When it comes to skin, many of us are willing to purchase outrageously priced beauty products with exotic ingredients promising to take back years of late nights, one too many coffees, and blistering sunburns. While taking good care of your skin topically is fantastic, it’s also important to nourish the skin from within to create a skin that bounces like a trampoline, stops bacteria in its tracks, and produces an envy-inducing glow.
Giving the body proper nourishment has many rewards and healthy skin is definitely one of them. Not only for outward appearances but for your immunity. The outer layer of your skin is your first line of defense against bacteria and other foreign invaders. Sadly, this skin barrier gets worn down by stress, aging, pollutants, and diet. This can lead to skin that is lackluster, irritated, and wrinkled. Some of the biggest skin offenders can be found in your diet such as high intakes of processed and inflammatory foods while lacking sufficient nutrients.
The silver lining is there are many foods known to nourish skin and keep it glowing. It’s important to include nutrients that support dermis repair and collagen production (a protein that preserves elasticity and defends against damaging enzymes). The most beautifying nutrients include protein, vitamins A, C, E, K and B vitamins as well as the phytonutrients and bioactives that exist in fruits and vegetables.
Skin Repair & Collagen ProductionNutrients that support collagen production include zinc, copper, vitamins A, C, and E as well as folate and Vitamin B12.
ZincZinc is an essential trace element used to activate other proteins that are necessary for collagen synthesis and is the activator for an enzyme called, “collagenase,” which helps to reorganize cells after injury. Due to zinc’s role in collagen production, it helps prevent stretch marks, and its anti-inflammatory role helps to eliminate blemishes.
- Plant-Based Sources: Raw pumpkin seeds, raw cashews, walnuts pistachios, and chickpeas.
- Caution: If taking a zinc supplement, be careful not to exceed 100 mg per day for the increased risk of fever, headache, and/or prostate cancer.
CopperCopper is a mineral that is a nutrient partner for zinc and helps protect skin from the sun and environmental damage.
- Plant-Based Food sources: Raw pumpkin seeds, raw cashews, and chickpeas.
Vitamin AVitamin A plays a role in developing the skin barrier through cell differentiation and growth. Retinoids, a derivative of vitamin A, can promote skin repair, reduce wrinkles and acne. This fat-soluble vitamin is better absorbed when the food is chopped and cooked or eaten with a healthy fat.
- Plant-Based Sources: Beets, carrots, papaya, sweet potatoes. orange fruits (mangoes, peaches, grapefruit), leafy greens (kale, collards, spinach & mustard greens),
- Caution: Excessive vitamin A in the form of supplements can lead to liver damage. ( > 25,000 to 33,000 IU a day).
Vitamin C Vitamins C is an antioxidant and precursor for collagen production that helps illuminate the skin and decrease fine lines and wrinkles. Since the amount of vitamin C in produce starts to decrease after it is picked, it is best to choose locally grown produce if you have the option. Vitamin C is water-soluble and will continue to decrease if boiled or cooked at high temperatures, so it is best to eat raw or lightly cooked for the highest concentrations.
- Plant-Based Sources: Acerola cherries (one of the high concentration of vitamin C), citrus fruit (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit), all berries, all bell peppers (red has the highest concentration), tropical fruits (kiwi, pineapple, guava, mango) and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Caution: If supplementing, take in divided doses of 500 mg throughout the day to increase absorption and decrease the chances of gastrointestinal discomfort.
Vitamin EVitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin (seen as tocopherol and tocotrienol) and antioxidant. It works to protect all bodily tissue from damage by neutralizing free radicals (from pollution, sun exposure, etc.) that damage collagen and weaken the skin’s barrier. Which can lead to dry skin and premature aging. Dietary vitamin E will help hydrate the skin, increase elasticity, and regenerate cells. Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, to increase absorption, add some fat to your meal when eating these foods.
- Plant-Based Sources: Almonds and sunflower seeds (contain the highest amounts), fruits (avocado, kiwi), vegetables (asparagus, spinach, beet greens, broccoli, collards, and chard).
B VitaminsFolate and Vitamin B12 directly play a role in collagen production, but it is important to intake the B vitamins in a balanced manner versus focusing on one specific vitamin. There are eight B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin or niacinamide, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cobalamin (B12)). All the B vitamins can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fortified cereals. If you are 100% vegan, it is important to make sure your B12 intake is adequate with a supplement.
If these water-soluble vitamins become deficient, it can show signs on the skin with discoloration, dryness, acne, and a dull complexion.
- Plant-Based Sources: A lot of B vitamins are found in dried beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. As well as vegetables (spinach, romaine, beets, peas, broccoli, kale, bok choy, asparagus, collards, cauliflower and cabbage), and fruits (citrus, bananas, and avocado).
Healing and Anti-Inflammatory NutrientsAnti-inflammatory properties of certain nutrients can help keep blemishes at bay, calm irritated skin, and promote healing.
Selenium Selenium is a mineral that plays a role in anti-inflammatory pathways, protects skin’s elasticity, and offers antioxidant support. Selenium is a necessary cofactor for the production of glutathione, a powerful endogenous antioxidant.
- Plant-Based Source: Brazil nuts hold your daily dose of selenium. They also contain healthy fats that hydrate the skin.
- Caution: selenium is powerful and too much can have negative effects on health. Supplementation is not recommended and limit your brazil nut intake to approximately 4 per day.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsNourishing omega fatty acids can activate anti-inflammatory pathways, deliver essential nutrients, decrease skin lesions, and add mega-nourishing hydration.
- Plant-based sources: soybeans, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, and walnuts contain ALA, the precursor to EPA and DHA.
- Caution: Consult with your health care professional before taking omega-3 supplements if you are currently taking glucocorticoids.
Vitamin K Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and promotes faster healing from within.
- Plant-based sources: Dark leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, collards)
Powerhouse Foods:Some impressive foods pack multiple of the beautifying nutrients mentioned above and these are what we call a powerhouse food.
- Avocados: Contain vitamin E to prevent premature aging, vitamin C to illuminate the skin, and antioxidants to combat free radical damage.
- Cherries: Not only do they contain a high concentration of vitamin C, but they also contain 17 antioxidant compounds, and melatonin. These nutrients help to protect the skin from UV exposure, stimulate collagen production, and keep skin spry.
- Chocolate: Cocoa is a good source of flavonoids – a class of phytochemicals that protect against UV damage, fight inflammation, and increase circulation. Ensure you are receiving more cacao than sugar by looking for at least 70% cacao and above.
- Tomatoes: Contain selenium, lycopene, and vitamin C and E making it a potent antioxidant food to fight age spots and sun damage.
- Pumpkins: Full of potassium, vitamin A, and E to keep skin supple and damage-free.