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Nourish your skin during cold weather

I wish I owned a skin lotion company about now. I might have a booming business. During winter months in the Midwest, we may find ourselves struggling to keep our skin hydrated. Our skin is exposed to freezing temperatures, blustery winds and ind...

I wish I owned a skin lotion company about now. I might have a booming business.

During winter months in the Midwest, we may find ourselves struggling to keep our skin hydrated. Our skin is exposed to freezing temperatures, blustery winds and indoor heat. We dress more heavily and we may be perspiring without even knowing it.

While slathering ourselves with lotion can help moisturize dry skin, think about hydrating from the inside out, too. Since our body is about two-thirds water by weight, staying hydrated is critical. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating a variety of skin-nourishing foods play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin.

According to a University of New Hampshire study, cold weather actually may increase our risk of dehydration. Cold weather affects the release of a hormone responsible for making us sense thirst. If we don't feel thirsty, we may not drink enough fluids.

Like our heart and kidneys, our skin is considered an organ of the body. Considering surface area, our skin is the largest of all our organs.

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In addition to protein and fluids, several vitamins, including vitamins C, A and E, are vital to skin health. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli and several other foods. It acts as a natural antioxidant to protect and help repair our skin.

Low-fat milk provides vitamin A and fluid for skin health. Try featuring dark orange vegetables, such as pumpkin, carrots and squash, more often in your winter menus. These foods are rich in beta carotene, which our body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin E, another natural antioxidant, is found in vegetable oil, nuts and sunflower seeds.

Consider these tips to help keep your skin healthy and hydrated the rest of the winter:

-- Wear gloves, a hat and scarf to protect exposed skin.

-- Shorten your showers and cool down your baths.

Lounging in a hot tub may warm you, but a long soak can dehydrate your skin.

-- Wear moisturizing sunscreen on your face. Snow effectively reflects damaging sun rays. Skin damage can occur both summer and winter.

-- Eat a variety of healthful foods and beverages. Aim for at least 2 quarts of fluids daily. The water in vegetables and other moisture-rich foods counts toward the total.

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-- Steer clear of alcoholic beverages. While a nip of brandy may feel warming, it actually dehydrates.

-- Keep a container of water beside you to sip. Consider green tea as a warming, antioxidant-rich beverage to hydrate and nourish your skin, too.

-- When you pass a water fountain, pause for a drink.

-- Have a beverage with every meal or snack.

-- Start meals with soup.

A steaming bowl of soup can warm you on a cold winter day.

From start to finish, this soup is ready to serve in 15 minutes. This skin-nourishing soup is rich in several natural antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta carotene.

Quick Cheesy Broccoli-Cauliflower Soup

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3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

16-ounce package frozen broccoli and cauliflower

15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (with onions and peppers, if desired)

8 ounces of low-fat, processed cheese, cubed

Heat chicken broth. Add vegetables and simmer for about five to eight minutes until tender. Add tomatoes and heat for two minutes. Remove from heat, add cheese and stir until melted. Serve immediately.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 14 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 4 g of fat and 3 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D, is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

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