Our skin endures a lot. As the outermost protective layer for our bodies, maintaining our skin’s integrity is essential. With summer upon us, more time in the sun, means more possibility for skin damage. While we may buy products that promote skin health, and sunscreen that promotes UV protection, there are nutritional considerations that can play a role in our skin health. Read on to learn how your diet can play a role in skin health.
Our skin contains three layers. Proper hydration plays a major role in our skin’s appearance and functionality. Our skin is our largest organ. Dry, rough skin is an indicator that your body is dehydrated. Water plays a key role in our absorption and digestion of nutrients, temperature regulation, cognitive function, and our skin integrity. Ensuring that you are hydrated allows your skin to maintain it’s plump appearance, serve as an effective barrier to foreign objects, and heal quickly when injured. The general recommendation for healthy adults is to aim for half of your body weight in ounces as a daily guidelines for water consumption!
Ever wonder how a fruit or vegetable gets its bright color? Phytonutrients give plants their pigment. Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are plant-based compounds with biological properties. Phytochemicals promote human health and may slow the aging process. For example, anthocyanins provide the colors red, purple, and blue in fruits like blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and plums. Anthocyanins have bioactivities that may lead to healthy-looking skin, promoting anti-aging, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant in yellow, orange, and green leafy fruits and vegetables including, carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and winter squash. Lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables such as carrots, watermelons, and papayas. Both beta-carotene and lycopene are known to regulate skin properties and even protect the skin against sunburn. When you are preparing a meal, try to focus on colors over calories. The more colors on your plate, the more health benefits from phytonutrients.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are a few of the most familiar substances that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants defend our bodies against free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals that are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. Vitamins C and E work together to fight free radicals. Vitamin C-rich foods include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, bell peppers, kale, kiwi, lemon, orange, and strawberries. Vitamin E-rich foods include almonds, avocado, swiss chard, peanuts, red peppers, and sunflower seeds.
When talking about antioxidants, polyphenols often come to mind. Polyphenols are chemical compounds with powerful antioxidant properties. Polyphenols are found in fruits and plant-derived beverages such as fruit juices, tea, coffee, and red wine.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant and natural polyphenol found in the skin of grapes. A study of different polyphenols such as green tea and resveratrol found that combined with sunscreen protection, they can protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation, including the risk of some skin cancers.
Resveratrol is only one example of the incredible benefits of polyphenols. Other naturally occurring polyphenols, such as curcumin, present in the popular spice turmeric, and flavanols, present in chocolate, can prevent oxidation and serve as a natural defense. With chocolate, it is recommended to choose 70% dark chocolate or higher to obtain the most flavanols.
Essential Fatty Acids
The two families of essential fatty acids (EFAs) are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance. The omega-6 fatty acids play a role in maintaining the structural integrity and barrier function of the skin. Omega-3 fatty acids minimize collagen damage from UV exposure. These EFAs are present in multiple food sources such as fish, shellfish, flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, leafy vegetables, walnuts, sesame seeds, and avocados., salmon, and albacore tuna.
It is no secret that a 'food first' approach benefits our health. What is less well known is that our skin's health is related to our diet. Prioritize colors over calories to ensure our diet is rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, polyphenols, and essential fatty acids. When in doubt, remember these simple tips - eat the rainbow, count colors, not calories, and try a new fruit or vegetable each week! Check out our recipes here to get some inspiration for nutrient-packed meals.