It is often said that you only have one chance to make a good first impression. As a physician, my first encounter with any patient starts with what I see as he or she enters the room. The patient’s posture, movement patterns, grooming, behavior and speech all contribute to my initial impression of that person’s condition. One of the most important first things any physician will visually assess is a patient’s skin – the color, tone, clarity, presence or absence of blemishes or lesions, etc. – because it can often give clues as to the patient’s overall health and the presence of disease.
Likewise, when we first encounter another person in a social setting, most of us, consciously or not, will be affected by how that person’s skin looks, as it contributes to their overall appearance. Knowing that, we tend to pay attention to keeping our facial skin, at least, clean, clear and conditioned. So, with the time, energy and money people expend focusing on the appearance of their skin, it stands to reason that we should choose to eat foods that support a healthy complexion.
More than Just a Pretty Face
The integument, aka skin, is the largest organ in the human body. It functions in numerous ways to contribute to the healthy, normal function of the human organism. As the outer fabric of the body, the skin is the first line of defense against environmental toxins and germs. It also acts as a barrier to keep things in, like important body fluids, and to move things out of the body, like toxins and metabolic waste products. By converting ultraviolet light from the sun into vitamin D the skin provides the lion’s share of this vital nutrient to the body.
Beyond just looking younger and more attractive, keeping the skin healthy and functioning normally is vital to “being” as young as you want to look. The best way to do this is to give your skin the nutrients it needs and to get them through fresh, whole foods that you prepare at home.
Here’s a list of the best nutrients for your skin and the foods in which they are found:
- Vitamin A – Recent studies show a significant link between Vitamin A levels in blood and skin health. The best way to maintain Vitamin A levels is to eat plenty of foods containing “carotenoids” – phytochemicals which are converted to Vitamin A in the digestive tract. Best food sources: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mangoes, leafy greens, cantaloupe and butternut squash.
- Antioxidants – Probably the most important nutrient for skin health, because antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that damage the skin cells. Best food sources: all of the above sources of carotenoids, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums, citrus fruits, papayas, red/green/yellow peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and leafy greens. Note: Most of these foods are good sources of Vitamin C, which is not only an antioxidant, but it is also a building block of collagen – and collagen fibers provide the structural integrity of the skin’s connective tissue.
- Essential Fatty Acids – Responsible for healthy cell membranes that regulate the flow of nutrients into the cell and waste products out. The cell membranes also protect the cell by acting as a barrier against toxins entering the cell and vital fluids from leaving. Best food sources: cold water fish (salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies and mackerel), walnuts flaxseeds.
- Healthy Oils – Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, almond oils and hazelnut oil have been shown to promote a healthy pH level in the skin. Oils should be extra virgin, cold-pressed or expeller pressed in order to retain their nutrients. Monounsaturated fats can also be found in solid form in avocados, olives, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.
- Green Tea – The anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols in green tea act to protect the cell membranes in skin. Some studies suggest that green tea can reduce the damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, thereby reducing the risk of skin cancer.
- Selenium – Selenium is necessary for normal cellular function, and this trace mineral plays a key role in skin cell health. Some studies show that selenium may help prevent skin damage from sun exposure. Best food sources: turkey, tuna and brazil nuts.
- Water – As with every other metabolic process in the human body, adequate hydration is necessary for the normal, healthy function of skin cells. Water in the cell helps move nutrients in and toxins out. The only liquid that qualifies for supporting normal cell hydration is pure, clean water. Experts recommend that hard water (un-softened water containing naturally occurring minerals) is better for skin health.
And Then Some…
Even the purest of whole food diets may fall short of getting all of the nutrients you need in order to maintain optimal health of your skin and your body. In truth, life today in the United States is so crammed with demands on our time and energy that most diets suffer and most people don’t get all of the nutrients they need to function at the highest level. That being the case, it is not a bad idea to supplement your diet with high quality, well-designed supplements to deliver the nutrients in amounts that will optimize your metabolic function. Adding the following supplements into your daily regime will benefit your skin and your general health as well:
- Milk Thistle – This potent detoxifying herb is best known for its cleansing effect on the liver. Anything good for the liver is also beneficial to every other organ and system in the body. Recent studies indicate that milk thistle has a similar cleansing and protective effect on the skin cells directly. In fact, milk thistle can also be boiled into a tea and used as a topical wash for the skin.
- Alpha R-Lipoic Acid – Is a powerful supporter of normal cell function. Studies also show that it protects the mitochondria (cell powerhouse) from oxidative stress and damage, which is the primary effect of aging. By improving mitochondrial function in all cells, including the skin, youthful energy and function is maintained.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) – The anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids is essential for normal cellular health and function, including the skin cells. Because getting enough EFA’s through diet is challenging, most experts recommend that a high quality fish oil supplement like Super Omega-3 Fish Oilbe a part of a healthy daily nutritional program.
- Probiotics – As with the liver, when the colon is functioning properly, general health improves – and healthy-looking skin will follow. Maintaining a balanced environment using Super Probiotics is an easy, effective way to improve colon health.
As you might have surmised by now, most of the foods recommended for skin health are part of a balanced, whole food nutritional lifestyle. In other words, a healthy lifestyle including balanced nutrition, exercise, adequate hydration and good sleep habits will improve your general health and deliver the glowing, youthful complexion you desire. So do that.