What to Eat For Healthy Skin

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Healthy Skin, What to Eat for Healthy Skin

Beautiful Skin Starts On The Inside

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

What to eat for healthy skin?

what to eat for healthy skinIf you stare into the mirror and think you see your mother or your father staring back, you are not alone. Where did those lines…those crow’s feet…those wrinkles come from? If you are like most of us, you want to do something about it. Americans are expected to spend $11 billion on skincare in 2018.

Great skincare products can work wonders, but are they enough? Are we forgetting something? The answer, of course, is yes. For truly beautiful skin we need to make sure that it also gets the nutrition that it needs. We need to feed it from the inside out.

That’s because skin cells form in the surface of the dermis, the lowest layer of our skin, and are pushed up, layer by layer, until they reach the surface. If you start out with healthy cells in your dermis, all your skincare regimen needs to do is to preserve the health of those cells as they rise to the surface.

Here are some suggestions for creating healthy and beautiful skin cells.

What to Eat For Healthy Skin – Avoid Inflammation

what to eat for healthy skin inflammationLike any other cell in the body, creating healthy skin cells starts with proper diet. I will cover nutrients below, but let’s start out by considering diet and inflammation. Some have gone as far as calling inflammation skin’s number one enemy.

That may be going a bit far. However, inflammation is associated with many skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and chronic dry skin, just to name a few. Inflammation also accelerates the aging process. It does that by increasing cortisol levels, which slows the wound healing process and leads to collagen breakdown. That, in turn, leads to wrinkled and sagging skin.

Inflammation of the outer layers of skin cells is cause by UV radiation. This is where a good anti-aging skincare regimen comes in. Inflammation of the lower layers of skin cells is caused by stress, lack of sleep, obesity, and poor diet, but let’s focus on the role of diet for this article.

Anti-inflammatory diets have become so mainstream that they now appear on reputable health organization websites such as WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic.

So, what to eat for healthy skin? In a nutshell, an anti-inflammatory diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts), fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices. Anti-inflammatory diets do not need to be extreme. For example, a recent study, L. Galland, Nutrition and Clinical Practice, 25: 634-640, 2010 , has shown that the Mediterranean Diet is anti-inflammatory.

Specifically, your diet should emphasize:

Colorful fruits and vegetables. Not only do they help fight inflammation, but they are a great source of antioxidants and other nutrients important for a healthy skin.

Whole grains. They are a good source of fiber, and fiber helps flush inflammatory toxins out of the body.

Beans and other legumes. They should be your primary source of protein. They are high in fiber and contain antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Nuts, olive oil, and avocados. They are good sources of healthy monounsaturated fats, which fight inflammation.

Fatty fish. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are all great sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are incorporated into our cell membranes. Those long-chain omega-3s in cell membranes are, in turn, used to create compounds that are powerful inflammation fighters. Unfortunately, our oceans are heavily contaminated, so omega-3-rich fish are often contaminated with heavy metals and PCBs. Many experts recommend avoiding tuna and farm raised salmon completely and eating wild salmon no more than once or twice a month.

Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are good sources of short-chain omega-3s. Those short-chain omega-3s are heart healthy, but it is unclear to what extent they reduce inflammation. The efficiency of their conversion to long-chain omega-3s that can be incorporated into cell membranes is only around 2-5%. If they fight inflammation, it is probably because they replace some of the saturated fats and omega-6 fats you might otherwise be eating (see the list of foods that increase inflammation below).

Herbs and spices. They add antioxidants and other nutrients that fight inflammation. More importantly, they replace salt. Excess salt can cause you to retain water, which gives your face a puffy look.

In a nutshell, an anti-inflammatory diet should exclude highly processed, overly greasy, or super sweet foods, especially sodas and other sweet drinks.

Specifically, your diet should minimize:

what to eat for healthy skin avoid sugarRefined carbohydrates and sugary foods. These foods are often high in fat as well. They lead to weight gain and high blood sugar, both of which cause inflammation. Sugar also attaches to collagen and elastin, causing your skin to lose its elasticity.

Foods high in saturated fats. This includes fatty and processed meats, butter, and high fat dairy products. That’s because saturated fat causes inflammation.

Foods high in trans-fats. This includes margarine, coffee creamers, and any processed food containing partly hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans-fats are very pro-inflammatory.

French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods. They used to be fried in saturated fat and/or trans-fat. Nowadays, they are generally fried in omega-6 vegetable oils. A little omega-6 in the diet is OK, but Americans get too much omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is pro-inflammatory.

Foods you are allergic or sensitive to. Eating any food that you are sensitive to can cause inflammation. This comes up most often with respect to gluten and dairy because so many people are sensitive to one or both. However, if you are not sensitive to them, there is no reason to exclude whole grain gluten-containing foods or low fat dairy foods from your diet.

What to Eat For Healthy Skin – Nutrients

Like any other cell in the body, healthy skin cells need a proper balance of essential vitamins, minerals, and protein. If you are a vegan or eat a mostly plant-based diet, you might be low in nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, calcium and protein. If you eat a typical American diet, you may be deficient in multiple nutrients. If you suspect, for any reason, that your diet may be short of some essential nutrients, a quality multivitamin and plant-based protein supplement can help you fill the gaps.

In addition, many Americans do not get enough of these nutrients that are important for healthy skin:

What to eat for healthy skin concerning nutrients?

what to eat for healthy skin vegetablesCarotenoids. Beta-carotene and related carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A, which is important for maintaining a healthy skin. They are also important antioxidants. You can get the full spectrum of carotenoids from a diet rich in multicolored fruits and vegetables, but 43% of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of these nutrients from their diet. For that reason, I often recommend that people look for supplement that provides the major carotenoids like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, which keeps the skin firm and supple. Both vitamin C and E are important antioxidants that help fight free radical damage caused by pollution, smoking, food additives, and sun exposure. Free radicals are a major cause of skin aging. In today’s world, we are exposed to free radicals from many different sources. 39% of Americans don’t get enough vitamin C from their diet, and 88% don’t get enough vitamin E, so extra vitamins C and E are important to help prevent our skin from aging prematurely.

Omega-3 fatty acids. As mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. They are also an important component of skin cell membranes, helping to keep the skin moist and supple.

Unfortunately, as I have reported recently, most of us are woefully deficient in omega-3s. For example, one study reported that 90% of Canadian women of child bearing age have suboptimal omega-3 intake. Another study showed that US women of child-bearing age are getting only around 20% of the recommended level of omega-3s from their diet. Finally, a recent study has shown that most Americans have very low tissue levels of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, our tissue levels of omega-3s are among the lowest in the world.

It is clear we should be getting more omega-3s in our diets. Eating more omega-3-rich fish would seem like an obvious recommendation. However, as mentioned above, our oceans are polluted. Fish are often contaminated with heavy metals or PCBs. For that reason, I often recommend a high-purity omega-3 supplement to make sure we get enough omega-3s in our diet.

Polyphenols. Polyphenols are good antioxidants. In addition, resveratrol and related polyphenols from muscadine grapes activate cellular anti-aging genes. Those genes, in turn, activate DNA repair and inhibit the cellular stress response. We are just beginning to learn about the role of these important phytonutrients in keeping our skin young and healthy.

The Bottom Line

If you want healthy, younger looking, skin, a good skin care regimen is only part of the solution. You also need a diet that gives your skin the nutrition it needs from the inside out.

1) Inflammation is your skin’s # 1 enemy, so good nutrition starts with an anti-inflammatory diet.

2) An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes:

• Colorful fruits & vegetables
• Whole grains
• Beans and other legumes
• Nuts, olive oil & avocados
• Fatty fish
• Herbs and spices

3) An anti-inflammatory diet minimizes:

• Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods
• Foods high in saturated fats
• Foods containing trans- fats
• Fried foods
• Foods you are allergic or sensitive to

4) We may not be getting enough of certain nutrients that are particularly important for a healthy skin. They are:

• Carotenoids
• Vitamins C & E
• Omega-3 fatty acids
• Polyphenols

For more details, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Can Plant-based Diets Be Unhealthy?

Posted September 10, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

plant-based diets vegetablesPlant-based diets have become the “Golden Boys” of the diet world. They are the diets most often recommended by knowledgeable health and nutrition professionals. I’m not talking about all the “Dr. Strangeloves” who pitch weird diets in books and the internet. I am talking legitimate experts who have spent their life studying the impact of nutrition on our health.

Certainly, there is an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the claim that plant-based diets are healthy. Going on a plant-based diet can help you lower blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol and triglycerides. People who consume a plant-based diet for a lifetime weigh less and have decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

But, can a plant-based diet be unhealthy? Some people consider a plant-based diet to simply be the absence of meat and other animal foods. Is just replacing animal foods with plant-based foods enough to make a diet healthy?

Maybe not. After all, sugar and white flour are plant-based food ingredients. Fake meats of all kinds abound in our grocery stores. Some are very wholesome, but others are little more than vegetarian junk food. If you replace animal foods with plant-based sweets, desserts, and junk food, is your diet really healthier?

While the answer to that question seems obvious, very few studies have asked that question. Most studies on the benefits of plant-based diets have compared population groups that eat a strictly plant-based diet (Seventh-Day Adventists, vegans, or vegetarians) with the general public. They have not looked at variations in plant food consumption within the general public. Nor have they compared people who consume healthy and unhealthy plant foods.

This study (H Kim et al, Journal of the American Heart Association, 8:e012865, 2019) was designed to fill that void.

 

How Was The Study Done?

plant-based diets studyThis study used data collected from 12,168 middle aged adults in the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study between 1987 and 2016.

The participant’s usual intake of foods and beverages was assessed by trained interviewers using a food frequency questionnaire at the time of entry into the study and again 6 years later.

Participants were asked to indicate the frequency with which they consumed 66 foods and beverages of a defined serving size in the previous year. Visual guides were provided to help participants estimate portion sizes.

The participant’s adherence to a plant-based diet was assessed using four different well-established plant-based diet scores. For the sake of simplicity, I will include 3 of them in this review.

  • The PDI (Plant-Based Diet Index) categorizes foods as either plant foods or animal foods. A high PDI score means that the participant’s diet contains more plant foods than animal foods. A low PDI score means the participant’s diet contains more animal foods than plant foods.
  • The hPDI (healthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “healthy” plant foods. A high hPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) and low in animal foods.
  • The uPDI (unhealthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “unhealthy” plant foods. A high uPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) and low in animal foods.

For statistical analysis the scores from the various plant-based diet indices were divided into 5 equal groups. In each case, the group with the highest score consumed the most plant foods and least animal foods. The group with the lowest score consumed the least plant foods and the most animal foods.

The health outcomes measured in this study were heart disease events, heart disease deaths, and all-cause deaths. Again, for the sake of simplicity, I will only include 2 of these outcomes (heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths) in this review. The data on deaths were obtained from state death records and the National Death Index. (Yes, your personal information is available on the web even after you die.)

 

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

plant-based diets reduce heart deathsThe participants in this study were followed for an average of 25 years.

The investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years and compared people with the highest intake of plant foods to people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods. The results were:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

What Else Did The Study Show?

The investigators made a couple of other interesting observations:

  • The association of the overall diet with heart disease and all-cause deaths was stronger than the association of individual food components. This underscores the importance of looking at the effect of the whole diet on health outcomes rather than the “magic” foods you hear about on Dr. Strangelove’s Health Blog.
  • Diets with the highest amount of healthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of carbohydrates, plant protein, fiber, and micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Diets with the highest amount of unhealthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of calories and carbohydrates and lower intake of fiber and micronutrients.

The last two observations may help explain some of the health benefits of plant-based diets.

 

Can Plant-Based Diets Be Unhealthy?

plant-based diets unhealthy cookiesNow, let’s return to the question I asked at the beginning of this article: “Can plant-based diets be unhealthy?” Although some previous studies have suggested that unhealthy plant-based diets might increase the risk of heart disease, this study did not show that.

What this study did show was that an unhealthy plant-based diet was no better for you than a diet containing lots of red meat and other animal foods.

If this were the only conclusion from this study, it might be considered a neutral result. However, this result clearly contrasts with the data from this study and many others showing that both plant-based diets in general and healthy plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths compared to animal-based diets.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

There is one other subtle message from this study. This study did not compare vegans with the general public. Everyone in the study was the general public. Nobody in the study was consuming a 100% plant-based diet.

For example:

  • The group with the highest intake of plant foods consumed 9 servings per day of plant foods and 3.6 servings per day of animal foods.
  • The group with the lowest intake of plant foods consumed 5.4 servings per day of plant foods and 5.6 servings per day of animal foods.

In other words, you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet.

 

The Bottom Line

A recent study analyzed the effect of consuming plant foods on heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths over a 25-year period.

When the investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

A more subtle message from the study is that you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet. The people in this study were not following some special diet. The only difference was that some of the people in this study ate more plant foods and others more animal foods.

For more details on the study, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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