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Cracked heels can be annoying and painful. While a healthy diet is important for good skin health, including the skin on your heels, a nutritional deficiency isn't likely the cause.
Cracked heels or heel fissures refer to the buildup of thick, dry skin on the heel of the foot and the consequential cracking of the skin 1. The fissures can be mild — consisting of dry, cracked skin on just the outer layers of the epidermis — or severe, affecting the internal layers of the dermis. Damage to the dermis layer can cause pain, discomfort and bleeding.
An inadequate consumption of key vitamins and minerals may affect skin health and make you more vulnerable to cracked heels, but is most likely not the underlying cause of the condition 1. Consult with your doctor before making changes to your diet or adding dietary supplements to your regimen.
Vitamin A for Skin Health
Vitamin A is generally associated with healthy vision, but it also plays an important role in maintaining and rejuvenating skin tissue. Vitamin A promotes cell division and growth, including the sloughing of skin cells that leads to smooth healthy skin. A deficiency may lead to dryness, scaling and thickening of your skin and may affect your heels. But vitamin A deficiency is very rare in western cultures like the United States.
Carrots, milk, eggs, green vegetables and orange fruits are all good sources of vitamin A and including them in your diet can help make sure you're getting what you need to help maintain overall health 2. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is 700 micrograms and 900 micrograms or adult women and men, respectively.
Vitamin E to Protect Your Skin
Vitamin E works to protect skin cells from harmful free radicals produced by the body and other environmental sources, such as the sun. As an antioxidant, vitamin E keeps skin cells healthy and smooth and may work to prevent the cracks in your heels. The fat-soluble vitamin is found in foods such as green vegetables, nuts, fortified cereals and whole-grain products. The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams daily.
An inadequate intake of vitamin E doesn't usually affect skin health, but may cause muscle weakness loss of control over your movement, or issues with your vision 2. While most Americans don't meet their daily vitamin E needs, very few actually show signs of a deficiency. You shouldn't supplement with vitamin E due to risks of bleeding unless you first talk to your doctor.
Vitamin C for Skin Rejuvenation
Like vitamin E, vitamin C protects the skin from free radicals. Free radicals destroy the skin's structural support proteins, collagen and elastin fibers, and cause wrinkles or cracks in the skin. Vitamin C is also essential for the production of collagen. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and green-leafy vegetables. According to the IOM, only 75 milligrams to 90 milligrams of the vitamin is needed by the adult body daily. However, most adults consume much larger amounts of this vitamin.
Zinc for Healing Your Skin
Zinc provides enzymes that benefit skin cells in multiple ways. Zinc facilitates cell division, growth and wound healing. It's widely distributed in foods, but high amounts of zinc are found in oysters, red meats, seafood, poultry, whole grains and fortified cereals. The RDA for zinc is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women daily.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The body doesn't naturally produce omega-3 fatty acids, yet they are essential to the human body and must come from the diet. They help with blood circulation, wound healing, skin integrity and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids come in three types: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are obtained by eating cold-water fish. ALA comes from plant oils and seeds such as flaxseeds.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the general public consume at least two servings (3.5 oz per serving) of fatty fish such as canned tuna, shrimp, halibut, pollock and catfish weekly. Including rich sources of this essential fat in your diet may help keep your skin healthy and strong and prevent cracked heels 1.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E keeps skin cells healthy and smooth and may work to prevent the cracks in your heels. Vitamin A promotes cell division and growth, including the sloughing of skin cells that leads to smooth healthy skin. The body doesn't naturally produce omega-3 fatty acids, yet they are essential to the human body and must come from the diet.