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!
Shannon is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist with a penchant for provocative topics, almond butter, and local theater.