Health foods for your skin

If you want you want to have skin that looks young and healthy
you need to provide two things: Building blocks for renewing skin and skin protection.  The best anti aging skin care products are right on the supermarket shelves and you will do your skin a great deal of anti aging good by consuming plenty of natural foods.  Your first line of defense to great, young looking skin is diet.  Skin care products come after that.  No amount of creams and treatments will help you look and stay younger than your biological age if you fill your body with nutrient poor foods, sugars and toxins and create an environment where free radicals thrive and sun damage can occur.  Its about keeping some foods out of your diet or at least minimizing them and having a diet that is high in nutrient dense real food.

This post is dedicated to foods that protect your skin
using vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Foods that provide building blocks for healthy skin, grab free radicals and neutralize them; that also provide protection from sun damage.  I want to introduce to some of them and give you an idea of which foods contain good amounts of them and what foods you need be eating to provide your skin protection against aging.  And just as a side note:  its not all about looking good.  Eating these foods for skin protection is helping you right through to the bone.  It turns out that with food, beauty is not just skin deep.

Skin has the components collagen and elastin and hyaluronic acid which keep it youthful and elastic.  To maximize the potential of the skin to retain the youthful  properties you’ve got to protect collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid from being degraded.  Exposure to sun and the activity of specific enzymes in the body work to break down the skins protective components.  But with a good diet you can go a long way to helping maintain a young looking complexion.  And to my mind a young looking complexion is really a side benefit.  A diet rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and antioxidants keeps your entire body healthy at the cellular level – you can really wind down that bio-aging clock.

Hyaluronic acid helps the skin to retain moisture and to ‘plump’ out.   Its important to hang on to this to help retain youthful skin.  There are not many foods that you can eat to prevent then enzyme hyaluronidase from doing its damage, but wakame does this. Wakame is a seaweed, and has many other health benefits besides skin.  Its also supportive of your thyroid.  So get into your closest asian shop and get yourself some wakame.  I’ll put a few recipes for seaweed up in the next day or two.

Collagen builders and antioxidants include:
Vitamin A: it helps to stabilize collagen production, keep the skin in good repair and stay moist and is a fat soluble antioxidant.  Vitamin A is found in whole milk, liver (yuk).  Orange coloured vegetables will provide it in the form of beta carotene – which your body then converts to vitamin A.   I don’t really recommend high amounts of supplemental  vitamin A.  Because it is fat soluble, it doesn’t get excreted from your body which means it builds up and you can get toxicity which can do some damage.

Vitamin C: A crucial component of collagen and powerful antioxidant.   Fresh fruits and vegetables are your best source of Vitamin C. Go for apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, red peppers, broccoli.  Potato is a really good source of vitamin C, but Vitamin C is not stable at extremes of temperature and cooking does destroy quite a bit of it.  The RDA is easily obtained from fruit and vegetables, but personally I think we could all do with a lot more.  I take an extra 1000mg per day myself because its protective of lots of things.  Often times the RDA seems to be basically enough to stop clinical presentation of deficiency, but maybe not enough to really help us out.  I wouldn’t argue that across the board for all vitamins, but with Vitamin C – well it’s pretty safe.  An ‘overdose’ can cause diarrhea, but a vitamin C flush actually requires this, but that’s another post.

Vitamin E: Another fat soluble antioxidant. Its role for the skin is to assist in protection against oxidation and against damage from UV light.  Vitamin E is a family of antioxidants, also called tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are  4 types of tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, beta) and 4 tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, beta).  OK, so which is best for the skin? Well alpha tocopherol is the most studied of all the groups and is the one found mostly in foods with gamma tocopherol the 2nd most abundant.  Vitamin E is a supplement that you should exercise care with. It’s a blood thinner and too much can cause brain hemorrhage.  If you do take a supplement – no more than 1000mg of mixed tocopherols and let your Dr know. Its not difficult to get enough of it from food anyway.  It’s abundant in nuts and seeds.  Both which are good for other organs in the body as well.  A handful of almonds per day will protect your heart AND your skin so why not? Other really good sources are sunflower seeds, walnuts, peanuts, wheat bran, spinach, paypaya,   mango and olives.

Vitamin K rich foods. This vitamin is also a fat soluble vitamin, but unlike all other fat soluble vitamins your body doesn’t store it and it needs to be replenished at least every few days. There are two main kinds of vitamin K:  K1 and K2 .  K1 is abundant in leafy green vegetables and a healthy gut flora can synthesize vitamin K2.  So….eat your leafy greens for K1 and your probiotics for K2.  Probiotic foods are fermented foods with live cultures, like good quality yogurt, and kefir, by adding these to your diet you assist in the colonization of healthy gut flora. Now here’s  a tip about yogurt.  Read the label: if it contains gelatin put it back and get one that doesn’t.  You want your yogurt to be thick and creamy because of the fermentation of the milk, NOT because they thickened it up with gelatin.  Its best to get a good quality organic yogurt to assure good amounts of beneficial bacterias: If you really hate yogurt and kefir you can take a probiotic supplement.  In my day job I come across a great deal of people taking Coumadin as a blood thinner.  They are afraid of vitamin K rich foods because vitamin K mitigates the effects of Coumadin.   What I tell my patients is that it is IMPORTANT to include vitamin K foods but that they need to contact their primary health care provider and have the rate of Coumadin adjusted to their estimated daily vitamin K intake.  Vitamin K is needed not only for effective blood clotting (and this is a problem for people for people with arterial conditions), but it is also needed for bone health, and there is interest in it for insulin function.  Some research shows that vitamin K has an effect on the beta cells of the pancreas and a lack of it may contribute to insulin resistance.  However…all of this is incidental but it does remind me that health is wholistic and no one thing is independent of another when it comes to what we put in our body.  Healthy skin……healthy cells, healthy body.

Check back in the next day or two - I’m going to talk about phytochemicals – which ones you need for your skin and which foods have them.  Then I’ll post some skin healthy recipes for your enjoyment!

If you have some tips of your own, you are very welcome to share them. .


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