We often forget that our skin is a direct reflection of our inner health. Nutrition feeds the foundation – and root – for healthy radiant skin. It is also important to consider the health and functioning of our digestion and eliminative organs that absorb, assimilate nutrients, and neutralize and remove byproducts and toxins from the body. If the body is properly nourished and healthy, this will be revealed in our outer appearance.
Our bodies are naturally detoxifying every day. It’s one of the body’s most basic functions: to eliminate and neutralize toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph and skin. But in our modern lives, our systems can be exposed to much more pollution and toxins than ever before—from the air, water, and food, as well as the refined products we eat. Over time this can put a lot of strain on our organs. Recent research in dermatology and nutrition has shown a correlation between lifestyle and diet – and its impact on the skin. Cited as the “brain-gut-skin axis,” it is noted that stress, poor digestive health, unbalanced nutrition, and environmental pollutants can negatively influence the health and appearance of our skin.
“Super foods” are essentially functional, natural foods that are “super concentrated” with health promoting nutrients. These are some of my favorite skin-loving super foods that support and rebalance gut and skin health for a radiant glow:
- Antioxidants – We have heard of the antioxidant benefits of berries and tomatoes but there is another key antioxidant that is important for skin. Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid and a very strong skin antioxidant that protects your body’s cells from dangerous free radicals. Zeaxanthin is found in leafy green vegetables, yellow and orange peppers, corn, and even paprika. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods such as deep colored berries, peppers, beets, and tomatoes help to ward off reactive free radicals that can depress skin immunity and slow down skin metabolism and cellular renewal. Include rich-colored fruits and vegetables daily and eat often throughout the day to protect skin from environmental aggressors that break down healthy skin.
- Detoxifying veggies – Broccoli is part of the powerhouse brassica family of vegetables. It contains important phytochemicals that are released when they’re chopped, chewed, fermented, cooked or digested. The substances are released then break down into sulforaphanes, indole-3-carbinol and D-glucarate, which all have a specific effect on detoxification. They also provide a good source of vitamin C and mineral sulfur, both essential in producing skin collagen. Lastly, broccoli is high in fiber and a good source of chromium, a mineral involved in glucose metabolism. Both nutrients help to normalize blood sugar and insulin levels to help prevent glycation and inflammation in skin tissue.
- Lemon – Lemons are a staple of many detox diets, and there is good reason for this. Firstly, lemons are packed with the antioxidant vitamin C, which is great for the skin and fighting damaging free radicals. Furthermore, the citrus fruit has an alkaline effect on the body, meaning that it can help restore the body’s pH balance, benefitting the immune system. A simple tip is to try starting your day with hot water and a slice of lemon to help flush out toxins and cleanse your system.
- Phytoceramides – Ceramides are naturally produced in young skin and make up nearly 40%of the lipids that bind together protective cells in the outermost skin layer, the stratum corneum. By maintaining a healthy skin barrier, ceramides are critical for protecting skin from environmental stressors while locking in skin moisture so skin appears smooth and firm. With age, ceramide production declines weakening skin barrier and leaving skin more vulnerable to dry, flaky and wrinkled skin. You can get your fix of phytoceramides from brown rice and wheat germ oil.
- Probiotic-rich foods – Found in foods such as active cultured vegan yogurts, tempeh, miso, kimchi or kombucha tea, these natural detoxifiers build healthy gut microflora that destroy harmful bacteria and toxins before they reach and irritate your skin.
- Chlorophyll-rich foods – Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, or Swiss chard will get the job done. They’re full of detoxifying chlorophyll. When taken into the body its natural action will bind to lingering heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides and eliminate them before they are absorbed into the bloodstream and collect in skin tissue.
- Amaranth – Like quinoa, amaranth is considered a pseudo cereal (technically not a grain). Amaranth is gluten-free, high in protein and contains lysine, an essential amino acid for collagen production. One cup of uncooked amaranth has 31% of the recommended dietary allowance for calcium, 14% for vitamin C, and a whopping 82% for iron. Amaranth is also a source of fiber with 13 grams per uncooked cup compared to just 2 grams for the same amount of long-grain white rice.
- Raw nuts – Almonds and other raw nuts contain healthy omega 3 fatty acids to build strong skin cell membranes, vitamin E – an important skin antioxidant, and plant sterols – compounds which help to balance hormones in the body. They’re also alkaline-forming when consumed raw. Alkaline foods support detoxification and healthy pH levels, preventing acidity and inflammation in the body.
- Flaxseed and Chia Seeds – Both varieties provide a wonderful source of fiber that helps to bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. They’re also a great source of health-promoting omega 3 oils to keep skin cell walls strong and skin plump.
- Beans and Legumes – Not only do they offer good quality protein, but the fiber content provides fuel for good bacteria (probiotics). They have certain fibrous carbohydrates that nourish the good bacteria to help it grow. This helps build and balance gut microbiome and enhance nutrient bioavailability and digestion.
By Paula Simpson, Co-Founder of Zea Skin Solutions