If it's great skin you're after, make healthy food a priority. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
If it’s great skin you’re after, make healthy food a priority. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Yes, some women can thank their genes for that youthful glow. But they don’t have the market cornered on smooth and seemingly ageless skin.

Those of us who haven’t been genetically blessed can still glide into our 40s, 50s and 60s with soft, dewy skin.

Vitamin-infused creams and lotions can certainly improve skin and hair, but if you really want to look great, you have to start on the inside.

The truth is, the right foods will not only help you feel great, they’ll also help you get beautiful locks and a glowing complexion.

Here are 8 essentials for better skin:

Water

Water is essential to providing moisture and suppleness to skin. It helps transport nutrients to all our cells—skin, hair and nails—and it’s a natural lubricant for our joints.

You should drink about half your body weight in fluid ounces each day. (So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink about 75 ounces of water.)

If you’re feeling bloated, you may be retaining fluid from too much sodium. Drinking water flushes away excess sodium and aids in weight loss by removing excess water weight.

Want to add a refreshing flavor to your water? Add in a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber, or try my favorite: chopped fresh pineapple and fresh strawberries.

Vitamin A, beta-carotene

Think green vegetables, orange vegetables and fruit.

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that helps maintain and repair tissues in the body. It provides moisture for eyes, skin and epithelial cells that cover or line all our body parts, externally and internally.

Beta-carotene winners: sweet potatoes, mangoes, butternut squash, apricots, broccoli, collard greens, spinach and kale.

The options are without limit: Try some mango salsa. Toss a handful of baby spinach into your smoothie. Roast some butternut squash. Roast some sweet potatoes with olive oil. Enjoy a broccoli salad with cranberries and sunflower seeds.

You can make healthy substitutions, too. Instead of fries with your burger, trade them for baby carrots and broccoli with a spinach dip.

Just a tip: Traditional, store-bought spinach dip is laden with mayonnaise, so instead use thawed, drained and chopped frozen spinach to make it greener and healthier.

Vitamin C

The American Academy of Dermatology says vitamin C can be highly protective against sun damage. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties help reduce skin damage caused by free radicals, a harmful byproduct of sunlight, smoke and pollution.

This vitamin also promotes production of collagen, which acts like tissue cement to help keep skin from sagging.

Excellent sources include blueberries, mangoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and citrus fruits.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps keep skin smooth, healthy and younger looking. It’s an antioxidant much like vitamin C, as it counters the effects of sun exposure. It’s also used topically as a cream and lotion to soothe dry skin

Great sources include hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ and avocados.

Mango orange creamsicle smoothie (makes 5 cups)

Recipe by Irene Franowicz  RD, CDE

Mango fruits on a wooden table.

2 mangoes (or 2-plus cups chopped, frozen mango)

½ cup orange juice (fresh-squeezed is best)

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1 cup your favorite milk (cow, almond, soy, coconut)

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon wheat germ

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

1 teaspoon flax oil

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (optional)

Nutrition per cup

Calories: 155

Fat: 3.9 grams

Carbohydrates: 26.2 grams

Fiber: 3.9 grams

Protein: 5.7 grams

B complex vitamins

A deficiency in B vitamins can cause dermatitis—an itchy, scaly skin reaction. Sources of these vitamins include bananas, eggs, oatmeal, whole grains, lentils and cereals.

Seafood

Seafood has good fats—essential fatty acids and omega-3—which help reduce inflammation in the body. These may also help reduce wrinkles.

The best types of seafood are salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines. Try adding a seafood meal twice a week. It’s as easy as a tuna fish sandwich for lunch and grilled teriyaki salmon for dinner.

Get calcium

What do milk, yogurt and soy have in common? They’re high in calcium, which makes them great not only for your skin, but for your bones and nails.

Yogurt also has probiotics that aid in digestion. It’s a great way to add protein and calcium to your smoothies.

Mediterranean staples

Don’t avoid fat just for the sake of your waistline. Eat the Mediterranean way and include plenty of olive oil, flaxseed, avocados, nuts and seeds.

Research now shows healthy fats do not cause weight gain, even when we reduce our processed carb intake. Many of the participants in the “Eating the Mediterranean way” classes I teach at Spectrum Health actually lose weight when they add healthy fats and start reading labels to get rid of extra sugar.

Many women have dry, flaky skin because they don’t eat enough good fats—essential fatty acids. Fat is needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.

Enjoy some guacamole this summer, serve olives on your appetizer tray, enjoy almond butter on your whole grain toast topped with banana slices, and top your yogurt with almonds and sunflower seeds.