The skin is the largest organ in the human body and acts as a barrier between internal and external environments. It protects the body from pollutants, microorganisms and radiation. In addition, it regulates body temperature and water loss, two vital keys in maintaining homeostasis.
Your skin reflects your health. Skin that is hydrated, clear and glowing is indicative of good nutrition habits. In addition to biological functions, skin plays a role in physical appearance, a feeling of wellbeing, and physical attractiveness. Basically, the foods you eat for health provide the fountain of youth for your skin as well. You are what your eat.
The micronutrients needed for healthy skin include: Vitamins C, A, B and D. Vitamin C builds collagen helping the skin remain strong and elastic. One cup of strawberries a day provides the amount you need, as well as foods such as broccoli, citrus fruits and peppers. The B vitamins found in whole grains and milk assist in healing wounds, and normalize the skin to prevent oily or dry skin. Vitamin A found in leafy green vegetables and orange vegetables and fruits, and egg yolks, prevents wrinkling of skin. Vitamin D in dairy is helpful with psoriasis and protecting skin cells from UV-induced cell death. In addition to these micronutrients, water is essential in regulating oil gland function in the skin, keeping it moist and supple.
Just as nutrient intake is important to nourish skin, so is a healthy blood supply. The skin needs water and oxygen and the blood is the best transporter of both. Oxygen and water are carried through the bloodstream to all the organs, tissues and cells of the body. To maintain healthy red blood cells to build blood supply to deliver nutrients to the cells, you need to include protein, folic acid, iron, B vitamins and vitamins E and C. A deficiency in any of these, specifically iron, may reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, leaving the skin pale and drawn due to the lack of oxygen, water and nutrients being transported.
Although, a diet high in fat might increase skin cancer risk, a low fat diet from linoleic acid found in vegetable oils helps restore damaged skin. In Addition, antioxidants battle free radicals generated by skin’s exposure to environmental pollutants such as ozone, sun, and tobacco smoke which deteriorates the integrity of skin structure. Vitamins A, C & E are high in antioxidants to fight the damaging free radicals. Berries, dark chocolate, green tea are some examples of foods that contain these powerful antioxidants. Green tea contains flavonoids and catechins that help strengthen collagen and prevent wrinkles. Green tea also contains an amino acid, theanine, which helps you relax, and controls cortisol a chemical known to induce inflammation in the body.
Examples of foods that nourish the skin include: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nonfat dairy, extra lean meat and fish, seeds, and avocado, coconut, nuts and olive oil as examples of healthy fats. Sunflower seeds are packed with Vitamin E and protects top layer of skin from sun. Kidney beans are loaded with zinc, a natural nutrient to zap zits due to its healing properties. Soy from edamame or soymilk contains proteins and minerals shown to reduce hyperpigmentation of skin. Natural steel cut oats (less processed than rolled oats) retains more of its vitamins, & helps stabilize blood sugar, as it takes longer to break down. Stabilized blood sugar prevents elevated levels of androgens, hormones known to contribute to wrinkles.
Furthermore, red, yellow and orange vegetables such as bell peppers contain carotenoids that may reduce the appearance of wrinkles as skin takes on a smoother appearance, due to the antioxidants that decrease the skin’s sun sensitivity. Non – fat, Greek yogurt is a great example of dairy that includes protein and healthy bacteria that results in firmer, glowing skin. Studies show that green tea has anti-inflammatory compounds that soothe skin with a possible reduction in skin cancer risk. Salmon, flaxseed, fortified eggs, and walnuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids that strengthen cell membranes allowing for a better flow of nutrients to the skin, as well as protect against sun damage, boost collagen production, and improve the elasticity of skin.
Pomegranate arils are a great little treat for the skin as their antioxidants assist in regulating blood flow to the skin, fighting free radicals and increasing the skins color. Best of all, chocolate is not just a guilty pleasure. If you choose the dark variety, at least 70% cacao, the flavanols (a potent antioxidant) it contains help skin look firmer and resilient. Watermelon and tomatoes have carotenoids such as lycopene that protect against sun damage.
These are all great choice for skin nourishment. What should we avoid? The following foods may cause your skin to look drab and lifeless: foods high in sugar and sodium, highly processed and packaged foods, foods laden with artificial coloring and preservatives. That includes most of the aisles in a grocery store. Shop the perimeter of the store and avoid the aisles for whole foods that are natural and unprocessed.
In summary, a higher intake of fruits and vegetables, Vitamins A, C and E, Omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid, antioxidant rich foods such as, dark chocolate and green tea, nuts and seeds and whole grains not only supplies the body with nutrients to support health, but nourishes the skin with anti-aging benefits. So in addition to nourishing your skin on the outside with healthy, organic products, you must nourish your skin on the inside with healthy organic nutrients.