When you think of better skin, do you think of creams, powders, laser-treatments or masks? Most people do, but those are treatments that only focus on the exterior of the skin. Providing the right cleanliness, sun protection & moisture level to skin while avoiding irritants are all important parts of making your skin look and feel great…however, have you considered improving your skin from within?
The outside methods aren’t the only ones you can use to achieve better skin health. By consuming the right foods, you give your body the building blocks it needs to form strong, elastic and healthy skin from the inside out. Your skin is a complex organ requiring proteins, oils, vitamins and minerals in order to look its best. There are cell membranes (formed from fatty acids), collagen, elastin (the fibers that give skin a snap-back quality), cell pigments, and hydration levels to keep an eye on. It sounds complicated, but adding tasty nuts & seeds to the menu can make it easy for you.
Anti-Oxidants – what are they & how do they work to save your skin?
Antioxidants are the substances you need to protect yourself from free-radical damage. The best way to get your anti-oxidants, is to eat them. Since you really “are what you eat”, the right foods supply lots of free radical fighters. To learn how both work, you need to know: what are free radicals?
These bad molecules can be a byproduct of normal metabolism. Free radical damage can also be caused by exposure to pollutants in your environment, food or drink. Since your skin is the barrier between you & the outside world it gets exposed to all kinds of threats throughout the day that it fends off. Everyone is exposed to free radicals as a part of daily life, so it’s important to know what they do and how you can minimize their effects on you.
Free radicals are formed when a molecule has an unpaired electron and becomes unstable. When a molecule is unstable, it will steal an electron from the nearest item it encounters. (usually a cell in your body) Then, the molecule that was robbed becomes a free radical itself, scavenging for a spare electron to use so that it will be stable again. They can damage almost anything they come into contact with, which is why the immune system sometimes creates them, and uses them as a weapon against invaders it deems harmful. Because free radicals can create chain reactions by stealing electrons from the molecules that make up your cells, they can cause inflammation, cell damage, and signs of early aging. It’s in your best interest to fight free radicals with anti oxidants.
Omega 3 Oil-
Omega 3 is the oil usually associated with cold water fish and heart health. However, if you don’t like fish or are worried about pollutants, the good news is you can get it from plants too. Chia seeds are actually the highest plant source of omega 3s, as well as the easiest, because they don’t taste like anything. Unlike sesame or poppy, you can sprinkle chia onto any food you already like to eat, get your omega 3 oil, and not change the flavor at all. This is especially important, as you should try to get some omega 3 oil every day, and using chia helps ensure you won’t be bored or quit…because it’s too easy to use on such a variety of foods. Flax seeds & walnuts are also a great source for omega 3s, but you’ll have to like their flavor.
What does omega 3 do for you?
ALA, the simplest of the omega 3s (which your body cannot produce, so you must consume it) has been studied to reduce skin redness & help it retain moisture which, as you know, helps erase fine lines. This oil is important for cell membranes, which are what the cell uses to hold in the proper amount of water. Healthy membranes equal healthy moisture-levels in your cells. You’ve seen all the moisturizer commercials, now you can moisten your skin from within.
Your body can’t make this vitamin, so you have to get it from the foods you eat. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant. There are supplements available, but it’s best to avoid synthetic E, for health purposes. Natural E, like that found in popular foods such as avocados, nuts, chia seeds, mangoes, sweet potatoes and even spinach is your best choice. When you want E, the almond is your top choice of nut. You only need about 15 mg per day for skin health—that’s a super small amount that’s easy to get from food.
Almonds are number one, but if you don’t like them, don’t worry because apples, tomatoes & hazelnuts (yes your favorite hazelnut-chocolate spread may also have E!) have E as well. E is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means it can only be absorbed by the body if there’s a bit of healthy fat around when you eat it. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure there’s a healthy fat around when you eat tomato, spinach, sweet potato or apple. The other foods on the list like almonds, peanuts, and avocados already provide their own healthy plant fats, so you don’t need to combine them with anything else to get your E.
This mineral is an anti-inflammatory. You already know that excessive inflammation is no good for skin, but zinc has been studied to help accelerate the renewal of skin cells when there’s a damaged cell. This is important for the look of skin because outside influences like UV rays from the sun & pollution in the air can cause skin damage or irritation. Zinc also powers up the immune system’s T-Cells which fight off threats like bacteria or viruses that would try to hurt your skin. It has been studied to help fight acne & skin problems in general, helping them heal faster when there’s enough zinc available in the body.
Most plant-sourced zinc is difficult for your body to use. It’s abundant in red meat & fish, but what if you’re a vegetarian? It’s in eggs too, as well as some fortified milks & cereals. Pumpkin seeds, chia, sesame, lentils (beans are also seeds), cashews & quinoa all have plant based zinc. Keep in mind that plant based zinc is less bio-available than zinc in red meat, fish, shellfish and shrimp, although the topic of soaking seeds is being researched to increase bio-availability of the zinc. Always ask a doctor if you should supplement (zinc vitamins are inexpensive & tiny) especially if you have a skin condition you’d like to fight.
You already know fiber benefits your digestion & cholesterol levels, but did you know it can benefit your skin too? Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps to slow down the body’s conversion of carbohydrates into sugars. This reduces insulin spikes, which in turn, reduces inflammation. Inflammation (specifically repeated episodes of it) affects most skin conditions AND how skin ages. Keep inflammation down to keep your skin looking fresh.
Foods that spike insulin include sugars & white flour (a starch that changes into sugar right away during digestion) Foods that are high in white flour or sugar are usually also low or 0 fiber foods. Keep your insulin levels even for steady energy & reduced inflammation by eating fiber rich foods at every meal. Beans are a type of seed, but no one wants black beans or split peas at breakfast. Oatmeal & bran are 2 good options at breakfast, especially if you consider all the fun, fast new ways to make oatmeal tasty. What about yogurt? Or smoothies? The chia seed has 2 kinds of fiber to help you: soluble & insoluble. In the case of low-fiber yogurt, a spoon-full of chia transforms it into a high fiber snack without changing the flavor.
Magnesium works together with two other minerals to improve over-all health as well as skin health. It aids in the absorption of calcium, especially when paired with the trace mineral boron. The chia seed has all 3 of these minerals in one tiny package. Magnesium is essential for enzymes that repair skin cell DNA and for regulating the proper amount of fatty acids to help build healthy cell walls. It also may reduce histamine-driven skin allergies.
You can supplement with magnesium pills, but a healthy menu can easily include magnesium rich foods so your body can naturally absorb this healthy mineral. Dark leafy greens are #1 for magnesium, but Brazil-nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds and lentils are also a good source. Brazil nuts may not be that common, but sunflower seeds can add great crunch to salads, lentils are great in soups & stews, and tahini (sesame seed paste) is an interesting ingredient to spice up recipes.
Most people think of protein for muscle building, exercise improvement or weight loss, but, it’s essential for healthy, younger looking skin. There are 20 amino acids you need for good health. Your body can make all of them except for 9. These 9 acids you need to consume in the foods you eat, which is where the term ‘complete protein’ comes from. Your body transforms the amino acids into proteins for faster & healthier fingernail growth, hearty hair follicles, and resilient skin. Collagen & elastin are protein based fibers that give skin it’s bounce-back elastic quality for a youthful look.
Quinoa (a grain), chia (which has complete protein, like that in meat), peanut butter, hemp seeds, soy (but watch out for plant estrogens), black beans with rice (wild or not) and spirulina are all rich in protein. Of course, meat, eggs & milk have it too. Enough protein will combat bags under the eyes, as well as help balance blood sugar because it is metabolized slowly.
A varied meal plan with lots of colorful healthy plant foods enriches your health and your skin…but did you notice the one seed that falls into every category for skin-health related nutrients? Only the chia seed fits in near the top of each category. It’s also the only item without a flavor of its own. The value of chia lies in its ability to be added to almost any other food you’re already enjoying without changing the flavor. The tiny, unobtrusive seed can be used at every meal to boost your skin & overall health.