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The Ingestibles: Taking Care Of Your Skin From The Inside Out

The Ingestibles: Taking Care Of Your Skin From The Inside Out

 

Healthy skin from within. Not just what you layer on top of it. The premise is simple: the things you ingest affect your health. It’s your primary source of nourishment. The foods you eat. The liquids you drink. The supplements you take. The nutrients, or lack thereof, within them all. It’s the first link, no - spark - in a chain reaction of health - for good or for bad.

It affects the structure and function of every part of your body. All of your organs. All of your muscles. Your bones. Your nerves. Your hair. Your nails. Your blood. Your connective tissues. Your skin. All of its systems. Their parts and pieces and how they all interact.

Not to mention the less tangible effect - your mood.  Eat unhealthy? Look unhealthy. Feel unhealthy. Function sluggishly. Be unsettled. “You’ll feel better, when you feel better”. It’s not a real quote, but to us it makes perfect sense. Push your body in the right direction and your mood will follow. Remember, it’s all connected.

Our focus on proper nutrition, to start, will pertain to the health of your skin.

Why? Your skin is a representation of what’s going on inside your body. All of its conditions - acne, eczema, psoriasis etc - are the outer manifestations of your body’s internal needs.

However, before we dig into how it affects your skin, and every other part of your body, let’s lay some groundwork.  Let’s go through the basics of what nutrients are, and their role in your body.


Nutrients: The Basics

Nutrients are substances used for us to survive, grow and reproduce. Non-essential nutrients are nutrients the body naturally synthesizes and therefore are not required to be obtained through food. Essential nutrients are nutrients the body does not naturally synthesize and must be obtained through food.

There are two major classes of nutrients. Macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients your body needs in large amounts - hence, macro. Micronutrients are those your body requires in smaller - micro - amounts. These are usually delivered within the foods you get your macronutrients from.

 

Micronutrients.

Macronutrients are the cornerstone of your diet. The nutritional components of food that the body needs for energy, and uses to maintain its structure and systems. There are 3 categories: Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve included water as an honorary fourth. After all, you need a lot of it.

Carbohydrates.  Sugar molecules. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose - blood sugar, and uses it as its primary source of fuel. Carbs provide energy to your muscles and central nervous system during movement and exercise. Glucose can be used immediately, or stored for future use in your liver or muscles.

There are 3 main types of carbs. Sugars: simple carbohydrates - their most basic form.  Some are additives - the sugar added to soda, or that you add to coffee. Some are natural - like those found in fruits and vegetables. Starches: complex carbohydrates. These are made of a number of simple carbs strung together that your body breaks down back into sugars to use as energy. More refined carbs include pasta, bread, and cereals. Fiber: Another complex carbohydrate. However, your body doesn’t break down most fibers into sugar for fuel. It simply passes them - relatively intact - through your digestive system. Fiber normalizes your bowel movements. It’s crucial to proper gut-health. It regulates weight fluctuations. It lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Fiber is either soluble - dissolves in water, or insoluble. High fiber foods include: whole grains, chia seeds, oats, fruits and vegetables. Some food sources of good carbohydrates: vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Yes, even potatoes.

Fats.  Your energy reserves. Your body’s natural insulation - protecting your vital organs. Carrier of fat-soluble vitamins. They’re the backbone to any number of normal body functions. It’s important to remember that all foods that contain fat, have a mix of specific types of fats. There are 3 types of fat.

Unsaturated fats.  Good fats. They improve blood cholesterol. They’re anti-inflammatory. They regulate your heart’s rhythm and much more. There’s 2 types. Monounsaturated fats: olive oil, avocados, almonds, sesame seeds. Polyunsaturated fats: soybeans, flaxseeds, fish, walnuts. Polyunsaturated fats: The most important of these is Omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acid is a polyunsaturated fat that your body cannot produce on its own. It must get it through diet. It’s found in high doses in virtually all fish - especially salmon. Omega 6 fatty acid is another polyunsaturated fat of note. In moderation, it can be quite beneficial. However it’s a thin line. It’s the type of fat found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. It is always preferable over saturated fats.

Saturated Fats.  Ok fats. Not great fats. They increase bad cholesterol. They’re pro-inflammatory. Strongly linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. Saturated fats are primarily animal fats. Some sources contain these fats in larger amounts - beef, cheese, and whole milk. Even some plants - coconuts and palm oil. Some healthy sources contain saturated fats in smaller amounts - chicken, and even nuts. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, and keeping that ratio high, is the best way to maintain good cholesterol.

Trans Fats.  Trans fatty acids. Very Bad Fats. Most are made by heating vegetable oils through hydrogen gas - hence, hydrogenated oil. Look for that on any ingredient list - and avoid those products. Hydrogenated oils are a mainstay in the fast food industry as these oils can withstand repeated heating without breaking down - making them ideal for frying foods. Trans Fats can also be found in beef fat and dairy fat - although in trace amounts. These are the worst types of fats. They raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. They’re pro-inflammatory. They contribute to insulin resistance. Even in small amounts, the effects on your health are harmful.

For each 2% increase in calories obtained through Trans Fats, your risk of coronary heart disease increases 23%. No brainer.

Proteins.  The building blocks to virtually every tissue in your body. They’re made up of different amino acids that provide structure to all your cells. Protein helps maintain weight. It stabilizes blood sugar levels. Boosts energy. Improves brain function. Supports muscles and bones. It also aids in the absorption of other nutrients. Some food sources of good proteins:  lean meats - wild fish, grass-fed animals and free-range poultry or wild birds. Some plant based options - lentils, almonds, broccoli, and hempseed.

Water.  Your body uses water in each of its cells, tissues and organs. There isn’t a bodily process water isn’t directly involved in in some way. It makes up over 60% of your body mass. It regulates temperature. It lubricates and protects your tissues, your spine, and your joints. It aids in digestion. You’re not drinking enough water. You know it and we know it. Drink more water. Eat your fruits and vegetables.

 

Micronutrients.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Although required in much smaller amounts, they are absolutely vital to good health. There are 4 categories of micronutrients: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals, and trace minerals (microminerals).

Water-soluble vitamins.  Vitamins that dissolve in water. B Vitamins, Vitamin C and Folic Acid. Other than B12, none of these vitamins are stored by your body. Unused amounts simply pass through your urine. This means they must be replenished regularly. These vitamins produce energy. They prevent cell damage. They’re necessary to produce red blood cells. Some food sources: whole grains, eggs, leafy greens, lean meats, citrus fruits and bell peppers.

Fat-soluble vitamins.  Vitamins that dissolve in fat, not water. These are stored in your liver and fatty tissues for future use. They include Vitamin A, D, E and K. They protect vision. They strengthen the immune system. They support blood clotting. They provide antioxidants to fight inflammation. Some food sources: leafy greens, almonds, sweet potatoes, kale, and eggs.

Macrominerals.  Common minerals needed in larger amounts. Some of these include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Essential to proper bodily function - Bone density. Muscle strength. Blood pressure. Some food sources: leafy greens, black beans, bananas, nuts and seeds.

Microminerals (Trace Minerals).  Minerals needed in very small amounts. Some of these include iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and iodine. These feed oxygen to muscles. They support your nervous system. They help to heal wounds.  Some food sources: oysters, spinach, pecans and seafood.


Important Nutrients for Skin Health


Macronutrients. 

Fats. Healthy Fats. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are what give your skin its brightness. It helps your skin stay moist, firm and flexible.

Protein. The proteins you eat are broken down into amino acids. These amino acids are then altered into a number of other proteins, including collagen and keratin. Both of which form the structure of your skin. Amino acids also help your skin discard dead skin cells.

 

Micronutrients.

Many of the nutrients we will discuss below have benefits when applied topically. This particular post is about their effect in general. And in general, you obtain your nutrients through ingestion.

Vitamin C.  Also known as L-Ascorbic Acid. A powerful antioxidant that helps protein to maintain its structure. It works hard to counteract the effects of free radicals. Namely, the effects of sun exposure, pollution, and smoke. When it comes to skin, free radicals destroy collagen and elastin - important fibers for your skin’s structure and plasticity - resulting in wrinkles, fine lines and skin spotting. Vitamin C also promotes the production of collagen. Top 5 Foods for Vitamin C content: Guava, Kiwi, Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Oranges.

Vitamin E.  Another antioxidant that works to reduce the damage caused by exposure to the sun. Vitamin E also helps to fight cancer causing cells. It keeps your skin supple, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Top 5 Foods for Vitamin E Content: Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Avocados, Spinach and Butternut Squash.

Vitamin A.  Essential to the repair and maintenance of your skin tissues. It helps the oil glands around your hair follicles work. It aids in the healing of cuts and scrapes. You likely ingest enough vitamin A through a healthy diet, and any differences through supplementation will be marginal. If your Vitamin A levels are low, the effects are stark - most notably, a dry and flaky texture with a red complexion. Vitamin A is used by both the upper and lower layers of your skin. It prevents sun damage by interrupting the process that breaks down collagen. Top 5 Foods for Vitamin A Content: Carrots, Tuna, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Spinach.

Vitamin K.  This is the nutrient most responsible for blood clotting. It won’t do much for this when applied topically. However, Vitamin K - when ingested or included in a lotion - can be helpful for the appearance of under-eye dark circles, and bruising. Top 5 Foods for Vitamin K Content: Kale, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, and Asparagus.

Vitamin B Complex.  All 8 B vitamins. The single most important B Vitamin for your skin is Biotin - B7. It forms the basis for all skin, hair and nail cells. Even a mild Biotin deficiency can lead to noticeable adverse effects such as dermatitis - dry, itchy and scaly skin reactions - as well as hair loss.

Top 5 Foods for Vitamin B Content: B1 (Theamin) - Pork chops, Salmon, Flax Seeds, Navy Beans, and Green Peas. B2 (Riboflavin) - Skirt Steak, Tofu, Skim Milk, Salmon and Mushrooms. B3 (Niacin) - Tuna, Lean Chicken Breast, Lean Pork Chops, Skirt Steak, and Portobello Mushrooms. B5 (Pantothenic Acid) - Shiitake Mushroom, Salmon, Avocados, Lean Chicken Breast, Skirt Steak. B6 (Pyridoxine) - Salmon, Lean Chicken Breast, Tofu, Lean Pork Chop, and Sweet Potato. B7 (Biotin) - Egg yolks, Liver, Legumes, Almonds, and Sweet Potato . B9 (Folate) - Edamame, Lentils, Asparagus, Spinach, Broccoli B12 (Cobalamin) - Clams, Tuna, King Crab, Swiss Cheese, and Eggs.

Selenium.  Supercharges the effects of antioxidants. Plays a key role in the prevention of skin cancer. Top 5 foods for Selenium Content: Brazil nuts, Tuna, Oysters, Lean Pork Chops, and Skirt Steak.

Copper.  Aids in the skin’s production of elastin - the fibers that support your skin from beneath. Top 5 Foods for Copper Content: Oysters, Shiitake Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes, Sesame Seeds, Cashews.

Zinc.  Greatly affects the function of your skin’s outermost layer - the stratum corneum. It helps your skin heal after injury. It reduces the likelihood of injured skin. Especially effective in treating acne. Regulates oil production, controls the formation of acne lesions, and helps to clear up ones that have already formed. Top 5 Foods for Zinc Content: Oysters, Chuck Steak, Chicken Leg, Lean Pork Chop, Hemp Seeds.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid.  Perhaps the most powerful antioxidant pertaining to your skin. Infinitely moreso than either Vitamin C or E. It neutralizes skin cell damage. It reverses the effects of skin cell damage. It rebuilds damaged skin cells. Top 5 Foods for ALA Content: FlaxSeed Oil, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Canola Oil, Edamame.