It might sound cliché but the saying “you are what you eat” is incredibly true, especially when it comes to the skin. Everything that we eat provides our body with the building blocks and nutrients it needs for optimal well being. What we consume – or don’t consume – affects our health, our energy levels, and even the appearance of our skin.
Many experts believe that our skin is an indicator of our internal health and the state of our diet. Unfortunately, we often reach for expensive skin products to try to get the soft, supple and glowing complexion that we want when we should be looking at nutrition.
If you’ve resolved to get healthy skin from the inside out this New Year, you’ve come to the right place! Here are 5 nutrition tips you can incorporate to restore your skin to health and radiance this coming year.
- Supplement with Magnesium
Have you noticed that you always seem to break out or have an eczema flare-up during times of stress? When we’re stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol which alters the skin’s barrier function and has been linked to inflammation and acne (1, 2). Getting more magnesium may help to manage stress-related conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, by regulating the stress response (3).
Magnesium is involved in literally hundreds of cellular processes, so it’s really no surprise that we need this essential mineral for skin health. However, shockingly, it’s estimated that 50% of Americans have magnesium deficient diets (4).
There are several foods that you should prioritize to get more magnesium, such as green leafy vegetables, bananas, legumes, whole grains, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds. However, due to over-farming of the soil our food may not have the levels of minerals that it once did. So taking a daily magnesium supplement is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough of this amazing mineral.
- Fill Up On Fiber
Research has shown that people with inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are more likely to have skin conditions (5). This is because gut health is incredibly important for healthy skin! If we don’t have a healthy gut function, the body may look to expel toxins and waste through the skin.
Get healthy skin by prioritizing fiber to improve gut function and the health of the gut microbiome. Fiber can’t be digested, so it moves along the intestine collecting waste to be removed from the body. It also feeds the trillions of healthy bacteria in our gut and allows them to proliferate, and these bugs have a positive influence on our skin health (6).
Make it your goal this coming year to fill up on more fiber with each meal. Focus on eating plenty of legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Get Some Berries
Berries are the ultimate skin food as they can help give us radiant and younger-looking skin by combating free-radical damage.
So, what are free radicals and how do they affect our skin?
Free radicals are unstable compounds produced naturally during cellular reactions, and we do need them in small amounts. However, nowadays we are bombarded by free radicals from a diet high in processed foods, pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol and chronic stress. Unfortunately, constant exposure to high levels of these compounds can damage our DNA and break down collagen which has a disastrous effect on the skin (7). It can lead to skin inflammation, fine lines, dryness, loss of elasticity, weak skin and even discoloration.
Luckily, compounds found in food known as antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and slow down or prevent skin damage. Vibrant purple, pink and red berries are packed with all sorts of antioxidants and skin nutrients such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, resveratrol and vitamin C. In fact, they have been shown to have the highest levels of cellular antioxidant activity, compared to other fruits and vegetables (8).
Protect and nourish your skin by adding a variety of berries to your diet. They are delicious in smoothies, as an addition to oatmeal, or eaten alone as a snack.
- Eat Nuts and Seeds
Our skin requires a variety of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to function well and look good. The great news is we can get many of these nutrients from eating a selection of different nuts and seeds daily.
Nuts and seeds provide us with essential omega-3 and 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which make up a part of the skin barrier and are important for the proper functioning of the skin (9). Another nutrient for skin health that we can get from nuts and seeds is zinc. This mineral is abundant in the body and has a significant role in skin healing (10). Research has found that increasing zinc levels can improve acne (11).
Add almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to your grocery list this year to reap their skin healing benefits.
- Drink Vegetable Juice
Everyone knows that hydration is the cornerstone of glowing skin, but it can be boring to always reach for plain water. Juicing vegetables offers a delicious and exciting way to stay hydrated while also getting amazing nutrition. It might seem like a disadvantage if the fiber has been removed, but if you’re eating plenty of fiber in the rest of your diet this isn’t a problem. In fact, drinking freshly pressed vegetable juice allows nutrients to reach the bloodstream quickly as it doesn’t have to go through the digestive process.
Fresh vegetable juice is an easy way to consume a wide selection of nutrients that will promote skin health like vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. And it’s backed up by science! A 2011 double-blind placebo-controlled study found that people who took fruit and vegetable juice concentrate in powder form had better circulation within the skin, as well as improved skin hydration and thickness (12).
If you don’t have time to make fresh vegetable juice, then remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and herbal tea. Try NATURAL Sleep & Skin tea for a tasty drink that contains botanicals, amino acids and magnesium that work together to restore skin health.
Hopefully now you’re feeling more confident that you can achieve your New Year’s resolution of restoring your skin to good health.
As you start including more of the nutrition tips outlined in this article, your skin will thank you and your energy levels and wellness will also soar!
- Chen Y & Lyga J. (2014). Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/
- Yosipovitch G et al. (2007).Study of psychological stress, sebum production and acne vulgaris in adolescents. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17340019
- Murck H. (2002). Magnesium and affective disorders. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12509067
- Low magnesium levels make vitamin D ineffective: Up to 50 percent of US population is magnesium deficient Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226122548.htm
- Kim M et al. (2017). Inflammatory bowel disease is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory skin diseases: A population-based cross-sectional study. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27793451
- Salem I et al. (2018). The gut microbiome as a major regulator of the gut-skin axis. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/
- Pai VV et al. (2014). Antioxidants in dermatology. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030358/
- Wolfe K et al. (2008). Cellular antioxidant activity of common fruits. Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf801381y
- Essential fatty acids and skin health. Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids
- Schwartz J. (2006). Zinc and skin health: overview of physiology and pharmacology. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16029676
- Dreno B et al. (2001). Multicenter randomized comparative double-blind controlled clinical trial of the safety and efficacy of zinc gluconate versus minocycline hydrochloride in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11586012/
- De Spirt S et al. (2012). An encapsulated fruit and vegetable juice concentrate increases skin microcirculation in healthy women. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21822034
About the Author: Maxwell Senu-Oke MD
Maxwell Senu-Oke is a board certified physician, a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and the creator of NATURAL Tea. He specializes in community mental health and practices medicine in various under-served, urban, and suburban communities in the state of Virginia. He is an advocate of nutrition science and physical fitness and strives to reflect his philosophy and teaching of natural health in his lifestyle and daily routine.