As a nutritionist, I’m always looking for the best foods to address a condition rather than relying solely on supplements or topical products. In my last post, I talked about the Osmosis products as helping to improve all kinds of skin conditions. However, healthy skin can not be healed with product alone. Proper dietary measures can do wonders for the skin. Given that the skin is our largest organ (we carry some 8 pounds of it!), it plays an integral role in our health and well being. Not only does it protect us from the damaging effects of UV radiation, extreme temperature changes, harmful chemicals and infection it also plays an integral part in the manufacturing of vitamin D, which helps in the absorption of calcium and the promotion of healthy bones. As you can see, this is an organ that we can’t take for granted. Here are five of my favourite approaches to promote healthy skin from the inside out:
1. Drink your lemon water
Adding lemon to water has the benefit of maintaining proper pH, improving digestion and increasing bile production, flushing out toxins and supporting healthy liver function. Healthy liver = healthy skin. Add the juice of half a lemon to one cup of warm water first thing in the morning. Drink 15-20 minutes before breakfast. Make sure to rinse your mouth afterward as the lemon can be harmful to the enamel of your teeth. And since we are on the subject of water, make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. This means drinking at least a litre of fresh, filtered or spring water for every 50 lbs that you weigh, or at least 8-12 glasses. This will help your skin to flush out toxins and improve the appearance of the skin.
2. Eat more leafy greens
Leafy greens such as kale, collards, chard, dandelion, watercress, spinach, lettuces, chicory and other salad greens are an excellent source of antioxidants, which can limit the production of free radicals that can damage our skin cells. Carotenoids are particularly good for the skin. The darker the leafy greens, the higher the amount of carotenoids and the more benefits for the skin (not to mention, they are also more nutrient-dense). The darker leafy greens can be steamed, sautéed or added to soups as they can be difficult to digest raw.
3. Eat as many colourful fruits and vegetables as you can
Red, green, blue/purple, orange, yellow, or white fruits or vegetables are all recommended to ensure you are being exposed to a variety of essential nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Eating a variety of different colours, such as what you find in berries, cabbage and cauliflower, will provide your skin with all of the skin it needs. The highest amount of caroteinoids are found in foods with yellow, orange and red colour. These foods include bell peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and watermelon, to name a few. Many of these carotenoids can be converted to retinol, the active form of vitamin A. Retinol is commonly found in skincare products to help increase cellular turnover and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, but it can also cause irritation and thinning of the skin if used in large amounts.
4. Eat your egg yolks
Unlike carotenoids, which need to be converted into an active form of Vitamin A, egg yolks are a readily available source. Oh, and did I mention liver? That’s also a great source of Vitamin A, but make sure the liver you buy is organic as it can contain a lot of toxins. Eggs have been given a particularly bad rap in recent decades, especially egg yolks. Yet they are now considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet, as they are one of the best sources of protein and fat and eating them in their whole state is recommended. This is because egg whites contain a glycoprotein called avidin that can block the absorption of biotin, but we now know that the high amounts of biotin in egg yolks counteract the avidin. Biotin plays a key role in the health of our skin (and hair and nails). Nature knows best, one again.
5. Bump up your Omega 3
Fish are a fantastic source of Omega 3, especially wild salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies, which have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and help improve the appearance of the skin. Vegetarian sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. In the North American diet we get a lot of vegetable-derived Omega 6 fats such as canola or sunflower, which can be inflammatory in large amounts, so it is important to have enough anti-inflammatory Omega 3-rich foods. Ideally, the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in the diet should be at least 1:2 (In North America, this ratio is more like 1:10 or 1:20). Keep in mind that a lot of fish can be high in toxins, so avoid farmed fish and opt for smaller fish whenever you can.
For some people, these suggestions may only be scratching the surface when it comes to skin health. There are many other factors to consider (e.g. hormone balance, stress, allergies, digestion). If you find that you are not seeing improvement in your skin with diet alone, then you may need to discuss your symptoms with your health practitioner. Sometimes skin disorders come out on the skin when the primary organs of elimination (e.g. liver, kidneys, colon) are not doing their job, so it is always important to get to the root of the condition.