If your little ones suffer from frequent skin rashes, then put them on the anti-itchy diet, with plenty of almonds, lentils, carrots, spinach and kale. That’s the encouraging conclusion of a just-published study of how key nutrients impact children’s skin health.

Korean researchers looked at the diets of 420 children between the ages of 4 to 6, and found that those with the highest intakes of vitamin E had a 67% lower risk of severe itching, redness and flaking skin. High folic acid intake = 63% lower incidence; high iron = 61% reduced risk; and high beta-carotene = 56% lower risk. Chewing a multivitamin does not offer the same benefit: When researchers separated kids who derived their nutrients from food from those who got them from supplements, there was ZERO risk reduction for the pill poppers. This echoes previous research, which found that most American children don’t need vitamin supplements.

Given widespread deficiencies among the young, here’s how to ensure kids get the skin-soothing nutrients they need:

  • Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, greens
  • Folate: lentils and other beans, spinach, beets, artichokes
  • Iron: soybeans and other beans, oat bran, turkey
  • Beta-carotene: sweet potatoes, carrots, greens, squash
Why do these foods help? Eczema is often triggered when children’s sensitive skin is irritated by exposure to sun, smoke and other toxins — but antioxidants from plant foods can help counter the inflammation and free-radical damage, giving developing immune systems a helping hand. Beta-carotene, in particular, acts as a very gentle internal sunscreen.Such low-calorie, high-fiber foods also help prevent childhood obesity, which can later develop into more chronic skin ailments.
Published March 1, 2010