The concept “We Are What We Eat” is thoroughly reflected in our skin. Not only does the skin reveal the health of our diets, but it also reveals the health and function of many of our internal systems. After all, new skin cells are built using the nutrients in our food, so if our diet is poor and our internal systems sluggish, our skin is sure to follow.
Taking care of our skin doesn’t simply mean pampering it at a spa or staying out of the sun. Putting the right things into our body is the first step to achieving and maintaining healthy, vital skin. Follow these 5 simple strategies to build a diet that will improve your skin’s health from the inside out.
Hydrate for Elasticity
When the skin becomes dehydrated, it becomes dull and inelastic, tired-looking and more prone to wrinkles. Drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water a day will help renew the skin and make you feel more energetic in the process. If you’re having trouble getting your eight glasses, try flavoring your water with crushed mint, ginger, berries, watermelon, or slices of peeled lemons and cucumber (the Aqua Zinger does this job extremely well and with little mess). Avoid sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juice, which dehydrate the body, and if you have any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, remember to consume an additional 12–16 oz of water for each one.
Boost Healthy Fats
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) build healthy skin cells, making our skin plumper and smoother and less likely to become inflamed and clogged. The body doesn’t produce these EFAs naturally, so the only way to get them is through diet.
To do so, prepare your meals with oils that contain healthy fats, like olive, avocado, coconut, walnut, almond, and macadamia nut oils. Choose organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin oils, and add them to food after preparation when possible, as high heat can damage the fats. Olive and nut oils have a low smoking point and should be heated carefully. Only some oils (like avocado oil) can handle high heat.
Seeds and nuts also boost the body’s stores of healthy fats. Make a homemade trail mix with sprouted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts, or add them to a salad for a tasty topping.
Scrub Your Digestive Tract
Consuming adequate fiber is necessary to cleanse the digestive tract, feed healthy gut flora, and promote healthy elimination. Not getting enough fiber can cause the digestive tract to become sluggish and unable to eliminate toxins, which can lead to dull skin, redness, and acne breakouts.
To increase your fiber intake without much work, add 1 tablespoon each of flaxseed and chia seeds to a vegetable or fruit smoothie. Snacking on roasted chickpeas, other legumes, and raw vegetables is another simple way to do it. Also, make certain you are consuming at least 1 and ideally 2 servings of a robust, dark leafy green such as spinach, kale, or chard, as well as a cruciferous vegetable like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli rabe, kale, or bok choy.
Eat the Rainbow
Antioxidant-rich foods have the power to fight free radicals, which can harm the skin by destroying collagen and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
To get more antioxidants in your diet, eat produce in a wide range of intense colors – greens, reds, oranges, yellows, and purples – as the color provides a big clue to the fruit or vegetable’s antioxidant content. Great choices include spinach, kale, and chard; red, yellow, and orange peppers; and tomatoes, purple cabbage, beets, red grapes, berries, and citrus fruits. In addition, stock your pantry with green and redbush tea – two particularly potent sources of antioxidants – and enjoy a cup of each per day. These can be enjoyed hot or cold and infused with your favorite herbs and slices of lemon and ginger.
Maintain Healthy Gut Bugs
Beneficial gut bacteria help to reduce inflammation and improve the health of the skin. To build a robust colony of these friendly bugs, begin by eating fermented vegetables like kimchi and unsweetened yogurt or kefir. In addition, limit your intake of sugar, refined and processed carbohydrate-rich foods, alcohol, and unhealthy damaged fats like vegetable oils. These kill healthy bacteria and feed unhealthy bacteria, which can then lead to an imbalance in your gut.
Remember, antibiotics kill both healthy and unhealthy bacteria, so if you need to take them, make certain to replace the good bacteria with a colonizing stable probiotic.
Our nutrition expert, Peta Cohen, M.S., R.D., has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in examining the root causes of complex and chronic health issues, and helping clients prevent the diseases caused by lifestyle choices, environmental influences, epigenetics, and aging. With her extensive clinical and research experience, she's been invited to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, she gives practical tips on how adults 50+ can improve their health right now. Learn more about Peta at PetaCohen.com.