Summer Oxidants can Damage Skin
Seattle summers are known to be gorgeous and the weather certainly brings us outdoors more. As a result, we spend more time in the sun, exposing our skin to ultraviolet light (UVL) and any toxins that could be floating around in the air. Through exposure to UVL and environmental toxins (they’re called oxidants), your skin becomes damaged through a process called oxidation. In order to prevent or repair the damage, your body will need antioxidants (haha - see what science did there?). Fortunately, there are specific nutrients that act as antioxidants to support and maintain skin health.
Omega-3 fats are a necessary antioxidant for your body to repair skin. It’s an important component of your skin’s cellular structure and contributes to the overall moisture content and flexibility of your skin (1). Omega-3s work in conjunction with Omega-6 fats, which are found in grains, meat and vegetable oil. Since our bodies don’t make Omega-3s, it’s important that we eat them. Omega-3 rich foods include salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. (Tip: the last two are super easy to add into a smoothie or oatmeal in the morning!)
Selenium is a mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant. It helps with elasticity, which is your skin’s natural ability to stretch and pull, and then return to normal(1). It’s essentially, the opposite of dry and brittle. Selenium is found in seafood and muscle meats - tuna, oysters, clams, chicken, etc (2). For those who prefer a vegan or vegetarian source, it can also be found in brazil nuts, sunflowers, and whole-wheat bread.
The ACE Vitamins
Vitamins A, C, and E act as powerful antioxidants, and the best way to remember them is by calling them the ACE Vitamins (3). They play key roles in the protection and repair of your skin’s cellular structures, especially when they are damaged by oxidants such as UVL and air-borne toxins. Strawberries, tomatoes, grapefruits, broccoli and kiwi are foods that are in high in Vitamin C. You can find Vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and bell peppers. Lastly, you’ll be able to get a good dose of Vitamin E in almonds, swiss chard, and avocados. (Tip: Vitamin A and E are fat-soluble, which means that your body needs to consume them with fats (plant oils or animal fats) in order for them to be absorbed into your system.)
Zinc also plays an important role in skin health. Aside from being a strong protective factor against sun damage, it’s also responsible for how your skin produces oil (1,4). (We can also talk about how important it is for your immune system, but let’s save that for another post.) Zinc-rich foods include oysters, beef and other red meats. For vegans and vegetarians, nuts and legumes are also good sources (5).
This mineral plays an important role in maintaining and strengthening your skin’s cellular structure (1). It contributes to overall elasticity and is essential for healing wounds. It’s also super important for your body’s connective tissue. Think of everything it needs to hold itself together - muslces, ligaments, cartilage, bone. You can find silica in green beans, cucumber, asparagus and rhubarb.
Eat in Food Form
It’s important that the above antioxidants are consumed in food form as much as possible and it’s something that I absolutely recommend. Too much of certain vitamins and minerals in a non-food and supplement form can be toxic and harmful to your health - especially vitamin A. When consumed in food form, our bodies have naturally built-in systems that process these nutrients to prevent toxicity.
While nutrition is always a great way to take care of your skin, nothing beats good old fashioned water and sleep. Make sure you hydrate in these warm months and listen to your body when it’s tired and needs rest. (Naps = awesome!) Here in Seattle, we have at least another month of solid sun so go out and enjoy the weather - and make sure you get those antioxidants in to combat those oxidants!
- Adams, M. “The Top Five Nutrients for Healthy Skin.” Natural News, 7 April, 2007. http://www.naturalnews.com/021773.html. Accessed August 23, 2016.
- “Selenium.” Linus Pauling Institute, 2016. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/selenium#food-sources. Accessed on August 23, 2016.
- Davison, R. “Eat Yourself Younger: My Top 5 Skin Nutrients.” Rosanna Davis Nutrition, May 20, 2015.http://www.rosannadavisonnutrition.com/eat-yourself-younger-my-top-five-skin-nutrients/. Accessed August 23, 2016.
- Rostan, EF, DeBuys, HV, Madey, DL, & Pinnell, SR. “Evidence supporting zinc as an important antioxidant for skin.” International Journal of Dermatology, 41, 9, 2002, 606-611.
- “Zinc.” Linus Pauling Institute, 2016. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc. Accessed on August 23, 2016.