Beautiful skin starts on your plate: What to eat, what to avoid

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Healthy skin from food
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Healthy, youthful skin starts with what’s on your plate. Ariel Ostad, M.D., a board certified Dermatologist and Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgeon, and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology explains healthy, glowing skin depends on what you’re feeding your body. Beautiful skin has everything to do with the nutrients you put in your body.

According to Ostad, diet has everything to do with skin health. Eating foods with vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, healthy oils and avoiding junk food can lead to younger, plumper looking skin.

Dr. Ostad is co-author of a textbook entitled Practical Management of Skin Cancer (Lippincott-Raven, 1998). He is also a member of The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, Fellow, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery and The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Skin care myths

One myth is that chocolate and fried foods cause acne. Oily foods don’t cause acne. Ostad says hormones are to blame. He explains blackheads, whiteheads and skin inflammation come from oil that simply gets stuck in the pores.

"Acne occurs when testosterone and other hormones stimulate the growth of skin over pores so that the oil, sebum, that keeps the skin flexible and wrinkle-free, gets trapped inside. When bacteria degrade this oil, then there can be whiteheads, blackheads, and various kinds of inflammation.”

He also says there is no one food that researchers agree causes acne. Figuring out how to keep skin acne-free involves paying attention to your diet. If you eat something like pizza and the next day you have zits, just avoid pizza.

Skin nourishing liquids

Green tea and plain old water are the best drinks for skin health. Between the two, green tea tops the list.” It has anti-inflammatory properties, and it's protective to the cell membrane. It may even help prevent or reduce the risk of skin cancer," says Dr. Ostad. Either drinking or applying green tea to the skin protects from UV radiation, lowering the chances of skin cancer.

Water keeps the skin nourished and the body detoxified. Ostad thinks we need eight glasses of pure clean water a day, which “makes the skin rejoice.” Good hydration also helps us sweat more efficiently.

Berry antioxidants

Berries are a top choice for maintaining youthful healthy skin. Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries have high levels of antioxidants that nourish the skin. Combined with sunscreen, berries might also help protect from harmful UV rays.

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“Free radicals; like the kind formed from sun exposure damage the membrane of skin cells, potentially allowing damage to the DNA of that cell," says Dr Ostad. The antioxidants and other phytochemicals in these fruits can protect the cell, so there is less chance for damage.” When you help protect the cells from damage and disintegration, you also guard against premature aging. In this respect, these fruits may very well help keep your skin younger looking longer."

Fatty acids

Canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed and salmon have a lot in common. They all contain beneficial fatty acids that promote beautiful skin. Fatty acids keep the membranes of skin cells healthy by setting up a barrier. They also create a passageway that lets toxins out and skin nutrients in.

Dr. Ostad explains, “Because it is the cell membrane that also holds water in, the stronger that barrier is the better your cells can hold moisture. And that means plumper, younger looking skin.” Two tablespoons of olive oil added to the daily diet is an excellent skin quencher.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, Say Ostad. You can get vitamin A from sweet potatoes, along with vitamin C. Both help the skin stay moist.

Low-fat dairy products are also good sources of vitamin A. Yogurt provides the vitamin. Dr. Ostad recommends eating yogurt for healthy skin that can serve a dual purpose because it promotes digestive health.

“Low-fat yogurt is not only high in vitamin A, but also acidophilus, the "live" bacteria that is good for intestinal health. It may also have an impact on the skin. Anything that helps keep digestion normal, any live bacteria or enzymes, is also going to be reflected in healthy-looking skin.”

But Dr. Ostad also warns vitamin A isn’t a cure for acne, as some purport. Too much of the fat-soluble vitamin can lead to liver damage. Vitamin A intake from food and supplements should be limited to around 15,000 IU.

Whole grains

For beautiful skin, don’t forget to eat whole grains, which can help you stay away from white flour products and starchy foods. Baked goods, white bread, and white pastas, made from refined white flours, can raise insulin levels and promote skin inflammation. A good diet, combined with an active lifestyle and adequate sun protection can help skin remain youthful, well-hydrated and problem free.

Image credit: Morguefile

This page updated May 7, 2013

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