Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Nutritionista's Super Foods for Super Skin

Years ago, my mom emphasized the importance of caring for my skin. While I truly appreciate those tips, most of them involved caring for my skin from the outside in, which involved the use of cleansers, sunscreen, moisturizers, etc. However, being the nutritionista that I am, I also tend to look for ways to protect and preserve my skin from the inside out.

So, what is it that contributes to aging of the skin to begin with? Well, it's a combination of factors including genetics, environment, and hormones. The primary culprit involves free radicals (aka, highly unstable and reactive atoms or molecules), which can damage compounds and cells in the body thereby producing inflammation and hindering cellular function. These free radicals are formed through the natural aging process and through exposure to certain things in the environment, such as UV rays from the sun, cigarette smoking, and pollution. The good news is that certain nutrients and compounds, including antioxidants, in food may help protect the body against these free radicals, and in doing so, may also help maintain the health of our skin. So, here's my list of the top 10 super foods that will promote super skin.

  1. {Blueberries} At only 81 calories/cup, these delicious and nutritious super fruits have been deemed numero uno by the USDA when it comes to antioxidant activity in comparison to other fruits and vegetables. Enjoy them plain as a simple snack or toss a 1/2 cup in whole grain cereal, yogurt, a salad, or a fruit smoothie.
  2. {Tea} Green, oolong, black, or white tea all contain powerful compounds called catechins that may help stop free radicals in their tracks. Two to three cups of unsweetened brewed or iced green tea a day can go a long way, and each cup contains <5>
  3. {Walnuts} Walnuts, especially the English variety, also maintain a hefty antioxidant activity rating by the USDA in comparison to other nuts. Walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help produce compounds that fight inflammation. Try 1/2 oz-1 oz in whole grain cereal or oatmeal, a salad, or a fruit smoothie.
  4. {Salmon} This cold water fish is loaded with the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Salmon is also a significant source of selenium, which helps protect the skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Grilled or baked, salmon offers a quick and easy source of protein and healthy fat for any main meal. One of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is by topping it with honey, freshly ground black pepper, whole grain mustard seeds, and a sprinkling of salt and tarragon and baking in the oven. I also love serving baked or grilled salmon with a fresh homemade mango salsa. Yum!
  5. {Red bell peppers} These slightly sweet and perfectly crunchy vegetables actually contain an impressive amount of vitamins A and C and only 20 calories per half cup! In fact, red bell peppers contain more vitamin C per half cup than 1 medium orange! The vitamin A serves as an antioxidant in the body and also helps maintain the health of the skin while vitamin C also has antioxidant capacity and supports the synthesis of collagen in the skin. However, it doesn't stop there. Red bell peppers are also a good source of the phytochemicals lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin,which are located in the skin and may protect it from the sun's harmful UV rays. Enjoy raw, sliced red bell peppers as a snack with a low-fat dip or chopped up in a tortilla wrap or salad. They're also great roasted or grilled with other vegetables.
  6. {Almonds} These crunchy nuts contain about 40% of the amount of vitamin E an adult needs daily! Found in the skin, vitamin E primarily functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Almonds also exhibit a fair amount of antioxidant activity according to the USDA. In addition, researchers recently indicated that 1 oz of almonds contains nearly the same amount of polyphenols as one cup of green tea! Try these tasty nuts raw (and unsalted) or pair 1/2 oz with some fresh fruit for a simple and satisfying snack. Spruce up hot or cold cereal or a salad with almonds. Sample some almond butter on your sandwich, with fresh fruit or vegetables, or in your smoothie.
  7. {Spinach} Boasting with vitamins A and C, spinach is also a source of vitamin E and the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin. Raw spinach makes for fantastic fresh salads or can add pizzazz to an otherwise dull tortilla wrap, sandwich, or burger. Because of its mild flavor, cooked spinach can easily be added to other dishes such as lasagna, pasta, soups, mashed potatoes, or omelets (think green eggs and ham). It's also a fantastic base for fruit smoothies! (Trust me, even if you believe you are "allergic" -- wink, wink -- to green vegetables, you won't even notice the spinach in the smoothie.)
  8. {Soybeans} One of the most widely produced, consumed, and researched foods in the world, much is known about the vast benefits of the nutritional components of soybeans. They are a considerable source of those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they also contain an isoflavone called genistein, which may help protect the skin from the sun's pesky UV rays, too. Enjoy soybeans (or edamame) as a quick, simple, and satisfying appetizer or snack or mix some into your soup or salad for an added punch of protein, fiber, and a host of other nutrients.
  9. {Sweet potatoes} These scrumptious vegetables are brimming with vitamins A and C and also serve as a source of the phytochemical lycopene. My two favorite ways to enjoy these is: 1) steamed and mashed or 2) microwaved like a baked potato. Delish!
  10. {Water} This vital nutrient and beverage is frequently forgotten. We can go for many days without food, but we cannot survive nearly as long without adequate fluid consumption. With a loss of just 1-2% of our body water weight, we can start to experience symptoms of dehydration: thirst, fatigue, weakness, general discomfort, and loss of appetite. Water serves several important functions in the body, many of which are extremely helpful to our skin. For example, water transports nutrients and waste products throughout the body and helps maintain the structure of proteins that form our skin. So how much water does one need? Well, current recommendations suggest that the average woman needs about 2.7 L/d while the average man needs about 3.7 L/d. Mind you, that's TOTAL fluid intake, including that from both beverages and food. Since most people consume about 80% of their fluid intake from beverages, if we do the math, that means women need nearly 9 cups of fluid from beverages and men need about 13 cups of fluid from beverages daily. Not there yet? Well, the good news is that you can gradually build up to that with practice, practice, practice!
Here's to beautiful skin!

Like these tips? Well, this blog was written in celebration of a Women's Health Blogfest with many other participating Registered Dietitians and Lactation Consultants. Please browse the blogs listed in this post below to learn more about a variety of topics written by health professionals with expertise in women's health.

Angela White at Blisstree's Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - Helpful Skills of Breastfeeding Counselors
Angie Tillman, RD, LDN, CDE - You Are Beautiful Today
Anthony J. Sepe - Women's Health and Migraines
Ashley Colpaart - Women's health through women
Charisse McElwaine - Spending too much time on the "throne?"
Danielle Omar - Yoga, Mindful Eating and Food Confidence
Diane Preves M.S.,R.D - Balance for Health
Joan Sather - A Woman's Healthy Choices Affect More Than Herself
Laura Wittke - Fibro Study Recruits Participants
Liz Marr, MS, RD - Reflecting on Family Food Ways and Women's Work
Marjorie Geiser, MBA, RD, NSCA-CPT - Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business
Marsha Hudnall - Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full
Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD - A Nutritionista's Super Foods for Super Skin
Monika Woolsey, MS, RD - To effectively work with PCOS is to understand a woman's health issues throughout her life
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog - How breastfeeding helps you, too
Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD - Four Keys to Wellness, Just for Women
Renata Mangrum, MPH, RD - The busy busy woman
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD - Feeding the Appetites of the Culinary, Epicurious and Nutrition Worlds-One Bite at a Time
Sharon Solomon - Calories, longevity and do I care
Terri L Mozingo, RD, CDN & D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN of One Source Nutrition, LLC - Crossing the Line: From Health to Hurt
Wendy Jo Peterson, RD - Watch Your Garden Grow



Anthony Sepe said...[Reply to comment]

Hi Michelle,
Thank you for sharing in the blogfest. Your post was very nicely done, and found intersting--about the red bell pepper. Thanks to and for, our moms and grandmoms, they are a wealth of information. Take care
Anthony Sepe

hormonewoman said...[Reply to comment]

OK, whew, 8 of 10 of these are in my kitchen right now!

I'm so glad you took the time to talk about skin...it's a major issue with PCOS and I'm hoping our readers took the time to link to you to reinforce the importance of the inside-out approach!

Thanks so much for participating in blogfest, hope it brings you new fans!


Liz Marr, MS, RD said...[Reply to comment]

This blogfest is a fun way to connect with other dietitians to see how we're all communicating about health and food. Nice post!


Marsha @ Green Mountain at Fox Run said...[Reply to comment]

I've had walnuts, red peppers, green tea and blueberries today. And lots of water. Great to know that along with tasting great, it's all great for my aging skin.

As Liz said, fun to connect with other RDs in this blogfest and see what everyone is blogging about. Great topic yours.

Balance, Joy and Delicias! said...[Reply to comment]

I just found your blog and I like this post a lot! thanks for sharing. I truly believe that a nice skin care should be from inside to outside!

nutrition and wellness said...[Reply to comment]

This is a great list Michelle. I was surprised to see walnuts on the list, just because i'm not too familiar with them. I definitely want to incorporate them more into my diet. Thank you.

Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD said...[Reply to comment]

@nutrition and wellness Thank you for the comment! I love walnuts. They add wonderful crunch, protein, and other nutrients to many dishes.

Anonymous said...[Reply to comment]

I think the list is good, maybe for skin care it is beneficial. Though, I wouldn't consume too much of the soybeans, almonds, walnuts. Would go for the salmon and spinach, feel more healthy to me. Ray's diy solar system blog.

Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD said...[Reply to comment]

@Ray Wilson I appreciate you taking the time to comment, Ray!

Nuha Sultana said...[Reply to comment]

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I'll be sure to bookmark it and return to read extra of your helpful information. Thank you for the post. I'll definitely comeback.

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