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. 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 can increase the risk and severity of cracked heels.
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. Carrots, milk, eggs, green vegetables and orange fruits are all good sources of vitamin A. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is 700mcg and 900mcg for adult women and men, respectively.
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. It can be found in foods such as green vegetables, nuts, fortified cereals and whole-grain products. The RDA for vitamin E is 15mg daily.
Like vitamin E, vitamin C protects the skin from free radicals. Free radicals destroy the skin’s structural support of collagen and elastin fibers and cause wrinkles or cracks in the skin. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and green-leafy vegetables. According to the IOM, only 75mg to 90mg of the vitamin is needed by the adult body daily. However, most adults consume much larger amounts of this vitamin.
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 11mg for men and 8mg for women daily.
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 reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids come in three types: eicosapentaenic 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.