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12 Best Foods for Healthy Skin

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By Taylor Jones

Nutrition is important for health. An unhealthy diet can damage your metabolism, cause weight gain and even affect organs such as your heart and liver.

What you eat also affects the health of another organ—your skin.

As more is learned about how diet affects the body, it's becoming increasingly clear that what you eat can significantly affect the health and aging of your skin.

This article takes a look at 12 of the best foods for keeping your skin healthy.

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, are excellent foods for healthy skin. They are rich sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining skin health (1).

Essential fatty acids are necessary to keep skin thick, supple and moisturized. In fact, a deficiency in omega-3 fats can cause dry skin (1, 2).

The omega-3 fats found in fish reduce inflammation, which can be the cause of redness and acne, and even make your skin less sensitive to the sun's harmful UV rays (2, 3).

Some studies have found that fish oil supplements may help fight inflammatory and autoimmune conditions affecting the skin, such as psoriasis and lupus (4).

Fatty fish are also a source of vitamin E, which is one of the most important antioxidants for the skin. Getting enough vitamin E is essential for protecting the skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation (5).

They're also a source of high-quality protein, which is necessary to make the structural proteins that maintain the strength and integrity of the skin (5).

Lastly, fish is a source of zinc, a mineral that's important for regulating inflammation, the production of new skin cells and overall skin health. Having a deficiency in zinc can lead to skin inflammation, skin lesions and delayed wound healing (6).

Bottom Line: Fatty types of fish contain essential fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and keep skin moisturized. They are also a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin E and zinc.

2. Avocados

Avocados are high in healthy fats. These fats benefit many functions in your body, including the health of your skin (7).

Getting enough of these fats is important for keeping skin flexible and moisturized.

One study of more than 700 women found that a high intake of total fat, specifically the types of healthy fats found in avocados, was associated with having more supple, springy skin (8).

Preliminary evidence also shows that avocados contain compounds that may protect the skin against sun damage. UV damage to the skin can cause signs of aging, such as wrinkling (9, 10).

Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps protect the skin from oxidative damage. Vitamin E is also a nutrient most Americans don't get enough of.

Interestingly, vitamin E seems to be even more effective when it's combined with vitamin C (5).

Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin. Your skin needs it to create collagen, which is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy (11).

A deficiency in vitamin C is rare these days, but common symptoms include dry, rough, scaly skin and bruising easily.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects your skin from oxidative damage caused by the sun and environment, which can lead to signs of aging (11).

A 100-gram serving (about 1/2 an avocado) provides 10 percent of the RDI for vitamin E and 17 percent of the RDI for vitamin C (12).

Bottom Line: Avocados are high in healthy fats and contain vitamins E and C, which are important for healthy skin. They may also contain compounds that protect the skin from sun damage.

3. Walnuts

Walnuts have many characteristics that make them an excellent food for healthy skin.

They are a good source of essential fatty acids, which are fats that your body cannot make itself.

In fact, they are richer than most other nuts in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (13, 14).

A diet too high in omega-6 fats promotes inflammation, including inflammatory conditions of the skin like psoriasis. Omega-3 fats, on the other hand, help reduce inflammation in the body, including in the skin (14).

While omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in the Western diet, sources of omega-3 fatty acids are rare. Walnuts contain a good ratio of these fatty acids and may, therefore, fight the inflammatory response to too much omega-6.

What's more, walnuts contain other nutrients that your skin needs to function properly and stay healthy.

One ounce (28 grams) contains 6 percent of the RDI for zinc, which is essential for the skin to function properly as a barrier, as well as necessary for wound healing and fighting both bacteria and inflammation (15).

Walnuts also contain small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium, in addition to 4–5 grams of protein per ounce (13).

Bottom Line: Walnuts are a good source of essential fats, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and protein, all of which are nutrients that your skin needs to stay healthy.

4. Sunflower Seeds

In general, nuts and seeds are good sources of nutrients that are important for healthy skin.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent example.

One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds contains 32 percent of the RDI for the antioxidant selenium, 10 percent of the RDI for zinc and 5.4 grams of protein (16).

This amount also contains 37 percent of the RDI for vitamin E, which is a great way to make sure you're getting enough of this important vitamin and antioxidant (16).

Additionally, sunflower seeds are an excellent source of linoleic acid, the essential omega-6 fat found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils that your skin needs to stay thick, flexible and moisturized (16).

In a large observational study of more than 4,000 women, a high intake of linoleic acid was associated with a lower risk of dry and thin skin as a result of aging (17).

Bottom Line: Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of nutrients, including vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant for the skin. They also contain linoleic acid, a type of fat that may prevent dry and thin skin.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Beta-carotene is a nutrient found in plants.

It can be converted into vitamin A in the body and it's found in orange and dark-green vegetables such as carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes (5, 18).

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of it.

One 1/2-cup serving (100 grams) of baked sweet potato contains enough beta-carotene to provide nearly four times the RDI of vitamin A (19).

Carotenoids like beta-carotene help keep your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock.

When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and protects your skin cells from sun exposure. This may help prevent sunburn, cell death and the resulting effects of dry, wrinkled skin.

Interestingly, beta-carotene may also add a warm, orange color to your skin, contributing to an overall healthier look (5).

Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which acts as a natural sunblock and protects the skin from sun damage.

6. Red or Yellow Bell Peppers

Like sweet potatoes, bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene. One cup (149 grams) of chopped, red bell pepper contains the equivalent of 92 percent of the RDI for vitamin A (20).

They are also one of the best sources of vitamin C, the antioxidant that's necessary for creating the protein collagen, which keeps skin firm and strong. One cup of bell pepper provides an impressive 317 percent of the RDI for vitamin C (20).

A large observational study in women found that eating plenty of vitamin C was associated with a lower chance of skin appearing wrinkled and becoming dry with age (17).

Bottom Line: Bell peppers contain plenty of beta-carotene and vitamin C, both of which are important antioxidants for the skin. Vitamin C is also necessary to create collagen, the structural protein that keeps skin strong.

7. Broccoli

Broccoli makes the list because it is full of many vitamins and minerals important for skin health, including zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C (21).

It also contains lutein, a carotenoid that works like beta-carotene. It protects the skin from oxidative damage, which can cause skin to become dry and wrinkled.

But broccoli florets also contain a special compound called sulforaphane, which seems to have some impressive health benefits. It may even have anti-cancer effects, including on some types of skin cancer (22, 23).

Sulforaphane is also a powerful protective agent against sun damage. It works in two ways: by neutralizing harmful free radicals and turning on other protective systems in the body (23, 24).

In the lab, sulforaphane reduces the number of skin cells killed by UV light by as much as 29 percent and the protection lasts for up to 48 hours. There is also evidence that it helps maintain collagen levels in the skin (24).

Bottom Line: Broccoli is a good source of vitamins, minerals and carotenoids that are important for skin health. It also contains sulforaphane, which may help prevent skin cancer and protect the skin from sunburn.

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C and contain all of the major carotenoids, including lycopene.

Beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene have been shown to protect the skin against damage from the sun and may also help prevent wrinkling (25, 26, 27).

Because tomatoes contain all of the major carotenoids, they are an excellent food for maintaining healthy skin.

However, carotenoids need fat to be absorbed, so be sure to pair tomatoes with something like cheese or olive oil.

Bottom Line: Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and all of the major carotenoids, especially lycopene. These carotenoids protect the skin from sun damage and may help prevent wrinkling.

9. Soy

Soy contains isoflavones or plant compounds, that can either mimic or block estrogen in the body.

They may have several potential health benefits, including possible benefits for the skin.

One small study of women in their 30s and 40s found that eating soy isoflavones every day for 8–12 weeks improved fine wrinkles and skin elasticity (28).

In postmenopausal women, soy may also help improve skin dryness and increase collagen, which helps keep your skin smooth and strong (29).

These isoflavones not only protect the cells inside of your body from damage, but also protect your skin from damage from harmful UV rays. This may even help prevent the development of some skin cancers (30, 31, 32).

Bottom Line: Soy contains isoflavones. Isoflavones have been shown to improve wrinkles, collagen, skin elasticity and skin dryness, as well as protect the skin from UV damage.

10. Dark Chocolate

As if you needed one more reason to eat chocolate, the effects of cocoa on skin are pretty impressive.

One study found that after 6–12 weeks of consuming a cocoa powder high in antioxidants, participants experience thicker, more hydrated skin.

Their skin was also less rough and scaly, less sensitive to sunburn and had better blood flow, which brings more nutrients to the skin (33).

Another study found that regularly eating just 20 grams of dark chocolate high in antioxidants per day could allow skin to withstand more than twice as much UV radiation before burning, compared to eating chocolate low in antioxidants (34).

Several other studies have produced similar results, including improvements in the appearance of wrinkles. However, it is worth mentioning that at least one study did not find significant effects (35, 36, 37, 38).

Evidence shows that cocoa may be a powerful tool for keeping your skin young and protected from damage. Make sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa in order to maximize the health benefits and keep added sugar to a minimum.

Bottom Line: Cocoa contains antioxidants that may protect the skin against sunburn. They may also improve wrinkles, skin thickness, hydration, blood flow and skin texture.

11. Green Tea

Green tea may also have the ability to protect your skin from damage and aging.

The powerful compounds found in green tea are called catechins and they work to protect and improve the health of your skin in several ways.

Like several other antioxidant-containing foods, regularly consuming green tea can help protect your skin against sun damage (39, 40, 41).

One 12-week study in 60 women found that drinking green tea daily could reduce redness from sun exposure by up to 25 percent. It also improved the moisture, roughness, thickness and elasticity of their skin (42).

While green tea is a great choice for healthy skin, you may want to avoid drinking your tea with milk. There's evidence that milk could reduce the beneficial effects of its antioxidants (43).

Bottom Line: The catechins found in green tea are powerful antioxidants that can protect skin against sun damage and reduce skin redness, as well as improve the hydration, thickness and elasticity of skin.

12. Red Wine

Red wine is famous for containing resveratrol, a compound that comes from the skin of red grapes.

Resveratrol is credited with a wide range of health benefits and reducing the effects of aging is one the most well-known.

The skin has specific binding sites for resveratrol. When applied to the skin, this compound has been shown to slow skin's aging.

When consumed, it's also able to reduce the production of harmful free radicals, which damage skin cells and cause signs of aging (7, 44).

Unfortunately, there's not much evidence that the amount of resveratrol you get from a glass of red wine is enough to make a difference in your skin. And since red wine is an alcoholic beverage, there are negative effects to drinking it in excess.

It's not a good idea to start drinking red wine just because of its potential health benefits. But if you drink in moderation anyway, you might want to consider red wine as your drink of choice.

Bottom Line: Resveratrol, the famous antioxidant found in red wine, may help slow the aging process of the skin by quenching harmful free radicals that damage your skin.

Take Home Message

What you eat can have a huge effect on the health of your skin.

From making sure you're getting enough essential nutrients to protecting your skin, the foods on this list are great options to keep your skin at its best.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

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Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

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Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

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