Welcome back for a deeper dive into the largest organ of our body. Skin is in an infinite state of renewal that requires sufficient micronutrients in order to operate at its best. Think of micronutrients as the worker ants that keep the colony running smooth and efficiently as the structure is constantly changing. The following are key components to a glorious colony:
1) Zinc is an important mineral for wound healing and decreasing inflammation. It is also needed for keratin formation and minimizes hair shredding (splitting and breakdown). Deficiencies have been associated with acne, poor wound healing, hair loss, and skin rashes. Best sources are:
· dairy products · nuts
· red meat · legumes
· eggs · whole grains
· oysters · fortified breakfast cereals
Be aware that the bioavailability of plant-based zinc sources is significantly less than animal-based, which means you might need more.
2) Manganese is a co-factor needed for collagen formation and keeps your skin pliable and stretchy. It protects skin from damaging ultraviolet light, oxygen related damage, and free radicals. Vegetarians rejoice, as the best sources are in plant foods such as cloves, oats, brown rice, spinach, and pineapple.
3) Copper is another trace mineral that acts like a professional chauffeur delivering protein to skin. It too helps with collagen formation but also aids in the absorption of iron. You can find it in:
· oysters, crab
· cashew nuts, almonds
· semi-sweet chocolate
Deficiencies of copper can result due to high doses of zinc and/or Vitamin C, which is why I am less likely to recommend a supplement for zinc.
4) Iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in America. It is a mega mineral that acts like a gas pump by delivering vital oxygen to every cell in your body. Without it, the car can’t get gas… and you’re tired, cold, unable to concentrate, and skin looks downright terrible. Unless you’re going for the zombie look on your next date, I would recommend increasing your intake through:
· seafood, fish
· lentils, beans
· fortified cereals
Try eating iron-based foods with Vitamin C-based ones, which helps increase its absorption. Do not supplement without seeing your health provider first.
5) Polyphenols protects the skin from sun damage and helps prevents the breakdown of elastin and collagen (provides structure and elasticity). Fruits and vegetables are high in these compounds (see Glorious Skin Part Uno). Other great choices include:
· tea (black, green, and white)
· cooked tomatoes
· dark chocolate (best advice in this entire blog!)
· red wine (ok just kidding, this is the best advice of the entire blog!)
I hope this doesn’t sound like too much. Best advice is to keep your diet varied and you should have no problem getting these micronutrients. What does that mean? Don’t eat the same thing every day or even every week. Change the fish if you eat seafood, the kale for spinach, the garbanzo for the lentils, coffee for the tea, yogurt for an egg, and cinnamon for clove. You get the point, and if you enjoy the chocolate try and keep it to a square or two. Enjoy!
I remember those lovely days- the horror of turning 30 and looking in the mirror to find a massive, blistering volcano on my face. What the hell, a zit at 30? Or the absolute revulsion at realizing that my “laugh line” stayed laughing, even when I was frowning. Yes, my friends, acne and aging are the two A’s- for better or worse, right or wrong- we vain people are subliminally taught to avoid like the Bubonic plague. Therefore, I feel compelled to mitigate this self-conscious-inducing angst and focus on the do's and don’ts of acquiring or maintaining a satiny, gorgeous outer layer. This does not suggest that pimples on your derriere or face will not pop up; and that hormones nor aging will suddenly refuse to exert their powerful influence. However, there are some dietary basics that will glide you towards luminous, clear as water skin. Assuming you’re not slathering on acrid substances, drinking alcohol 5-7 days a week, or sleep deprived (yes, those were hints), here are my top five suggestions to a more radiant you.
Water: I know, I know. You’ve heard it from your mom, favorite celebrity, and the dog. But it’s true. First of all you need ample amounts. What’s ample? If you’re urine is dark yellow, DRINK MORE. If you’re going to the bathroom every 30 minutes and it’s crystal clear, back off. It’s that simple. Be aware that diuretics (i.e. coffee and alcohol) are not great for the skin. People think we dieticians are bit odd with our interest in urine and "poop". It’s true. We are. It also tells us A LOT about you. This is no exception. Water-based foods do count (i.e. watermelon, soup, juice, etc.) and shockingly, bright yellow urine is likely a vitamin.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Yes my friends, the love affair with this powerhouse continues. It hydrates, provides important vitamins, and conditions your skin, keeping it supple and nourished. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory and basically nature’s Ibuprofen. Good sources are salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil (use the expeller-pressed, no solvents-used kind). While you’re at it, you might as well throw in some Vitamin E- rich foods such as almonds, avocados, and olive oil to send your skin into epidermal bliss.
Red Fruits and Green Leafy Vegetables: When I say chock your body full of these heavy hitting, anti-oxidant foods, I mean CHOCK YOUR BODY full! For every snack and meal, find a way to get in this nutrient dense goodness (Vitamin A, E, or C to name a few). Any sort of oxidation that happens in and to your body, i.e. sun, environment, alcohol, smoking, processed foods, will be undone or at least slowed by eating ample quantities of it. Shoot for 5-9 fistful servings per day.
Vitamin D: Vital for skin repair. It’s more difficult to get this in your diet and you might be better off with a supplement. But some food sources are salmon, fortified milk and OJ, and UV-lit mushrooms. Your body does make it from the sun. However, this strongly contradicts the advice that you should avoid the sun and slather on lots of sunscreen, which significantly inhibits the Vitamin D-making ability. You make the call, but sun worshipping may not be the best option given our depleting ozone layer. Go for a minimum of 600 IU per day of Vitamin D-3.
Reduced Sugar Intake (now this one is important.). Excessive sugar (yes, that includes honey, agave nectar, coconut palm sugar, etc.) and easily digested carbohydrates (i.e. white rice, flour, sweetened beverages, etc.) really wreaks havoc on your skin. Certain end-products that develop from carbohydrate metabolism cause inflammation and collagen breakdown. I am not suggesting the Paleo or gluten-free diets (which has its own skin issues). Just use some common sense and moderation. What the heck is that? Try to minimize your treat consumption to 1 time per day, or better yet, 1 serving of dark chocolate per day is an excellent choice. If you’re consuming alcohol, that is your treat. Switch refined carbohydrate products to whole grain versions and aim for 1 serving per meal/snack (unless you’re a serious exerciser). Your fluctuating weight will dictate whether you need more or less.
Still reading? Stay tuned for Glorious Skin Part Deux.
Shannon is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist with a penchant for provocative topics, almond butter, and local theater.