Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but nutrition plays a vital role in both inner and outer beauty because if you feel good, it will show on your face and in your disposition.

Any beauty regimen should start with proper hydration, and yes, water is best. The average person needs 2 liters of fluid per day or about eight (8 ounce) glasses.

Eat lots of fresh, seasonal and local fruits and vegetables to help ensure a diet rich in water and antioxidants. Antioxidants are the plant’s way of defending itself against environmental insults. Local produce develops a natural defense system specific to your surroundings. Buy organic if you can but note that although small farmers may not be certified organic, they may still grow organically. Just ask.

Of course we know to stay away from damaging toxins such as cigarette smoke, UV sun rays and car exhaust, but were you also aware that specific nutrients play a vital role in preserving your natural beauty?

Fifty years ago free radicals were discovered when researchers saw a correlation between degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer and free radical damage.

What a blessing it was when in the 1980s scientists discovered the virtues of antioxidants. However, what a curse as well when they tried to isolate these powerhouses in pill form to ward off disease.

Although we understand how antioxidants work against free radicals, we don’t know how every single nutrient works collaboratively or synergistically to fight disease and the signs of aging. So to single them out in the form of supplements is simply presumptuous.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to eat your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from whole food first.

The best defenses are food sources of vitamin E, vitamin C, Anthocyanins, Beta-carotene and Omega-3 fats and here’s why:

Vitamin E is especially protective against UV sun damage. The best advice is to limit sun exposure and eat good sources of vitamin E which include sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, herring, salmon, wheat germ, lots of leafy greens and canned pumpkin.

Vitamin C is involved in collagen production and protects cells from free radical damage as shown by rats that ate a vitamin C rich diet and had better skin to boot. Good sources of C: peppers, papaya, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli.

Anthocyanins may protect against age related sun damage. The “cyan” indicates these powerful antioxidants are found in blue, purple and red hued foods. Sources include: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries (all berries) as well as grapes, pomegranates and red cabbage.

Beta-carotene is one of many carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is involved in the growth and repair of body tissues and may protect against sun damage. For optimal protection, eat more pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, winter squash, apricots, red peppers, mango and dark leafy greens.

Omega-3 Fats get incorporated into cell membranes, helping the membranes do a better job of allowing water and nutrients in and keeping toxins out. Food sources are the best defense. Choose fatty fish for sources of EPA & DHA: salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout. For Alpha-Linolenic-Acid (ALA), incorporate these foods into your diet: flax seeds, walnuts and canola oil.

Elizabeth can be reached at eat2liv@earthlink.net.

Sweet C Slaw

1/4 head green cabbage (vitamin C)

1/4 head red cabbage (anthocyanins)

2 apples (vitamin C)

3 carrots, peeled (Beta-carotene)

1/2 cup plain, organic yogurt

Juice of one orange (vitamin C)

2 Tablespoons honey

Add per serving:

2 Tablespoons raisins (anthocyanins)

1 Tablespoons chopped walnuts (ALA omega-3’s)

1 Tablespoon ground flax seed (ALA omega-3’s)

1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (vitamin E)

Blend yogurt, orange juice and honey. Add shredded cabbage, apples and carrots. Serve 1/2 cup at a time and top with accoutrements.

Hazelnut Encrusted Trout

on a Bed of Steamed Greens

1 pound trout or fish of your choice (EPA & DHA omega-3’s)

1/4 cup plain, organic yogurt

1 Tablespoon spicy mustard

1 Tablespoon lemon juice (vitamin C)

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 cup hazelnuts, ground or chopped (vitamin E)

Serve on a bed of chopped and steamed greens such as turnip, beet, dandelion or mustard (vitamin E)

Preheat oven to 425. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet or cover with high heat canola oil. Sprinkle fish with salt & pepper. Mix yogurt, mustard, lemon and honey.

Coat fish on both sides and set on baking sheet. Cover top side of fish with crushed hazelnuts. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

Quick Skin Smoothie

In a blender add:

1/4 cup pomegranate juice (anthocyanins)

1 shredded carrot (beta-carotene)

1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries (vitamin C)

1 Tablespoon wheat germ (vitamin E)

1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (vitamin E)

1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds (ALA omega-3’s)

Honey or agave to taste. Add water as needed.