We’ve all been lured by the latest and greatest face cream, or serum, that promises to diminish wrinkles, plump the skin and provide a radiant, dewy glow. In the quest for perfect skin, we’re willing to try anything, at any cost, to look like the image staring back at us from the pages of this month’s beauty magazine. Disappointment creeps in when it becomes clear that the miracle in the bottle didn’t do much other than drain your wallet. Fortunately, the secret to having healthy, firm, blemish free skin doesn’t come from an expensive bottle. The solution lies in your pantry, garden or local farmer’s market. Your skin is a mirror of what’s happening internally, so what you feed your body is more important than what you apply topically. Eating poor-quality, nutritionally void food can lead to inflamed, puffy, acne-prone skin, with a dull, lackluster appearance.
Your skin is made up of three distinct layers, and collagen and elastin are the structural proteins that provide strength and elasticity to the layers. As we age, the production of collagen and elastin diminishes. In addition, aging may be accelerated by free radicals from dietary and lifestyle factors that affect collagen and elastin. Collagen breakdown can occur from poor diet, smoking, overexposure to the sun, or from the many chemicals present in our modern lifestyle.
A recent study looked at the effect of collagen hydrolysate – a grass-fed protein collagen supplement similar to one we recommend to many of our patients – on skin elasticity, skin hydration and skin roughness. After just eight weeks, the women in the treatment group showed significant improvement in skin elasticity as well as skin texture. Skin hydration achieved a favorable, although not significant, improvement.
Eating adequate protein from pastured meats and poultry, as well as, sustainably raised fish will ensure adequate supplies of amino acids to build collagen. Be sure to have at least three- to four-ounce servings of protein at each meal.
Collagen production is dependent on more than an adequate supply of protein and amino acids. Without key nutrients, such as sulfur, zinc and vitamins A and C, those building blocks of protein won’t have a leg to stand on. Here are tips on how you can get more of these nutrients in your diet:
- Sulfur is abundant in the brassica family which includes Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, as well as egg yolks, onions, garlic, beans and legumes. Incorporating these foods at most meals will supply sulfur to aid collagen synthesis.
- If your diet lacks sulfur, your body will also struggle to make enough glutathione. Glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant in the body, is made in your cells and is dependent upon sulfur for its production. Having an internal antioxidant source is a powerful defender against wrinkles created by oxidative damage.
- Zinc, another important mineral for collagen synthesis, helps control the production of oil in the skin. Observational studies indicate that people with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc versus those with clear skin. To keep your skin firm and clear, get a daily dose of zinc from pastured meats, oysters, beans, or pumpkin and sesame seeds.
- Vitamin A is well documented at combating acne. Part of vitamin A’s job is to assist cell turnover, helping to promote a healthy glow, as well as normalizing oil production. Many physicians prescribed synthetic vitamin A to combat severe acne. However, natural sources of vitamin A can be just as effective – sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, carrots, winter squash are just a few delicious prescriptions!\
- A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that women who ate adequate amounts of vitamin C had fewer wrinkles than those who did not. Vitamin C is abundant in many of the sulfur rich brassicas including kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as peppers, oranges and strawberries.
Replace those costly creams and get a natural inner glow with a whole foods based diet. Incorporate foods that supply sulfur, zinc, vitamins A and C, along with clean proteins that naturally help maintain, and even increase, collagen production and you have a recipe for glowing skin. In no time at all, your friends will beg to know your secret.