By Dina Eliash Robinson
At the first sight of acne, chocolate breakout, sunburn or other SOS distress signals the skin sends out when it’s in trouble, it’s best to immediately try to figure out the causes and switch to self-protective behavior. This includes keeping a log with lists of everything that goes into your mouth and body, while also using your keenest powers of observation and all five senses to detect and describe in minute detail the environmental elements to which you are most frequently exposed indoors and outside.
Since most skin problems are triggered by what is eaten or absorbed through our largest organ, going through a process of elimination, similar to the kind used by allergists, can be quite helpful. Especially since we have a lifelong, personal relationship with the amazing sheath that both protects us from, and connects us to our surroundings. Consisting of a miraculous, porous tissue, skin helps us breathe and absorb what we need, while eliminating what is harmful, thus providing us with an indispensable adjunct to our nutrition and digestive systems.
This continuous research we conduct to bring you the most reliable information about the nutritional path to health, reveals time and time again that skin—like the rest of the body—depends in large part on what little Oliver and his starving fellow orphans sang so heartily about: “Food, glorious food…”
Take your time going through the following list and use common sense, experience and information provided elsewhere on this site, as well as your intuition to identify the foods that best support your healthy skin and/or have the properties needed to repair it when injured or remedy it whatever health challenges it may face. In-depth research has helped us include the specific components that are most helpful to skin health.
PLEASE NOTE: We are quite adamant in our recommendation to stick to organic foods—even if at times it means changing your planned menu to avoid conventionally produced plant or animal products, farmed (rather than wild-caught) fish or seafood from polluted waters. (Apologies for overstepping in our fight for your health.)
Best Nutrients For Keeping Normal Skin Healthy And Protected:
- Blueberries—a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants, high fiber that helps eliminate toxins, vitamins A and C. They are, of course, free of saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.
- Leafy green veggies, such as spinach (packed with lutein known to keep the white of the eyes clear), kale, chard, arugula (baby versions of them are easiest to chew and digest), are rich in B, C, E and K vitamins, minerals (potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium), Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients.
- Kiwi has been found to firm the skin, help prevent wrinkles (while also keeping bones and teeth strong) and rich in antioxidants that protect the body from cancer-causing free radicals.
- Dark chocolate keeps skin hydrated and protected from sun damage due to its high content of polyphenols (similar to those found in red wine), with antioxidant qualities, and flavonoids, which contain catechins, epicatechins and procyardins. Dark chocolate not only pleases the palate, but its main ingredient, cocoa, has a phenomenal rejuvenating effect on skin. Studies have shown that 6-12 weeks of eating cocoa powder high in antioxidants each day, gets thicker more hydrated skin and better blood-flow to the dermis.
- Wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and other fatty fish are great sources of zinc that helps produce new skin cells, prevents inflammation and speeds up the healing of injured skin. Omega-3 fatty acids help moisturize skin, clear clogged pores and erase fine lines and wrinkles caused by aging and sun damage. Omega-3 fatty acids also keep skin thick, supple, moisturized and less sensitive to harmful UV rays. Fish oil supplements can be added to clear such autoimmune conditions as psoriasis, lupus, and eczema. Fatty fish are rich in high quality protein that provides strength and architectural integrity to the skin.
- Watermelon—both ingested and applied directly on the skin–protects the latter from sun damage and skin cancer, helps to clear blemishes, makes skin smooth and improves its elasticity.
- Oranges and most other citrus fruits are considered by nutritionists to be effective preventers of wrinkles and great sources of vitamin C—which helps improve skin texture and color; they also produce the collagen that firms skin and protects it from signs of early aging.
- Berries—the above-mentioned blueberries in particular, which clear acne and skin blotches—including, raspberries, blackberries and high-C-containing strawberries are known to lend skin a healthy glow. Berries are high in anthocyanins and quercetin, which help reduce inflammation and provide a toned appearance.
- Avocados are a treasure-trove of vitamins A, D and E, as well as healthy fats that keep the skin moisturized and youthful looking They also prevent blemishes, enhance skin quality, are rich in antioxidants that protect skin from free radicals, and in minerals like copper and iron that fight off signs of aging. The collagen in avocados keeps skin elastic and enhances its pigmentation, making it look fresh all day. An added bonus: it does the same for hair.
- Eggs lend their life-source to help repair skin tissue from damage and injury. They also contain compounds that protect skin from infections and acne, as well as selenium, vitamin A—which prevents the development of abnormal clumps that can turn into moles and skin tags—and copper, which makes skin elastic and springy to the touch.
- Carrots—especially multi-colored Heirloom carrots—are rich in beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body and along with carotenoids, are natural sun-blocks.
- Sweet potatoes have similar benefits to their root cousins (carrots), in addition to being gluten-free, low in sugar (belying their sweet taste) and aces in skin nourishment.
- Walnuts provide the essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce. It is the nut that is richest in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids—which is helpful since too much omega-6 can promote inflammation, but when combined with omega-3 it is nutritious. Walnuts also are rich in zinc, selenium, protein and vitamins E and C.
- Sunflower seeds are great for low-calorie munching, as well as for the nutritional value of their vitamin E, selenium, zinc and protein content.
- Red & yellow bell peppers benefit skin with their vitamin A and collagen-producing vitamin C.
- Broccoli is one of the cruciferous vegetables’ most valiant anti-cancer warrior (especially anti- skin cancer), as well as a skin-nourishing and protecting champion with its rich content of vitamins A and C, lutein, carotenoid, sulforaphane and antioxidants.
- Tomatoes also compete in the area of skin nourishment with their high content of vitamin C and all major carotenoids, including lycopene, a chief protector from sun damage. Tomatoes are most effective when combined with fats, such as olive oil or cheese.
- Soy is famous as a great source of isoflavones, plant compounds that either mimic or block estrogen in the body. Recent studies conducted with post-menopausal women showed that after eating soy-based foods for 8-12 weeks, there was a marked reduction of fine wrinkles, improved skin elasticity, less dryness and a buildup of collagen. It was also found that isoflavones also protected cells inside the body.
- Green tea protects skin from damage and aging, contains powerful catechins, which improve skin health, protects from sun damage. Do NOT add milk to it because that reduces its antioxidant content.
- Apricots are packed with vitamin A—also known as retinol—are rich in fiber, skin-protective antioxidants, with the extra bonus of making bones stronger, blood and heart healthier, while being ideal for low calorie diets.
- Best way to prevent and heal acne is to take daily doses of a good quality (preferably refrigerated) probiotic supplement—especially the multispecies kind that contain a wide spectrum of friendly bacteria.
- Red wine and red grapes are rich in resveratrol, which reduces the effects of aging.
- Olive oil should be a ubiquitous staple with which to cook and dress salads, since it has a huge role in keeping skin hydrated, supple and younger looking.
Please feel free to email me at [email protected] for more information or if you have questions about this posting.
Hour-long consultation about “making foods your medicine” is also available for the small fee of $38. Email me at the above e-dress for a telephone or Skype consultation.