Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and certainly one of the most important: it protects your insides from all the evils in the world! The way I view my relationship with my skin is like this: it helps me out all day, every day, so I may as well do what I can to help it out when possible. Skin becomes beautiful and healthy from the inside out, so although washing and moisturizing it certainly does good things for it (as long as you’re using all-natural, mild products – I like Burt’s Bees), it is what you put into your body that has the most profound effect on your skin. I’m not saying I’m perfect and eat for my skin all the time because I love greasy pizza and french fries as much as the next person, contributing to oil buildup in pores and causing sallower looking skin, but I do what I can. Most of the time, I’ll only allow myself one treat meal like that a week, which (hopefully) doesn’t hurt too much. On other days, I’m pretty conscientious of what I put in my body, and am often thinking about what will do good things for my skin. Serendipitously enough, eating for your skin helps you get a variety of other nutrients necessary for the rest of your body, so eating for your skin isn’t only for your skin, but for your overall health! Here are some suggestions of things to eat to try and help you on your way:
1. Antioxidants: Antioxidants are substances that help protect your cells against free radicals, which are molecules produced naturally in the body from processes such as digestion but are dangerous because they can damage cells and have been linked to heart disease and cancer. The free radicals are looking to take electrons from other molecules, which sets off a chain reaction of stealing electrons, and the original free radical ends up leaving a path of broken and misshapen cells in its path. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, making it unnecessary for them to steal from other molecules, and therefore saving the skin cells that would have potentially been hurt by the free radical.
- Where can I find them? blueberries, cranberries, peaches, sweet potatoes, artichokes, avocados, cinnamon, garlic, thyme, green tea, black coffee, red wine, dark chocolate
2. Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These are essential fatty acids that Americans tend to lack in their diets. They smooth out skin, reduce inflammation, and help erase spots. Added bonus: they also really help along your digestive system!
- Where can I find them? sardines, salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, fish oil (Usually, I would recommend trying to get all of your nutrients from your food, but unfortunately essential fatty acids aren’t ver abundant in what we eat. For these, I think it’s quite acceptable to take a supplement, I take flaxseed oil every day!)
3. Vitamin C: This well-known and always talked about vitamin not only helps prevent colds, but stimulates collagen production, which helps smooth out wrinkles and give your skin a full, youthful appearance. Vitamin C also helps catalyze the production of scar tissue, meaning it helps repare your skin when something happens to it. There have also been studies linking Vitamin C to sunburn reduction and reduction of the long-term effects on skin from the sun. Added bonus: it is an antioxidant! If you’re eating Vitamin C, you’re neutralizing some free radicals!
- Where can I find it? citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, red and green hot chile peppers, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kiwis, clementines, strawberries
4. Lycopene: Lycopene is a phytochemical, meaning it is found in plant foods. I’m sure you’ve heard about the dangers of UV rays with respect to our skin, but in case you didn’t already know, UV rays create free radicals, which, as you now know if you didn’t already, damage cells. Lycopene helps eliminate these free radicals like antioxidants do, and therefore help protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun. It also helps significantly in protecting against sunburn.
- Where can I find it? the most common way to up your lycopene intake is to increase your tomato consumption, but it can also be found in guavas, watermelon, grapefruit, dried parsley and basil, and chile powder
5. Iron & Folic Acid: Without enough of these substances, your skin has the potential to turn sallow and pasty.
- Where can I find them? iron: mollusks, red meat, egg yolks, liver, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, dark leafy greens. folic acid: spinach, collard greens, asparagus, broccoli, papaya, orange, lentils, pinto beans, avocado, brussel sprouts
6. Selenium: This nutrient is important in helping prevent free radicals caused by the damaging UV rays from the sun, as well as preserving elastin, which keeps your skin smooth and tight.
- Where can I find it? canned tuna, brazil nuts, shellfish, liver, fish, sunflower seeds, bran, bacon, lobster, crab, shrimp