7 Foods for Better Skin: An Excerpt From my New Book!
The sun is out in full force and summer is officially here! While I couldn’t be more excited for long days at the lake, lots of hiking and BBQs on the back deck, I’m also acutely aware of the toll the sun’s UV rays can take on our skin.
Healthy skin starts from the inside out, so beyond the obvious (wearing SPF 30 and avoiding a lot of exposure on a high UV index day), there are lots of things we can do to rejuvenate and improve our skin, specifically through out diet.
Below I’ve shared with you an excerpt from my new book, Collagen: Myths & Misconceptions, that deals with how to boost your skin health. Tell me what you think in the comments!
Beauty From the Inside Out: Eating for YOUR Skin
A diet full of nutritious and colorful food is an essential prescription for healthy and vibrant skin. The good news is that the foods that maintain beautiful and youthful skin are also excellent for your overall health.
While genetics can play a role in skin aging, poor lifestyle choices and your surrounding environment can significantly accelerate this process. Skin aging and damage typically occurs as a result of oxidation from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause a lot of damage and inflammation in the body.
Too much sugar, UV exposure and unhealthy habits such as smoking and too much alcohol are culprits in premature wrinkling and skin damage.
Aside from the above lifestyle changes, it’s also important to include foods in your diet that are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants work to protect your healthy cells, including your skin, against the damage from oxidative stress and free radicals.
Some of these antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, vitamin A (beta-carotene) and phytochemicals that are found in many excellent foods, as discussed below.
Vitamin C is a key player in the production of healthy collagen. It protects cells from free radical damage, boosts the immune system and helps to reduce inflammation.
Good sources of vitamin C include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, mangoes, kiwi, oranges, pineapple, and papaya.
Vitamin E, another important antioxidant, helps to protect the skin from the sun’s UV radiation. Great food sources of Vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, avocado and asparagus.
Vitamin A (beta carotene) is critical for healthy skin and is involved in the growth and repair of your body’s tissues. Sweet potato, carrots, collard greens, winter squash, spinach and cantaloupe are excellent food sources of beta-carotene.
Selenium is an important antioxidant that protects the skin from sun damage.
Selenium is required for the proper activity of enzymes called glutathione peroxidases. These enzymes play a key role in detoxification and protect against oxidative stress. Selenium-containing enzymes are also involved in recycling vitamin C, allowing for greater antioxidant protection. Food sources include sardines, Brazil nuts, lamb, chicken, mushrooms and eggs.
Omega-3 fatty acids, although not classified as antioxidants, have a significant role in protecting healthy skin. Omega-3s help maintain cell membranes, allowing water and nutrients in but keeping the toxins out. They are also very effective at reducing inflammation in the body, which is often the underlying cause of many chronic diseases. Clinical signs of essential fatty acid deficiency can include dry, scaly rashes; decreased growth in infants and children; increased susceptibility to infection; and poor wound healing. Neurological and visual development can also be impacted from an omega-3 deficiency. Dietary sources of omega-3s include flax seeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, herring and anchovies.
Polyphenols (Plant-based antioxidants)
Clinical studies have also been conducted to show that certain natural polyphenols – plant chemicals that work as potent antioxidants – help to protect the skin against free radical damage. These polyphenols include catechins from green tea, anthocyanins from dark berries, bioflavonoids from citrus, carotenoids such as lycopene and lutein from tomatoes, and resveratrol from red wine. These compounds optimize antioxidant protection in the skin.
Blueberries are packed full of natural polyphenols called anthocyanins that are responsible for their deep color. Studies have revealed that these anthocyanins naturally prevent glycation by stabilizing the collagen matrix in the skin and promoting collagen biosynthesis and circulation. Blueberries have also been shown to reduce the production of collagen-breakdown enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and therefore halt the breakdown of collagen.
There is also a positive connection between skin health and gut health. Friendly bacteria known as probiotics that reside in the gut, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are well documented as effective for treating certain infections, promoting a strong immune system and reducing skin inflammation. Oral probiotics have been shown in vivo to rebalance healthy skin microflora, optimize skin barrier functions, and boost cellular antioxidant capacity. Probiotics also help to counteract toxic byproducts from the environment and/or poor lifestyle choices.They help to defend the lining of the intestine and increase the bioavailability and absorption of many essential nutrients.