It is now September. Summer is winding down even though it officially doesn’t end till the 22nd this year. Kids are back in school, and we all are settling back into our non-summer routines. Here in Minnesota some of the trees are beginning to turn color and drop. It is my favorite season of the year; the color, the smells just everything about it.
September is also National Skin Care Awareness month so my posts this month will be related to skin, some way or another. Our skin is an awesome organ and it protects all our other organs, so we really do need to take care of it.
Summer can be a harsh time of the year for our skin with spending a lot more time outdoors, enjoying all of our summer activities. We all know to take precautions to protect our skin by using sunscreen, but knowing and doing are two different things. Although my foundation has an SPF and I diligently wear it every day, I don’t always apply sunscreen anywhere else unless I know I am going to spend a long time outside.
That brings us to how our skin looks after summer. Are you seeing some sun damage in the form of discoloring or dark spots, maybe a few more wrinkles have shown up, or maybe it is just starting to show some serious signs of aging? Unfortunately, as we do age, our skin has a more difficult time repairing itself and maintaining that youthful glow. This is where some easy to incorporate food choices can help your skin repair and heal.
I am learning an Eating for Health system which was developed by Dr. Ed Bauman. It seeks to strategically develop food plans for people rather than having them eat according to a food model. It features fresh, whole foods that align with people’s needs, preferences, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds. What we put in to our bodies affects every part of our being, including our skin!
Food can also be a tool to heal our skin and the effects of aging. Now I am not one to believe that there are any anti-aging products or foods. Once we are born, we are continually aging no matter what we do. But that being said, we can affect how we age and choose to age in a healthy manner. This is where food can help or hinder our skin.
Foods that Hurt Our Skin
Sugar is a source of many problems in our bodies including our skin. Sharp spikes in blood sugar can wreak havoc on the skin. Sugar molecules react with collagen and elastin to decrease firmness and elasticity (leading to the formation of wrinkles and stretch marks).
Processed foods are another problem, and they too can weaken collagen and elastic tissue by producing high insulin levels. Both these types of foods are extremely common in the Standard American Diet and rather difficult to avoid. As a good reminder, the farther a food is from its natural state, the more likely it is to have a negative effect on your skin.
I am not going to focus too much on the negative and rather would like to share with you better choices for your skin and ultimately your overall health. I think everyone pretty much knows the things they should not do, but I would rather encourage you to make some positive changes in your diet and continue on your journey to a healthier, more beautiful you.
Foods that Can Nourish Our Skin
You can buy the best, most expensive skin creams in the world, but without feeding your body the essential building blocks of collagen and elastin, your skin will slowly lose its resilience and start to wrinkle and sag (Wu, 2011).
So what is collagen? It is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the substance that holds the whole body together. It is found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons, where it forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure. It is pretty important stuff. Collagen is a protein so it is important to eat protein every day, throughout the day. It is a good idea to have some protein at every meal. This will also help to keep a “full feeling” if you are trying to maintain or lose weight. All good quality proteins will help keep the skin strong and flexible. Good sources of protein are meats such as chicken, salmon, and bison. Nuts, seeds, and nut butters are great options. Dairy is another source of protein, but some people have allergic reactions to dairy which can include skin problems.
“Eating the Rainbow” is a popular saying that basically means eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables from all different colors: red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, and green. This will provide an assortment of antioxidant, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people who eat a lot of green and yellow vegetables tend to have fewer wrinkles, especially around the eyes. I try to have a salad every day with some kind of dark leafy greens. I would say I need to work on the yellow vegetables!
Tomatoes are another great food for the skin. It actually has been shown to protect the skin from UV damage. It is the greatest source of the antioxidant lycopene. The lycopene is absorbed the best from cooked tomatoes with some olive oil. It can also be found in tomato sauce, paste, puree, and salsa. Ketchup and barbecue sauces are other sources, but they often contain sugar(remember=wrinkles) so should not be used as a significant source of lycopene. I am certainly going to add more tomatoes to my daily diet. I want to help my skin repair the damage it has already sustained.
Fats help to keep skin supple. You need an adequate supply of healthy fats to supplement certain essential fatty acids that your body can’t make, but are key to soft, supple skin. Fats in your diet allows your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins that are key to beautiful skin, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K. Good sources of high-quality fats are avocados, whole eggs, fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring), nuts, chia seeds, and extra virgin olive oil.
Hydration is one of the most important ways you can nourish your skin. Drinking clean, filtered water in the amount of half your body weight in ounces is necessary each day. Your body cannot survive very long without water so keep it hydrated. Avoid sweetened drinks as the sugar can raise your glucose levels and encourage those wrinkles!
Green tea is a calorie-free and antioxidant rich wonder drink that helps protect your skin from the dangerous effects of the sun and other free radical damage such as pollution, cigarette smoke, and stress. Free radicals cause damage not only on our skin, but also inside our bodies. Antioxidants are one way to battle free radicals and neutralize them, but they need to be constantly provided to our bodies. Drinking green tea every day is a great source of antioxidants and is also anti-inflammatory. If you are a coffee drinker, maybe substitute one cup per day of green tea to nourish your skin. Choose organic tea as conventional teas can have pesticides and you definitely want to avoid that. My goal is to drink at least one cup of green tea each day.
Over the past few years, we have continued to change our diet to an Eating for Health system. One thing that I have noticed is the better I eat, the less sunburned I actually get! I have added green tea a few times a week this summer and have not burned once, even though I have often neglected to apply sunscreen (yes, I am working on that). So just by making a few small changes, I have given my body the opportunity to protect itself. Our bodies are wonderful machines when given the tools they need!
These are just a few foods that can battle the effects of sun and other damage that our skin endures. Here are a couple of books if you want to delve deeper into eating for healthy skin, Feed Your Face by Jessica Wu, M.D. and The Beauty Diet by Lisa Drayer, M.A., R.D., each has specific diet and recipes that may be helpful.
We all want to look our best for our age, and we can look and feel our best by making a few simple changes of stocking our refrigerator with the right foods, choosing snacks that are skin friendly, and keeping hydrated.
How did your skin fair this summer? Would you add any of these foods to your current diet to help fight off skin damage? Was this information helpful?
If you enjoyed this post, like below, let me know, and share with others that may be wanting to improve their skin and health through food.
Disclaimer: This website is for general information only. This information provided is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Do not rely on information provided here for your own health conditions. If you have specific questions regarding your own health, raise them with your primary care physician.
Drayer, Lisa, M.A., R.D. (2009). The beauty diet. McGraw Hill. New York, NY
Wu, Jessica, M.D. (2011). Feed your face. St. Martin Press. New York, NY