In the pursuit of clear, healthy skin, many people focus on the EXTRINSIC approach of skin care, focusing on skin care products, cosmetic procedures, or even surgery! However, given that our skin is the largest organ of our body, we shouldn't forget that our DIET plays a HUGE role in our skin's overall appearance and texture. As the saying goes, "you are what you eat!" could not be more true here.
Our skin is an outward reflection of our general internal health and it is very important for us to consider the INTRINSIC approach, which has everything to do with the food we eat on a daily basis.
My goal for this first post of a multi-part series is to go over the best foods for clear skin. Hopefully, by the end of this post (as well as the series), you'll literally be eating your way to healthy, beautiful skin!
I know it's not very difficult to find a TOP 5 List for this or that, but rather than give you a similar TOP 5 List covering items more superficially, I'm going to focus on more of a TOP 3 List and go into more detail for each one.
Not to mention, I strongly feel that providing you with smaller portions of information is a lot less intimidating for individuals who don't have a lot of experience with health and nutrition.
Let's get started:
1. Fatty Fish
If you're like me and are very health conscious, you might initially hesitate about seeking out any food with the word "fatty" in front of it. However, when it comes to fish, "fatty" is a good thing. Fish sources (i.e. salmon, mackerel, and herring) are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are of vital importance for maintaining overall health, including skin health.
Omega-3 fatty acids keep the skin thick, resilient, and moisturized similar to how oil keeps a mechanical device well lubricating and functioning at its optimum level. With this logic, it is no surprise that a deficiency in omega-3 fats can cause dry skin.
Another perk of eating fish with omega-3 fatty acids is that these fatty acids can reduce inflammation, which can be a potential cause of redness and acne. It doesn't stop there, omega-3 fatty acids can even decrease your skin's sensitivity to the suns harmful UV rays!
Studies have even suggested that fish oil supplements may help combat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases affecting the skin, two of which include psoriasis and lupus. For example, in a study of 40 people with psoriasis, those who were supplementing their diet with omega-3 fatty acids along with their prescription medications did better than those treated with medication alone.
Just in case that wasn't enough to convince you to start eating more fish, another benefit to be aware of is that fatty fish is a great source of vitamin E, which is a very important antioxidant for the skin. As with any other antioxidant, vitamin E is essential in the lifelong fight against battling free radicals and inflammation to protect our skin.
Fatty fish is also a great source of premium protein, which provides the necessary building blocks (i.e. amino acids) to help our skin maintain its structural integrity and resilience.
To round out the list of benefits for fatty fish, we cannot forget to mention how it is a great source of zinc, a mineral that has a whole host of benefits on its own including regulating our body's inflammation, skin cell turnover, and overall skin health. In fact, a deficiency in zinc can lead to increased skin inflammation, delayed wound healing, and can even result in skin lesions!
For those of you who are like me and try to seek out the primary sources of scientific literature when investigating claims, a good journal review article I came across that highlights the above findings in more depth can be found HERE.
Similar to fatty fish, avocados are chock-full of healthy fats that have numerous benefits for your body, not the least of which is your skin.
The fats in avocados work wonders for keeping your skin hydrated and flexible. A study that looked at over 700 Japanese women found that a high intake of total fat, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat (all of which are in avocados) were significantly associated with increased skin elasticity. If you're interested, you can check out the study HERE.
Similar to fatty fish above, avocados also contain compounds (such as vitamin E) that help protect the skin from oxidative damage and harmful UV damage from direct sunlight. Interestingly enough, avocados are also a source of vitamin C that works synergistically with vitamin E to promote collagen synthesis.
Up until now, we've talked about healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and how they are important for are body's overall health, including the integrity of our skin. The reason why fats like omega-3s are so important to include in our diets is because they are essential fatty acids, meaning our body does not produce them on its own.
When it comes to nuts, walnuts are richer than most in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
A topic that can be confusing is understanding the difference between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and if they are just as good for you. The truth is that a diet too high in omega-6 fatty acids promotes inflammation. Omega-3 fats, on the contrary, are always the "good guys" and help in the fight to decrease inflammation in the body, including the skin. A good journal article that talks about this more in depth can be found HERE.
As most people in the world know, the Western diet is far from stellar in most instances. The "fat arena" is no different. In fact, it's no surprise that the Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids, while scarce in omega-3 fatty acid. It is this reason, along with many other contributors, that we find our society suffering from several chronic disease conditions.
The good news is that walnuts contain a "good ratio" of these fats that are conducive to battling against the inflammatory response arising from too much omega-6.
The "goodness" doesn't stop there, walnuts also contain zinc, which is essential for maintaining our skin as a barrier mechanism against both bacteria and inflammation. This translates to better wound healing.
Walnuts also have small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. Lastly, the pack a nice little punch in the protein department coming in at 4-5 grams of protein per ounce!
The Benefits Go Far Beyond The Surface
The overall theme of these three foods has been the emphasis on healthy fats and achieving the right balance of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats, all in the scope of improving our skin's overall health. However, the benefits of healthy fats don't stop there. Omega-3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects on heart health and potentially other disease conditions including cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders.
Getting On The Right Track
Now that you have been introduced or re-introduced to three of the best foods for clear skin,you can start incorporating these foods into your diet. Remember, it doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" change to your diet. Start small with little changes to your daily diet.
It could be incorporating one of these foods into one of your meals per day a few times a week. Then, you may progress to one meal per day every day of the week. When you become comfortable with that, you may find it isn't so difficult to incorporate some of these food options into multiple meals on any given day.
At the end of the day, what matters is that you develop a consistent habit. Over time, you should start noticing that not only will your skin start to look and feel better, but you'll feel that you have more overall energy and stamina throughout those long grueling work days.
Please be on the lookout for future posts in this "Best Foods for Clear Skin" series.
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