5 Foods and Beverages that Nourish, Heal and Protect Your Skin

| July 11, 2013 | 1 Comment
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Foods and beverages that nourish the skin. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Foods and beverages that nourish the skin. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

It can be argued that no one physical characteristic symbolizes youth and beauty more that healthy skin. But it is an uphill battle to preserve skin health over time. Excessive sun exposure, poor nutrition, and genetics all play a role in the development of eczema, wrinkles and skin cancer. However, the food we eat can have a significant impact on health and some foods that benefit the skin may surprise you. Here is a list of five foods that will nourish your skin as well as satisfy your taste buds.

Nuts and Seeds. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Nuts and Seeds. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Nuts and Seeds

The body needs healthy oils for healthy skin. The fats serve as the building blocks for the sebaceous glands (the oil producing glands in the skin). These natural secretions reduce dryness and form a protective barrier, our first line of defense against the outside world. Polyunsaturated omega-6 oils are especially important. Unfortunately, most Americans consume poor quality refined omega-6 oils from corn and soy. These oils are frequently rancid from extended storage and may have residues from chemical solvents. The optimal way to consume your omega-6 fatty acids is from whole foods. Raw nuts and seeds are one of the richest sources of omega-6 oils. They are also a natural source of vitamin E which is extremely beneficial for the skin. In addition, nuts are packed with fiber and healthy phyto-chemicals like plant sterols which aid in detox and improve digestion.

Coffee has been studied as good for skin. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Coffee has been studied as good for skin. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Coffee and Tea

Although there may be many reasons to avoid caffeine, healthy skin is not one of them. Studies show that people who regularly drink coffee and green tea have lower rates of skin cancer. Green tea also protects against the premature aging caused by sun exposure. Both coffee and tea are packed with antioxidant compounds, but the actual caffeine may also be beneficial. It is not clear why caffeine is helpful but it may stem from increased circulation. Don’t worry if caffeinated beverages are not for you. You can still reap benefits from a variety of creams and salves. Used topically the caffeine and tannins present in these beverages constrict blood vessels, tightens skin and reduces puffiness.

Green tea also protects against the premature aging caused by sun exposure. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Green tea also protects against the premature aging caused by sun exposure. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Strawberries and other foods high in vitamin C

Collagen is the main protein that forms the foundation of our skin. Age, sun damage and poor circulation can weaken collagen and lead to sagging skin, wrinkles and poor wound healing. Vitamins C is a vital cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and it is well known that vitamin C deficiency leads to skin weakness and damage. It has also been shown that dietary consumption of vitamin C will raise the concentration of vitamin C in the skin. Luckily this vitamin is easy to get from fresh fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, oranges, kiwi, broccoli and peppers are all rich sources. Just one cup of these foods can meet or exceed the daily requirements for vitamin C. Prolonged cooking can destroy vitamin C, so fruits and veggies need to be raw or lightly cooked to be a good source.

Strawberries, oranges, kiwi, broccoli and peppers are all rich sources of Vitamin C. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Strawberries, oranges, kiwi, broccoli and peppers are all rich sources of Vitamin C. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Watermelon and other foods high in carotenoids

Do you want to eat with the seasons? Watermelon in the summer is an excellent choice because it can actually prevent sunburn. It is the carotenoid and lycopene that is protective. Lycopene has long been touted for its benefits in prostate health but its skin saving properties are well documented. It is found in high concentrations in watermelon, guava and papaya and unlike the lycopene from tomatoes, it doesn’t have to be cooked to be well absorbed. But don’t throw away your sunscreen, carotenoids aren’t enough to completely shield you from the sun. For the best protection they should be combined with a high quality sunscreen and UPF clothing.

Watermelon in the summer is an excellent choice because it can actually prevent sunburn. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Watermelon in the summer is an excellent choice because it can actually prevent sunburn. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Honey

Honey is an excellent replacement for refined sugar, and it is a good source of vitamins and minerals. In fact some studies show that honey can improve blood sugar regulation and heal the pancreas. But it is as a topical agent that honey truly promotes skin health. Honey has been used topically for centuries as a moisturizer, an antiseptic and a substance that promotes wound healing. There are many commercially available creams and salves but pure honey can also be applied directly to the skin. Honey has unparalleled benefits for conditions ranging from burns to eczema. Many of its benefits are only present in raw honey so it pays to find a pure, raw source.
Note: raw honey should never be given to children under one year old!

Honey has unparalleled benefits for conditions ranging from burns to eczema. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Honey has unparalleled benefits for conditions ranging from burns to eczema. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

None of the information in this article is intended as medical advice or to diagnose, or treat any disease or health condition.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, health and nutrition, tea and coffee

About the Author ()

Dara Thompson N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Mill Valley, CA . She is passionate about medicine, and believes that the food we eat is an integral part of healing. Dr. Thompson studied cell and molecular biology at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UC Santa Cruz. She received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, where she worked her way through school catering and teaching cooking classes. Dr. Thompson specializes in environmental medicine and providing supportive care for cancer patients. You can follow her food and nutrition blog.
  • Myra Nadine

    Excellent info Dr. Thompson. Thanks so much. Very helpful in many aspects of mine and my family’s health.