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FOOD 101: What to eat for good skin

A dietitian encourages us to feed our faces, but in a good way!


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When it comes to your health, the outside often reflects the inside. And according to Northern California registered dietitian Earline Griffith, a dull, dry complexion is a blinking neon sign that you're not eating right.

"As the largest organ in our body, our skin can benefit from the same nutrition we get from foods that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs," Griffith explained.
While more studies need to be done to determine the long-term benefits of food for our skin, Griffith says that following the USDA Food Pyramid is a good start to achieving optimal results.

"Eating a variety of healthy food and drinking plenty of water so the skin stays hydrated should help most people improve the appearance of their skin," she said.

Here are some of the California-grown foods Griffith suggests eating in order to achieve better skin:

Low-fat dairy products (low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese)

  • The health of our skin cells is dependent on dietary vitamin A.
  • It's doubly important to eat vitamin A-rich dairy foods if you have either diabetes or a thyroid condition since you may not convert beta-carotene as easily.
  • Yogurt is not only high in vitamin A, but also acidophilus, the "live" bacteria that is good for intestinal health. Anything that helps keep digestion normal, any live bacteria or enzymes, is also going to be reflected in healthy-looking skin.
  • Aside from the calcium, cottage cheese is great for selenium, an essential mineral for youthful, glowing skin. It is also a great source of vitamin D.

Black grapes/raisins and artichokes

  • Free radicals, like the kind formed from sun exposure, damage the membrane of skin cells, potentially allowing damage to the DNA of that cell. The high antioxidant content and other phytochemicals in these fruits can protect the cell, so there is less chance for damage.
  • As you protect cells from damage and disintegration, you also guard against premature aging.
  • Peak season for locally grown black grapes is mid-summer through November, while you can find California-grown artichokes year-round.

Strawberries and other berries

  • All berries contain a high amount of vitamin C, a necessity for collagen production. Collagen keeps your skin tight and reduces the chances of developing fine lines.
  • Berries are a rich source of phenols, anthocyanins and ellagitannins. These nutrients help protect cell structures, prevent oxygen damage and reduce inflammation.
  • Tip: Throw some berries, yogurt and ice into a blender and whip yourself up a "skin smoothie."
  • Peak season for California-grown strawberries is April through November.

Peaches, nectarines, plums and prunes

  • These are good sources of two groups of phytonutrients: the carotenoids and the polyphenols. Both powerful antioxidants are great for clearing radicals in the skin and body. They also aid in iron absorption and have a high content of vitamin C.
  • Peak season for California-grown peaches, nectarines and plums is May through September. Dried plums (or prunes) are plentiful year-round.

Walnuts and almonds

  • Essential fatty acids are responsible for healthy cell membranes, which act as barriers to harmful things but also serve as a passageway for nutrients to cross in and out and for waste products to get in and out of the cell. Because it is the cell membrane that also holds water in, the stronger that barrier is, the better your cells retain moisture. And that means plumper, younger-looking skin!
  • One ounce of almonds provides you with half of your daily recommended vitamin E to fight off free radicals, which are known to destroy your body's naturally produced elastin, leading to wrinkles. Vitamin E also helps to moisturize your skin from within and protects your skin from damage and premature aging. Almond skins also contain an antioxidant known as flavonoids, which protect cells (namely skin cells) from damage.

Extra virgin olive oil

  • Eating good-quality oils helps keep skin lubricated and keeps it looking and feeling healthier overall.
  • Packed with monounsaturated fat, olive oil helps your skin to remain soft and also maintain its natural oils. It's rich in antioxidants and oleic acid.
  • It also contains squalene, which is believed to help repair and rejuvenate skin's texture.
  • Those labeled organic, cold pressed, expeller processed or extra virgin are typically best.
  • Since any fat, even a healthy one, is high in calories, we don't need more than about two tablespoons a day.
  • Tip: Extra virgin olive oil is a great moisturizer to apply directly to your skin.

Avocados

  • Not only is this fruit loaded with monounsaturated fats, it also contains plenty of fiber, vitamins B6, C and E, potassium, magnesium and folate. Avocados are extremely high in vitamin K and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can help in skin health.
  • The avocado is rich in B-complex vitamins and essential oils and works like an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Tip: Eaten in moderation, avocados can help to keep your skin looking young, whether you decide to eat it or apply it directly to your face. It also soothes skin that is red, irritated or blotchy. You can even mix it with yogurt and berries to add some flavor.
  • Peak season is the California-grown crop is March through September.

Pomegranates

  • Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of skin cancer and other cancers.
  • Properties are not only beneficial when we eat the fruit, but also beneficial in topical skin care. Pomegranates are said to promote the regeneration of cells in the two most important layers of healthy skin: the epidermis and dermis.
  • Pomegranates have the ability to improve wound healing, resulting in faster repair of skin cuts and scrapes.
  • Peak season for California-grown pomegranates is October through January.

Leafy greens

  • The vitamin A in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach is great for clearing up acne and promoting skin repair.
  • The lutein in leafy greens is also a critical component to overall skin health.

Apples

  • Apples contain pectin, which is also important in maintaining and promoting collagen growth in skin.
  • Like most fruits and vegetables, the peel of the apple contains the highest amount of pectin; in fact, some research has found the amount of pectin in the peel of an apple may be equal to or even more than the amount in the actual fruit of the apple itself.
  • Apple harvest in California is typically mid-July through October.

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