Eating Your Way to Youthful Skin
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Whether you dread wrinkles as a sign of aging or wear them proudly as a product of years of life and laughter, we can all agree that healthy, glowing skin is desirable. Your skin is the first thing people notice when they meet you and can tell a person a lot about your health and lifestyle.
While we all get older, the rate at which we show typical signs of aging is totally subjective. Our diet and lifestyle all affect our quality and rate of aging. Today we are going to dive into various foods and nutrients that support glowing, supple, youthful skin.
What is Skin Made Of?
Skin is our largest organ; it protects us from germs, helps regulate body temperature, and perceives and transmits sensory information. Our skin is composed of three layers:
- Epidermis: the outermost layer of skin, composed largely of fats and proteins.
- Dermis: beneath the epidermis, this layer contains connective tissue, collagen, and elastin—proteins that give our skin support and elasticity.
- Hypodermis: this is the innermost layer of subcutaneous tissue, composed of fat and connective tissue.
You may notice a common theme: our skin is largely composed of fats, proteins, and collagen. So guess what types of foods do the most for our skin? That’s right—fats, proteins, and collagen—as well as vitamins that we will get to later.
Eating Fat and Cholesterol for Healthy Skin
There are various anti-aging foods with powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including collagen protein, saturated fats, and vitamins A and E.
A low-fat diet actually ages you by depriving your skin of the lipids it needs for optimal health. Saturated fats are the ones our skin craves: we are animals and we need animal fat. Butter, egg yolks, salmon, goat cheese… Fat not only feeds your skin, but it also helps balance your hormones, another anti-aging feature of delicious saturated goodness!
We’re taught to avoid cholesterol, but guess what: 50% of cell membranes are made of cholesterol, both cholesterol that our body produces, as well as cholesterol from our diet. It is crucial for building healthy cells, healthy skin, and more. Cholesterol also helps us make bile to digest the saturated fats that we should be eating, and aids in vitamin extraction.
Important Nutrients for Healthy Skin
- Vitamin A may be the most important fat-soluble vitamin for healthy, youthful skin. The epidermis needs vitamin A to stay soft and firm, while a deficiency leads to ‘cornification,’ or rough, scaly skin, and even acne. Vitamin A also triggers collagen production, which is an essential component of skin.
You can find the precursor to vitamin A, called beta carotene, in leafy greens. This must be converted to the active form of vitamin A, called retinol.
For the full anti-aging effects of vitamin A, try Cod liver oil, butter, salmon, goat cheese, and egg yolks. You’ll also be getting in a ton of healthy saturated fats!
- Vitamin E protects against aging, oxidization, and sunburns. It also prevents wrinkles, is anti-scarring, and supports the pituitary. This is especially important for women during menopause when hormones are changing and the pituitary starts producing fewer hormones.
- Collagen: Collagen is the most abundant fibrous protein in the human body. Collagen is made by specialized cells in the skin, ligaments, bones, and cartilage and is the glue that holds the body together. Between 25% and 35% of all protein in the body is made up of collagen and up to 70% of the proteins in the connective tissues are composed of collagen. Along with elastin, collagen is an essential component of skin.
You can get collagen when you consume things like bone broth. Or, you can use a collagen powder and add it to your coffee or smoothies. I recommend TruKeto Collagen, which is enzymatically broken down to a very low molecular weight that is easily assimilated and absorbed.
Foods that Cause Aging
We’ve gone over what foods you should be adding to your diet, so let’s now take a look at what we should be avoiding.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoke causes premature aging on all fronts. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are damaging to the skin. Even being around second-hand smoke can take its toll on collagen and elastin, the building blocks that give skin its strength and elasticity.
- Stress: When you’re stressed, your body is pumping out more cortisol. This signals to your glands to produce more oil. Stress and cortisol surges can aggravate acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema.
- Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: Sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods can all create excessive inflammation, accelerate signs of aging, and lead to acne at any age. Sugar, in particular, can accelerate signs of aging by leading to cross-linking of collagen fibers.
- Alcohol: Alcohol deprives the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients, causes inflammation, and is dehydrating—leading to rough, dry skin—and ultimately more wrinkles.
The skin is oftentimes the first sign of internal health issues. Eating for your skin is eating for your whole body. The Just In Health Eating Plan emphasizes organic vegetables, meats, and is a cross between a paleo and keto diet. A healthy keto-paleo diet is a way to go. Throw intermittent fasting into the mix, and you are also reaping the benefits of autophagy, which repairs, recycles, and disposes of unhealthy cells.
It is important to know the foods you are sensitive to, as these can cause skin issues (dry skin, acne, wrinkles) as well as more serious internal health problems. The best way to know for sure if you are sensitive to something is to do an elimination diet or a food sensitivity test.