Now that summer is here, it’s time to take action to protect and rejuvenate our skin. Skin is affected by solar radiation, pollution, and elimination of metabolic byproducts within our body. There is much that you can do to support the health of your skin and protect it from damage. The best place to start is through nutrition, taking care of your skin from within.
What can I eat to protect my skin from damage?
Antioxidants help process and remove damaging reactive oxygen species created in the skin. They are best consumed in foods, and are naturally found in food with flavonoids and minerals that protect the anti-oxidant from becoming a pro-oxidant such as Vitamin A. People who are surrounded by cigarettes smoke, industrial pollution, and various chemicals usually have an increased need for anti-oxidants.
- Vitamin E, found as a tocopherol, protects cell membranes from oxidative damage, protects nerve and muscle cell function, prevents lipid peroxidation that is implicated with cardiovascular disease, acts as an anti-inflammatory, heals damaged tissue, and at high doses can have anti-clotting effects. Vitamin E works synergistically with selenium, Vitamin C, and B-carotene to quench free radicals, peroxides, and other potentially harmful substances.
Vitamin E is found is foods such as olive oil, tomatoes, avocados, apples, carrots, nut, seeds, and whole grains.
- Selenium, a trace mineral, is involved in protecting and recycling antioxidants. Specifically, it takes the free radical that Vitamin E grabbed and allows it to be safely converted into water using glutathione. This process not only safely eliminates the free radical that causes damage to tissue, but it also recycles Vitamin E into an anti-oxidant form for further use. Selenium can be found in foods such as brazil nuts (380ug per ¼ cup), snapper, halibut, salmon, scallops, whole grains, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin that is a powerful antioxidant and increases collagen formation in skin to heal wounds. Collage formation is what allows skin, cartilage, bones, and dentin to repair. Because Vitamin C can easily oxidize, it is important to consume it in a whole food form to protect it from oxidation. Vitamin C can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, parsley, peas, oranges, black currants, kiwis, and mangos.
- Beta-carotene, which gets converted to Vitamin A in the intestines, is required for formation and regeneration of skin cells known as the epithelial cells. It can heal the epithelium in the intestines, lungs, on our skin, and anywhere the epithelium is present. Because beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body, it carries a much lower risk of toxicity than does Vitamin A. Foods that contain beta-carotene include carrots, spinach, red & yellow peppers, watercress, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, dried apricots, mangos, and many other colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Zinc, a mineral, affects cell growth especially of the epithelial tissue in the skin, it is used to regenerate the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, and among other functions it provides protection against heavy metal toxicity. Because zinc and copper compete for one another, it is important to have a balance with both minerals. Some foods that contain zinc include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils, tofu, almonds, and wholegrains.
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