Beautiful Skin from the Inside Out

Plant-Based Practice:  For the loveliest skin our body can produce, eat a variety of colorful vegetables every day. Add raw and cooked. Don’t sweat over how much, just add them at every meal and as snacks.

I am often complimented about my smooth and creamy skin. This is notable because my skin is presently 58 years old, and I have lived through a bit of teenage acne in my past. My personal insurance policy against damaged skin and wrinkles is eating green leafy veggies along with other colorful vegetables and fruits every day. It is the antioxidants from these plant foods that fight cell damage by protecting them from toxins, and damage from unstable metabolites called free radicals.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are generated as byproducts of metabolism, so we produce them in the body naturally, but how much depends on the stresses presented in the body. We don’t want them to build up, as they bump into stuff (other cells) and cause damage.1 Think of them as active rust in cells and tissues. They can start a series of reactions contributing to aging.

The good news is that they can be terminated by antioxidants. Removing free radicals is important in preventing cell destruction or damage to DNA, which can lead to mutations and breakages that may result in cell damage as well as cancer growth or other diseases (including cardiovascular disease and diabetes).

Eliminating and disposing of free radicals from the body is accomplished through several mechanisms involving enzymes, (requiring microminerals like iron, zinc, manganese, etc.), paired with antioxidants. These beneficial compounds called antioxidants are the little scavengers of the bloodstream. This is why it is so crucial to have a steady stream of antioxidants and micronutrients delivered to the body in the most complete packages possible, from whole plant foods, (eat raw greens every day!).

Antioxidants

Vitamin C, for instance, serves as a defense against hydroxyl radicals. Vitamin E, being fat-soluble and therefore gravitating towards lipid-rich cell membranes, is especially effective at preventing peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, as are carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene, (think red, yellow, orange produce), which appears to quench singlet molecular oxygen, (more unstable than ground oxygen). These nutrients are antioxidants, and antioxidants tend to work together in scavenging radicals and quenching them – another reason to get them with all of their coenzymes and phytonutrients in whole plants.1

Most people simply don’t know the power of protecting their skin from the inside, by supplying nutrients for protection. Eating healthy, antioxidant rich foods can protect from the damage we put our skin through in life, as well as slow aging of cells and the wrinkles that appear with age.2    

Recent Research    

 A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at diet and skin aging.  After accounting for differences in age, smoking status, BMI, and lifetime sun exposure, there was still a clear link between eating low-fat, plant-based foods and a decrease in wrinkling. Those individuals who ate the most green and yellow vegetables had a significant decrease in their wrinkling score as opposed to those who ate a diet high in saturated fat. 3   Saturated fat is found in much larger quantities in animal-based foods (meat and dairy), oils (any oil, even olive), and processed foods.  

Multiple studies have found that dietary antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as carotenoids, tocopherols, and flavonoids have demonstrated protection against sun exposed skin damage. 4,5 These substances are found in abundance in plant-based foods.

A class of antioxidants known as anthocyanins found in blueberries and other purple fruit has been  shown to reduce the breakdown of collagen due to damage cause by UVB sun light exposure6 [18].

The pomegranate fruit, rich in antioxidants called phenolic compounds has demonstrated a number of beneficial effects on aging skin.  It actually helps thicken the outermost layer (epidermis), as well as the growth of new collagen fibers. It also prevents current collagen fibers from being broken down7 [19].

Green tea has been shown to be protective against ultra-violet radiation induced skin inflammation and damage.  The antioxidant group known as polyphenols are responsible for these beneficial effects in green tea.8

As Micaela Karlsen discusses in her article about Powders, Extracts, Oils, and Juices, you don’t have to try very hard to take in antioxidants; you just need to eat plant foods every day: “When we’re eating a colorful whole-food, plant-based diet, we don’t need to concern ourselves with antioxidant deficiency. It is when we eat a diet poor in fruits and vegetables (and therefore antioxidants) that we need to worry about getting enough of them. Processed foods contain few antioxidants, because they are stripped during processing. And the antioxidants present in animal foods reside in the animal’s tissues only because it consumed plants during its lifetime.

I also drink water throughout the day!

References:

  1. Gropper, Sareen S., Smith, Jack L., Groff, James L., Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 2005, p.386, 404, 417.
  2. Bonnefoy M, Drai J, Kostka T. Antioxidants to slow aging, facts and perspectives. Presse Med. 2002 Jul 27;31(25):1174-84.
  3. Nagata C, Nakamura K, Wada K, et al. Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. Br J Nutr. 2010 May;103(10):1493-8.
  4. Shapira N. Nutritional approach to sun protection: a suggested complement to external strategies. Nutr Rev. 2010 Feb;68(2):75-86.
  5. Sies H, Stahl W. Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight. Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:173-200.
  6. Bae JY, Lim SS, Kim SJ, et al. Bog blueberry anthocyanins alleviate photoaging in ultraviolet-B irradiation-induced human dermal fibroblasts. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Jun;53(6):726-38.
  7. Aslam MN, Lansky EP, Varani J. Pomegranate as a cosmeceutical source: pomegranate fractions promote proliferation and procollagen synthesis and inhibit matrix metalloproteinase-1 production in human skin cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Feb 20;103(3):311-8.
  8. Katiyar SK, Elmets CA. Green tea polyphenolic antioxidants and skin photoprotection (Review). Int J Oncol. 2001 Jun;18(6):1307-13.

Plant-Based Practice:  For the loveliest skin our body can produce, eat a variety of colorful vegetables every day. Add raw and cooked. Don’t sweat over how much, just add them at every meal and as snacks. - I am often complimented about my smooth and creamy skin. This is notable because my skin is presently 58 years old, and I have lived through a bit of teenage acne in my past. My personal insurance policy against damaged skin and wrinkles is eating green leafy veggies along with other colorful vegetables and fruits every day. It is the antioxidants from these plant foods that fight cell damage by protecting them from toxins, and damage from unstable metabolites called free radicals.

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