Our skin is our largest organ. It protects us from harsh temperatures, sunlight and chemicals, and also prevents infections from entering our bodies. It makes Vitamin D and has sensors that tell our brains what is happening in the world outside our bodies. Our skin also excretes toxins and waste products.
Kimberly Snyder, author of “The Beauty Detox Solution,” says that skin “functions like a mirror of what is going on inside the body,” so when moms of teenagers ask me what foods their girls should eat for healthy skin, I always cheer them on for understanding that what their daughters put inside is reflected on the outside.
If you or someone you know is struggling with skin problems, pay attention to these nutrients:
Foods such as blueberries, blackberries and tomatoes are high in antioxidants that protect against the free radicals in our environment that cause cellular damage.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and preserve cell membranes. Cell membranes allow the good nutrients in and the wastes out, so keep skin clear and glowing. Salmon, walnuts and flax seeds are good sources of Omega 3s.
This one is an antioxidant and important for the regeneration of new skin. Cod liver oil is a solid source of the vitamin, and orange and yellow vegetables contain beta carotene that can be converted to Vitamin A in the body.
This has been shown to reduce acne as successfully as the acne medication tetracycline. Ideal sources of zinc are organ meats, beef, lamb, oysters, scallops and pumpkin seeds.
Water keeps skin hydrated and helps to move nutrients in and waste out, leaving skin healthier.
Snyder recommends including a probiotic supplement in the diet to help restore good bacteria to the digestive tract, and eating as many raw or fermented vegetables as possible to support digestion and thus construct clear skin. She also encourages clients to avoid sugar.
Certain foods can damage the skin by causing breakouts, inflammation or redness. These are some skin enemies:
These can trigger the body to produce a surge of the hormone insulin, helping cells to absorb the sugar. This burst of insulin has been shown to contribute to acne.
Processed fats and oils
Trans fats, corn oil, vegetable oil and canola oil can cause inflammation in the body and trigger skin issues. According to Perricone, inflammation generates enzymes that damage the collagen and elastin in skin, causing wrinkles and other problems.
An unhealthful bacteria called candida can grow in the digestive tract. It can contribute to acne and other skin inflammations. Candida feeds off sugar but has a harder time living in an alkaline environment, created by eating more vegetables.
Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition education company.