formation of haemoglobin, the red pigment in blood. A pale complexion and dark circles under the eyes may indicate a deficiency. You'll get iron from red meat, liver, seafood, eggs. Less absorbable iron is found in green leafy vegetables, dried apricots and fortified cereals.