When I was a kid, my mother tried her best to get me and my sister to eat healthy food.
She’d serve us lean protein (like chicken), vegetables (like brussels sprouts), and whole grains (like whole wheat bread).
And she limited our snacks and sweets. Instead of Oreos and Chips Ahoy, we ate graham crackers.
But what she didn’t know back then was that we fed the brussels sprouts to Bowser (our dog) under the table. And whatever he didn’t eat, we flushed down the toilet during “I really have to go to the bathroom!” dinner breaks.
It was great!
And once I got old enough to receive an allowance and buy lunch at school, I’d take a portion of my money and buy a boatload of snacks, like M&Ms, Doritos, Cheetos, Hostess pies and cupcakes, Swedish Fish, you name it.
It was ridiculous.
And it wasn’t until many years later that I gave up the Swedish Fish and began to take an interest in healthy food, especially as it relates to healthy skin.
Since those days, I’ve upped my eating game and focused (mostly) on eating foods that support skin health and overall health.
Eating healthy food is one of the best habits you can develop to give yourself glowing skin.
There are several nutrients you can consume that will help reduce inflammation, increase elasticity, and keep your skin toned and wrinkle-free.
Two major categories to focus on are antioxidants and Omega 3s (essential fatty acids).
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.”
Cell damage can occur because free radicals (highly unstable, reactive, short-lived molecules) attack the molecules of DNA, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and can trigger disease.
Here’s how it works:
Electrons exist in pairs. But free radicals carry an unshared electron. So, they’re always looking to steal (or donate) an electron, so a pair of electrons exists.
But the “free-radical hunt” can cause oxidative stress, which occurs when free radicals overwhelm the defenses of antioxidants.
Here’s what the NIH says about the balance between free radicals and antioxidants:
So, not all free radicals are harmful. For example, your body produces free radicals when you exercise and when it converts food to energy.
It’s the unstable free radicals that can cause cellular and DNA damage.
An imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals may occur because your body has accumulated toxins, or you may not consume enough antioxidants.
Bad news for your skin.
Because high levels of oxidative stress may accelerate the aging process.
But hold on, there’s good news!
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.
They can restore the free-radical/antioxidant balance in your body.
According to the NIH, you can prevent or delay cell damage by eating a diet that’s rich in antioxidants, such as:
- carotenoids (such as beta-carotene)
- coenzyme Q10
- lipoic acid
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
In addition to antioxidants, it’s important to consume healthy fats.
Essential Fatty Acids
All fats are a combination of different fatty acids. There are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. The healthy fats that are most important for skin health are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The omega-3s are: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). And one of the healthiest omega-6 acids is linoleic acid (found in flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds).
Omega-3s and omega-6s are essential, which means you must get them from dietary sources because your body can’t make them. That’s why they’re known as essential fatty acids (or EFAs).
EFAs nourish the skin and help maintain the strength and structure of cellular walls. When your cellular walls are healthy and strong, they retain water and absorb nutrients better. Hydrated skin is more likely to appear toned and supple.
EFAs can also help fight inflammation. Inflammation can cause skin disorders and accelerated aging. So, if you can control inflammation, you can increase the chance that you’ll maintain your skin’s tone and elasticity.
Now, that we’ve discussed two key ways to achieve beautiful, healthy, and glowing skin, below is the list of some of my favorite superfoods that will help you achieve that goal.
[Note: even though I’m a huge fan of cinnamon, green tea, and chia seeds because they support healthy skin, in this post I only discuss food (not drinks, seeds, herbs or spices].
Apples promote healthy skin because they contain a high concentration of polyphenols, which are substances that occur naturally in certain fruits, vegetables, cereals, beverages, and cereals.
Polyphenols protect against the negative effects of UV radiation, which can accelerate the aging process and cause wrinkles. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and bolster the protection of sunscreens.
I guess you could say, “An apple a day, keeps the dermatologist away.”
Avocados promote healthy aging and beautiful skin because they contain healthy fats.
Studies have shown that the intake of healthy fats is associated with increased skin elasticity and suppleness. In addition, avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which may protect against UV damage.
Broccoli has anti-aging properties because it contains sulforaphane, which helps to reduce oxidative stress and can protect DNA from damage.
Citrus fruits contain a healthy dose of vitamin C (e.g., grapefruits, lemons, limes, and oranges). Vitamin C is necessary to build collagen (the main protein in skin and connective tissues).
So, a diet rich in citrus fruits may help the skin maintain elasticity.
Good news for chocolate lovers!
Chocolate is yummy and skin-friendly. It contains flavonoids, which are phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The structure of the flavonoids in chocolate makes chocolate a free radical scavenger and bolsters your body’s antioxidant defenses.
The healthiest kind of chocolate to eat is dark chocolate (70% cocoa and higher). But moderate consumption is key because chocolate is high in calories and fat. Too much could lead to weight gain and other unwanted issues.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Folks have eaten leafy greens for forever.
But, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “it wasn’t until the first Africans arrived in North America in the early 1600s that America got its first real tastes of dark green leafy vegetables, which they grew for themselves and their families.
Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K. They’re also a good source of carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that help protect skin cells from damage that may occur due to exposure to UV radiation.
Dark greens are also a good source of folate (a B vitamin), which is necessary for DNA duplication and repair.
If you want to add more dark leafy greens to your diet, you have a ton of options. You can choose: arugula, brussels sprouts, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, and swiss chard.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein because they’re a complete protein.
That means they contain all nine essential amino acids that humans cannot produce and must get from food (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine). On top of that, eggs contain 18 vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Protein is one of the main building blocks for skin. On average, an egg supplies 12 grams of protein, almost no carbohydrates, and a modest amount of monounsaturated fats. Because of their nutrient content, eggs have antioxidant properties and other protective compounds.
Bottom line: Eggs are “eggscellent” for your skin.
Grapes are good for your skin because they contain a nutraceutical called Resveratrol. In vitro and in vivo studies have shown that Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.
Nuts promote skin health because they’re a good source of vitamin E.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects the skin because it acts as a free-radical scavenger: it stops free radicals from being produced when fat cells oxidize (combine with oxygen). Vitamin E can also prevent sunburn. Almonds and hazelnuts are good sources.
Salmon is an excellent source of Omega 3s.
Salmon also contains astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid-antioxidant that has more antioxidant capacity than vitamins C or E and can improve skin texture and reduce wrinkles.
Be sure to eat wild-caught salmon, rather than farmed.
Superfoods are an important way to get glowing skin and to live a healthy lifestyle.
And if you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to . . . ., then check out my eBook, “How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle (Without Going Nuts, Bananas, or Gluten-Free).
The book is filled with lots of useful information about how to “up” your health and wellness game and live a long and healthy life!