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You Are What You Eat: Whole Foods for Better Health and Skin

Contact Author Lydia Sarfati, Repêchage
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Healthy skin starts from within. In addition to working on improving the appearance of our bodies, it is vital to nourish the inside. A proper diet can not only improve overall health, but it can also impact the appearance of your skin. There is evidence that proper diet and nutrition can affect acne, the appearance of skin aging and even skin cancer formation.1

One of the key factors to proper diet is the concept of eating whole foods versus supplements. One reason may be due to the biochemistry of antioxidants and their effects. According to Dr. Katta and Dr. Kesai, “The process of oxidation, and correspondingly antioxidation, is not a straightforward chain of events, but rather represents a finely balanced system. Antioxidants, in neutralizing free radicals, may themselves become pro-oxidant. It has been theorized that whole foods may provide substances to neutralize this newly created pro-oxidant, while isolated supplements cannot.”1

Therefore, this article presents seven foods to eat for better health and skin. While many of these foods present antioxidant benefits, they also possess a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutritional components that make them invaluable for overall body and skin health.¹

1. Avocado

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Sliced, used as a spread, or mashed up to make a great batch of guacamole, are some of the many ways to consume avocados. Avocados are a source of healthy, unsaturated fats, are rich in fiber, are high in vitamins C, K, B6 and folic acid and are low in carbohydrates and sugar.

 

2. Cucumber

Whether by themselves or added to a salad, cucumbers taste fresh and crisp in any state. Even better, they are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals, making cucumbers one of the healthiest and most nourishing foods from the ground. Plus, cucumbers are about 95% water, which makes them a wonderful way to hydrate, and cucumber extract provides antioxidants.2

3. Chocolate

We know that pure, organic cocoa powder in skin care can have tremendous benefits for the skin. Cocoa powder is packed with vitamins and minerals that nourish the skin, improve the skin’s texture and elasticity and provide hydration to the skin. The good news is that research found that eating chocolate, specifically chocolate rich in pure cacao, can actually increase your body’s ability to protect itself from sun damage. One study demonstrated that regular consumption of chocolate rich in flavanols can provide significant photoprotection and may protect from UV effects.3

4. Matcha

While green tea has been a widely used skin care ingredient for some time now, it’s more concentrated cousin matcha has risen in popularity. Matcha is a potent form of green tea that is rich in antioxidants (epigallocatechin gallate), chlorophyll and amino acid L-theanine. By one estimate, the number of certain catechins in matcha is up to 137 times greater than in other types of green tea. 4

Drinking matcha tea improves liver health, boosts cognitive performance, helps prevent cancer, reduces heart disease and increases weight loss. Traditional matcha tea can be made by mixing two teaspoons of matcha powder with two ounces of hot water. Many people whisk the mixture together with a traditional bamboo whisk available at specialty tea shops, but you can use a wooden spoon. For the skin, matcha can help to cleanse and exfoliate the skin. It can also diminish the appearance of excess oils and can help reduce the appearance of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles.

5. Almonds

Like avocado, almonds are high in healthy fats, but are also rich in iron, magnesium, calcium and proteins, which all help to build a strong body and strong bones. Almonds are also rich in essential nutrients for healthy skin, including vitamin E. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant that provides a defense for our skin against UV rays; it also helps the skin retain its natural moisturizer. Eating foods like almonds is one way to get our daily dosage.5

6. Seaweed

One liter of seaweed contains the same concentration of elements found in 10,000 liters of seawater, making some seaweeds a dense concentration of vitamins, minerals, trace-elements and macro-elements. Research has found that seaweeds may have an important role in modulating chronic disease. Besides being a rich source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phyto-hormones, the many different species available throughout the world are rich in unique bioactive compounds simply not bioavailable in plants grown on land. These include different proteins (lecithins, phycobiliproteins and peptides), polyphenols, and polysaccharides.6 Antioxidants are the most potent weapon available for fighting free radical damage, both internally and externally. Research has shown that seaweeds are one of the richest sources of natural antioxidants, containing phlorotannins, sulfated polysaccarides, fucosterol and fucoxanthins.6

Nutritional studies on seaweeds indicate that brown and red seaweeds possess good nutritional quality and could be used as an alternative source of dietary fiber, protein and minerals. Laminaria digitata, Ascophyllum nodosum and Spirulina are examples of seaweeds that possess nutritional benefits and can be sustainably sourced.7 Moreover, bioactive sulfated polysaccharides are the main components of soluble fiber in seaweeds, and bioactive peptides can be prepared from seaweed protein.8 Consuming seaweed is said to help prevent cancer as well as mitigate risk factors for obesity and diabetes.9 In skin care, specific seaweeds can be used to create a number of beneficial cosmetic effects including decreasing the appearance of oil, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, exfoliating the skin for a more luminous looking complexion and moisturizing the skin to make it feel and look soft and smooth.

7. Berries

Berries are great for keeping your body looking and feeling young. While blueberries tend to get a lot of the nutritional attention, all berries possess a high concentration of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can protect cell health and prevent the effects of free radicals. One of the main sources of “breakdown” in our body comes from free radicals, but the phytonutrients, tannins and other organic compounds in berries can keep the body free of these dangerous by-products.

Often called “nature’s candy,” strawberries are known to be high in vitamins C, B6 and K as well as fiber, folic acid, potassium and amino acids. They are a perennial plant, and they are the only fruit containing seeds on the outside, a great source of nitrate.

A sweet, tiny berry that packs a punch are blueberries, and they are known to be nutritional powerhouses. They contain one of the highest natural antioxidant levels of any food and are rich sources of manganese and vitamins C and K1. Flavonoids, responsible for many of the unique qualities of the blueberry, are present in plentiful amounts too. This includes anthocyanins, quercetin (See Bioflavonoids to the Rescue) and myricetin.12

In skin care, berries are known for their brightening properties and do double duty as exfoliants and peels.

Plan Ahead

With all of our family, business and social obligations, it is easy to overlook our nutritional needs and just grab a fast meal at the drive-through. To eat properly, you must plan ahead. Creating weekly menus will make it easier for you to avoid the temptation of phoning the pizza-delivery man. A nutritious diet that consists of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains will increase your energy level, boost your metabolism, strengthen your immune system and improve your work effectiveness. Again, deciding to adhere to a healthy eating program should not be a superficial decision based on how well your favorite pair of jeans fit.

Finally, to truly reap the benefits of whole foods, look to the European lifestyle as a model by taking the time to make a meal into an event. Savor each bite, chewing every morsel completely. As an added benefit, the longer it takes you to eat, the more rapidly your brain will have a chance to catch up with your stomach and transmit the “fullness message,” which means that you’ll consume less food and take in fewer calories. You truly are what you eat. Eat beneficial whole foods and you will become beautiful, inside and out.

REFERENCES

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4106357/
  2. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283006.php
  3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1473-2165.2009.00448.x/full
  4. www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-matcha-tea#modal-close
  5. https://medical-center.lomalindahealth.org/patients-visitors/health-and-wellness/live-it/online-health-show/episode-6-avocados-and-almonds
  6. https://doi.org/10.1111/nure.12091
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/923.html
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22054959
  9. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22054935
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3798909/
  11. https://www.healthline.com/health/potential-benefits-of-rutin
  12. www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/eat-blueberries-and-strawberries-three-times-per-week

Lydia Sarfati is the founder and CEO of Repêchage. She appears internationally at trade shows, has produced 17 instructional videos and is a published author. For more information, visit www.repechage.com.

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