Foods to Help Your Skin Glow from the Inside-Out
Remember the old saying ‘beauty comes from within’? Well, in the case of your skin, it’s absolutely true. Every cell in your body is composed of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals that make up your daily meals. Sometimes we spend so much time, and money, concerning ourselves with the newest skincare trend, that we forget what it truly takes to have glowing skin, and it’s something we all do everyday...eat!
We’ve all been there - you’re having a hard week at work and you find yourself eating more sweet or salty foods throughout the day than you’re used to eating. (I, for one, am in the ‘sweet’ camp.) At 2pm you’re reaching for the chocolate, or your co-worker comes into work with a dozen delicious gourmet donuts and while you’re usually pretty good at saying ‘no thank you’, this week has been a doozy and you can’t wait to get your hands on a pink sprinkle donut. If you continue this for a few days or weeks, you all of a sudden see that your skin is looking a bit lack-lustre, you’re getting pimples all around your chin and you’ve lost your usual ‘healthy glow’. Sound familiar?
That’s probably because it’s a completely normal reaction, and a situation that we’ve ALL been in before, probably more than once. As the largest organ in our bodies, our skin is directly impacted by everything we do - from the foods we eat, the environment we are in, to the products we use. While scientists are still learning how the diet and the skin are correlated, it’s clear that the foods we eat significantly impact not only the health of our skin, but also the way that it ages.
Note: While diet may not be the complete solution for your skin concerns, especially if you are someone who suffers with acne, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, it’s never a bad idea to support your largest organ through plenty of nutrient dense foods. For more serious skin issues like those listed above, a more targeted, therapeutic program may be needed.
There is actually a huge amount of incredible superfoods to incorporate into your diet that directly benefit your skin health, but to keep things super simple, here are the top 5 skin-boosting superfoods:
First off, start by drinking plenty of water! Being hydrated is such an important step for your body as a whole, and I notice that when I’m well hydrated, my skin looks amazing, my energy levels are high and I generally feel so much better. So, always start with water!
We all know that avocados have become famous lately as a fantastic dose of ‘healthy fats’, not to mention their rise in popularity as a go-to brunch item for millenials everywhere, but did you know that these little green machines are also fantastic for your skin? High in poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids (omega 9’s), avocado’s help to regenerate damaged skin cells, as well as reduce redness and irritation.
In addition, avocados are a great source of antioxidants, much like blueberries or pomegranates, that help to fight free radicals in the body, which are one of the major culprits of damaged skin and aging.
Here’s a little DIY Avocado Face Mask for you:
Combine ¼ ripe Avocado, 2 tbl Raw Honey and ½ tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in a bowl. Combine until smooth. Apply a thin layer to clean, damp skin. Let dry, then rinse off and moisturize as desired.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are one of my favorite little superfoods. They are a good source of magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc and copper. In fact, just ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds has nearly half of your daily needs of cooper, which is important for the production of superoxidase dismustase, an antioxidant enzyme in the body (again, to help with fighting those pesky free radicals). Manganese plays a role in collagen production, and promotes skin and bone health, and zinc supports immune function, skin health and vision.
Not sure how to incorporate pumpkin seeds in your diet? The easiest way is to add them to a homemade trail mix, as a topping to your oatmeal or even on top of a salad. Some other ways is to make your own granola or granola bars, or even make your own seed balls. (Recipe coming very soon to The Wholeistic Way.)
Dark Leafy Vegetables
As my background is in Kinesiology, a lot of what I am learning so far in my Holistic Nutrition program overlaps with what I previously learned during my undergrad. However, I can say that one of the main takeaways so far is that dark leafy vegetables are basically the answer to everything! Like the ‘coconut oil’ meme that goes around the internet, spinach/kale/swiss chard can basically be subbed in for coconut oil and the message would be the same. Seriously, they are such powerhouse vegetables, and the benefits they provide for our skin is no different.
Dark leafy vegetables offer an abundance of beta-carotene (the same that is in carrots and sweet potatoes), an anti-inflammatory phyto-chemical that is converted to vitamin A in the body. I speak more to the importance of vitamin A in this post here, but in a nutshell, vitamin A is an important nutrient for skin health, as well as vision and eye health, and in general, dark leafy greens help in the growth and repair of body tissues - including the biggest organ of them all, our skin!
Much like avocado’s, fish, in particular oily fish like salmon, is packed full of omega 3 fatty acids, another good fat that is important for maintaining skin health. The polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish, like salmon, help to protect the skin from sun exposure, repair damaged skin cells and keep cell membranes healthy and hydrated. Fatty fish is also a good source of vitamin E, a fantastic antioxidant for the skin, which, again, helps protect the skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation. (Do you see a theme yet?)
When cooking salmon, make sure to keep it super simple, letting the flavours of the fish shine through. A little salt and lemon juice, or garlic and maple syrup goes a long way!
I already touched on the importance of Vitamin A for the skin, so it’s no surprise that the humble sweet potato makes this list. In addition to packing double the daily dose of vitamin A, sweet potatoes also contain biotin, a B vitamin that is important for the production of skin and hair cells. In addition, sweet potatoes help to reduce inflammation, due to their high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium, and are a great antioxidant.
On top of focusing on how we nourish our skin through what we eat and drink, there are some additional ways to support our skin health from the outside-in:
It’s no surprise that the products we put directly on our skin have an impact on our bodies. There are a ton of ingredients that are in conventional skincare and cosmetic products that you want to avoid, as they are linked to cancer, allergies, immune system toxicity, headaches, disruption of hormones and more. As women, we tend to use a whole slew of products that generally sit on our skin from sun up to sun down, and then usually over night as well. So my advice? Be cognizant of what you put on your body!
Check out this resource here for the top ten toxic ingredients you want to avoid in you skincare. They even have a downloadable guide that you can store on your phone and reference the next time you’re shopping for new skincare. And, if you’re interested in what skincare I use, the majority of my clean and safe products are from Arbonne, or homemade, like my DIY Dry Shampoo.
Dry Skin Brushing
You may have already heard of Dry Skin Brushing, but if you are yet to incorporate it into your daily routine, I highly recommend you do. One of the important roles of our skin is its support in detoxification. In fact, the skin is the largest detoxification organ of the body, due to its very large surface area! Toxins and waste products are eliminated by the skin via sweat and the sebaceous glands. Dry skin brushing is an incredibly beneficial way to further support detoxification through the skin and stimulate flow of the lymphatic system. Incorporating dry skin brushing it into your routine is not only a wonderful way to support detoxification, but it helps to smooth out and gently exfoliate skin as well. In case you’re wondering, here is the Dry Skin Brush that I use, and love!
Our skin is our largest organ, and as such, what we feed it, and how we treat it, matters. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with all the information out there about skin care, diets and supplements, always start with the basics: drink plenty of water, eat whole fruits and vegetables, make daily movement a priority, and consider taking a quality probiotic to help support the skin from the inside-out.