Our skin is our largest and fastest-growing organ. It is our first line of defense, protecting our interior, helping regulate our body temperature and allowing us to experience the sensation of touch. And like all other body parts, our skin requires and responds to care.
Much of what we see on the exterior of our bodies is a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. You can certainly spend a great deal of money on skin care products and cosmetics that work on the surface but my view is that you will be far more successful over the long run working from the inside out. Not surprisingly then, this feature focuses on recommendations that support our beautiful, radiant skin from the inside out ~ including, of course, our diets.
The Balance between sufficient Vitamin D & Overexposure
Our best source of vitamin D comes from the sun. Ensuring adequate amounts of vitamin D throughout the year is important for supporting our immune system and allowing our bodies to absorb calcium but too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation can prematurely age our skin and leave us vulnerable to skin cancer.
The amount of sun exposure we require to produce sufficient vitamin D will depend on the strength of the sun (time of day/where we live), and the color of our skin. When the sun is strong, only brief periods of exposure (five to ten minutes) without sunscreen a few times per week is generally sufficient to produce adequate vitamin D in most individuals. Those with darker skin may require more. During the non-summer months when our body stores begin to drop, supplementation of vitamin D becomes important (our diets cannot supply sufficient amounts).
The best way to gauge vitamin D levels is to have them tested (this is obtained through routine blood work that can be requested from your physician).
1. First things First: Ensure Adequate Protection
The best way to protect our skin and avoid sun damage is to take the necessary precautions, including:
- staying out of the sun during the hottest times of the day
- applying adequate sun block throughout the day
- investing in a quality sun hat with a generous rim
- wearing suitable clothing — this is something I have really expanded on since moving to CA – I wear light fabric cotton shirts that are not heavy but that fully cover my skin right up to the neck (no more scoop or v-necks) and have also found light weight shawls useful – the sun is relentless here.
2. Work in some Lycopene
There is a natural sun protector found in our diet that may also help prevent sun damage. It is the carotenoid known as lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found primarily in cooked tomato (tomato paste is a particularly concentrated source) but also in watermelon and pink grapefruit. It has been linked to the reduction of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease and more recently to the reduction of photodamage.
In a recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, scientists from the University of Manchester revealed that lycopene found in tomato paste offered skin protection against ultraviolet radiation by inhibiting free radical damage and supporting collagen production. The study also demonstrated that lycopene reduced damage to mitochondrial DNA. This is an exciting and promising new area of research. Tomato paste has never tasted so good in this Zucchini Pasta with garden fresh Marinara
3. Get your Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that protects collagen fibers from injury and supports new collagen growth helping to firm the skin and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In addition to citrus, dose up on vitamin C with red bell pepper, broccoli, kiwi fruit and succulent summer strawberries. One of my favorite wake-ups ~ Cooling Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats
4. Add Omega-3s – In addition to their anti-inflammatory effect on the body, the rich emollient nature of Omega-3 fatty acids help restore hydration and prevent drying skin by supporting the skin’s ceramide barrier. Fish based Omega-3 fats (EPA/DHA) can be found in salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, krill, anchovies and rainbow trout. Plant based Omega-3 fats (ALA) can be found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, hempseed, hempseed oil, walnuts and Canola oil. These simple and vibrant Chili-Rubbed Salmon Bowls are packed with flavor.
5. Savor Glorious Green Tea – A study published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that the polyphenol content in green tea can protect skin against harmful ultraviolet radiation and help improve overall skin quality. Study participants who consumed green tea beverage for 12 weeks experienced improvements in blood flow and oxygen to the skin; a reduction in UV-induced inflammation (by 25 %) and improved structural characteristics including skin elasticity and hydration. Summer perfect Green Tea (matcha) Soft Serve
6. Eat the Rainbow – The warm summer months are best suited to a lighter diet of fresh, water-rich foods, which is precisely what nature provides. Fresh foods are available throughout the warm weather season, allowing us to minimize indoor heating and maximize our nutrient intake.
The glorious rich pigmented colors we see in produce come from their phytonutrient content – plant compounds that act as disease fighting antioxidants in the body. They help support our immune system and protect us against various forms of illness and environmental harm. Produce is also rich in health-building fibre and water which supports our hydration needs during the warm weather months.
Since different colors produce unique phytonutrients, incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables from the different color groups into the diet is key.
- Radiant Reds: beets, cherries, cranberries; pomegranates; pink grapefruit; radish; raspberries; red apples; cabbage; red grapes; rhubarb; strawberries; tomatoes; watermelon;
- Opulent Oranges: apricots; cantaloupe; carrots; grapefruit; mangoes; nectarines; tangerines, oranges; papayas; peaches; pumpkin; rutabaga; squash; sweet potatoes;
- Gorgeous Greens: artichokes; asparagus; avocados; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; celery; collard greens; cucumbers; green apples; green beans; green grapes; green peppers; kale; kiwi; limes; peas; spinach; zucchini;
- Bountiful Blues/Purples: blackberries; blueberries; eggplant; figs; plums; prunes; purple grapes; raisins; purple potatoes;
- Luscious Yellows/Whites: bananas; cauliflower; corn; lemons; pears; golden apples; coconuts; fennel; garlic; onions; parsnips; potatoes; shallots; turnip.
7. Hydrate Sufficiently – A diet rich in produce will support hydration but factors to keep in mind when appropriately fueling hydration needs include: ambient temperature, activity levels (the amount of water you are losing through sweating) and general health. Consumption of diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol, also increase urinary output requiring more water consumption to make up for this loss.
Ideas for enhancing taste — some delicious ways of enlivening the taste of water include adding fresh herbs, edible flowers, fruit and vegetables to your beverages. Some choices include: sliced cucumber, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, berries, pomegranate, mint, thyme, jasmine, rosemary and lavender. You can also enjoy herbal teas and sparkling water or add a splash of your favorite unsweetened fruit juice to water. Smoothies are another delicious way to stay hydrated (and nourished). Have fun experimenting and coming up with your own combinations.
The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment.