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Environmental Nutrition: Eat to glow

By Matthew Kadey, Environmental Nutrition on

The old axiom “you are what you eat” holds true. What we eat can play a huge role in the health of various areas of our bodies, including the brain and heart. And that list includes the skin. A trip to the supermarket or farmers market offers up a bounty of vanity fare as certain foods can turn around tired-looking skin and even offer some natural protection from the rays of the yellow orb above. “Skin health starts from the inside and is dependent on how well we nourish it through our dietary choices,” says dietitian Cindi Lockhart, owner of Lockhart Wellness Solutions LLC.

Our skin takes a beating daily from environmental stressors, so it’s important to feed it what it needs. Here’s how to chew your way to a better complexion.

Eat the rainbow

Think of colorful veggies as an edible fountain of youth. British researchers found that an increased intake of carotenoids, found in bright vegetables like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, leafy greens, and bell peppers, over 6 weeks can have a beneficial impact on reducing reddening and other skin discoloration that impacts appearance. The beauty benefits were witnessed with just three servings a day of carotenoid-rich veggies and fruits. “Carotenoids act as potent antioxidants, protecting our skin against environmental stressors including the sun’s UV rays,” Lockhart says. Case in point: the antioxidant beta-carotene has been shown to offer some protection against sunburn.

Ditch the standard American diet

If you want to save face be sure to go easy on fast-food and other overly processed stuff. A 2020 study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology discovered that a typical Western diet that is rich in fat and sugar may lead to inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis. “The standard diet is very inflammatory and lacking in the phytonutrients, antioxidants, and nutrients that protect our skin,” notes Lockhart. Instead, fill your diet with anti-inflammatory whole foods that can show your skin some love.


Go nuts for almonds

Here’s more proof to support a “beauty from the inside out” approach to skin health. An investigation from the University of California, Davis suggests that a daily almond habit might improve measures of wrinkle width and severity. The total amount of almonds consumed was about two ounces daily for four months by postmenopausal women, so it remains to be seen if lower amounts of nut intake in other demographics will also benefit skin appearance, but the researchers are optimistic that the beneficial fats and antioxidants in almonds have anti-aging powers for all.

Join ‘Club Med’

The Mediterranean diet isn’t just good for your heart, it can also be an ally in the battle against a potentially deadly skin disease. A report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that women who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet over 15 years benefited from a lower risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma and basil cell carcinomas. Lockhart explains that this eating style, which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and whole grains can provide a potpourri of nutrients, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and phytonutrients that may help shield you from skin cancer. For instance, greater intakes of the Med-favorite tomato, which is rich in the potent antioxidant lycopene, have been shown to confer protection from UV-induced skin cancer tumors.


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