Choosing Nuts and Seeds for Skin Health and Appearance
When you think of better skin, do you think of creams, powders, laser treatments or masks? Most people do, but this is a treatment that focuses only on the outside of the skin. Providing proper hygiene, sun protection & moisture levels to skin while avoiding irritation is an important part of making your skin look and feel great… but have you considered repairing your skin from within?
External methods are not the only ones you can use to achieve better skin health. By eating the right foods, you give your body the ingredients it needs to form strong, elastic, and healthy skin from the inside out. Your skin is a complex organ that needs proteins, oils, vitamins, and minerals to perform at its best.
There are cell membranes (consisting of fatty acids), collagen, elastin (fibers that give skin a firmer quality), cell pigments, and hydration levels to watch out for. It sounds complicated, but adding delicious nuts & seeds to your menu can make it easier for you.
Anti-Oxidant – what is it & how does it work to save your skin?
Antioxidants are substances you need to protect yourself from free radical damage. The best way to get your anti-oxidants, is to eat them. Because you really are “what you eat”, the right foods supply a lot of free radical scavengers. To learn how they both work, you need to know: what are free radicals?
These nasty molecules can be a byproduct of normal metabolism. Free radical damage can also be caused by exposure to pollutants in your environment, food or drink. Since your skin is a barrier between you & the outside world, it will be exposed to all kinds of threats throughout the day it fights. Everyone is exposed to free radicals as part of everyday life, so it’s important to know what they do and how you can minimize their effect on you.
Free radicals are formed when a molecule has an unpaired electron and becomes unstable. When a molecule is unstable, it will steal electrons from the closest object it encounters. (usually the cells in your body) Then, the robbed molecules become free radicals themselves, looking for spare electrons to use to re-stabilize them.
They can damage almost anything they come into contact with, which is why the immune system sometimes creates them, and uses them as weapons against invaders deemed dangerous. Because free radicals can set chain reactions by stealing electrons from the molecules that make up your cells, they can cause inflammation, cell damage, and signs of premature aging. It is in your best interest to fight free radicals with antioxidants.
Omega 3 Oil
Omega 3 is an oil commonly associated with cold water fish and heart health. However, if you don’t like fish or are concerned about pollution, the good news is that you can get it from plants too. Chia seeds are actually the highest plant source of omega 3s, and also the easiest, because they taste like nothing. Unlike sesame or poppy, you can sprinkle chia on any food you like, get your omega 3 oil, and not change the taste at all.
This is very important, because you should try to get omega 3 oil every day, and using chia helps ensure you don’t get bored or quit… because it’s too easy to use in a variety of foods. Flaxseeds & walnuts are also great sources of omega 3s, but you have to like the taste.
What do omega 3s do for you?
ALA, the simplest omega 3 (which your body can’t produce, so you have to take it) has been studied to reduce skin redness & help retain moisture which, as you know, helps reduce fine lines. This oil is important for cell membranes, which cells use to hold the right amount of water. Healthy membranes equal healthy moisture levels in your cells. You’ve seen all the moisturizer ads, now you can hydrate your skin from within.
Your body cannot make this vitamin, so you must get it from the food you eat. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant. There are supplements available, but it is best to avoid synthetic E, for health purposes. Natural E, as found in popular foods like avocados, nuts, chia seeds, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and even spinach are your best bets. When you’re craving E, almonds are your go-to nut. You only need about 15 mg per day for healthy skin—a very small amount that is easily obtained from food.
Almonds are number one, but if you don’t like them, don’t worry because apples, tomatoes & hazelnuts (yes your favorite hazelnut chocolate spread probably has an E too!) has an E too. E is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means it can only be absorbed by the body if there is a small amount of healthy fat around when you eat it. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure there are healthy fats around when you eat tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes or apples. Other foods on the list like almonds, peanuts, and avocados already provide their own healthy vegetable fats, so you don’t need to combine them with anything else to get your E. coli.
This mineral is anti-inflammatory. You already know that excessive inflammation is not good for the skin, but zinc has been studied to help speed up the renewal of skin cells when cells are damaged. This is important for the appearance of the skin because external influences such as UV rays from the sun & pollution in the air can cause damage or irritation to the skin. Zinc also strengthens the T-cells of the immune system that fight off threats such as bacteria or viruses that will try to injure your skin. It has been studied to help fight acne & skin problems in general, helping them heal faster when there is enough zinc available in the body.
Most plant-sourced zinc is difficult for your body to use. It’s abundant in red meat & fish, but what if you’re a vegetarian? It is also present in eggs, as well as some fortified milk & cereals. Pumpkin seeds, chia, sesame, lentils (beans and seeds), cashews & quinoa all contain plant-based zinc.
It should be borne in mind that vegetable zinc is less bio-available than zinc in red meat, fish, shellfish and shrimp, although the topic of seed soaking is being researched to increase the bio-availability of zinc. Always ask the doctor if you should supplement (cheap & small zinc vitamins) especially if you have a skin condition that you want to fight.
You already know fiber is beneficial for digestion & cholesterol levels, but did you know that fiber is also beneficial for your skin? Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps slow the body’s conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. This reduces insulin spikes, which in turn, reduces inflammation. Inflammation (especially recurring episodes) affects most skin conditions AND how the skin ages. Maintain inflammation to keep your skin looking fresh.
Foods that increase insulin include sugar & white flour (starch that turns directly into sugar during digestion) Foods high in white flour or sugar are usually also low or 0 fiber foods. Maintain your insulin levels even for stable energy & reduce inflammation by eating fiber rich foods with every meal.
Beans are a type of grain, but no one wants black beans or peas at breakfast. Oatmeal & bran are 2 good choices at breakfast, especially when you consider all the fun and fast new ways to make delicious oatmeal. How about yogurt? Or smoothies? Chia seeds have 2 types of fiber to help you: soluble & insoluble. In the case of low-fiber yogurt, a spoonful of chia turns it into a high-fiber snack without changing the taste.
Magnesium works together with two other minerals to promote overall health and skin health. It aids in calcium absorption, especially when paired with the trace mineral boron. Chia seeds have all three of these minerals in one small package. Magnesium is essential for enzymes that repair skin cell DNA and for regulating the right amount of fatty acids to help build healthy cell walls. It can also reduce skin allergies caused by histamine.
You can supplement with magnesium pills, but a healthy diet can easily include magnesium-rich foods so your body can absorb this healthy mineral naturally. Dark green leafy vegetables are #1 for magnesium, but Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds and lentils are also good sources. Brazil nuts may not be very common, but sunflower seeds can add crunch to salads, lentils are great for soups & stews, and tahini (sesame seed paste) is an interesting ingredient to spice up a recipe.
Most people think of protein for muscle building, increased exercise or weight loss, however, it is important for healthy, younger-looking skin. There are 20 amino acids you need for good health. Your body can make everything but 9.9 of these acids that you need to consume in the foods you eat, which is where the term ‘complete protein’ comes from. Your body converts amino acids into protein for faster & healthier nail growth, healthy hair follicles and supple skin. Collagen & elastin are protein-based fibers that give skin its quality, bounce back elasticity for a youthful look.
Quinoa (a grain), chia (which has a complete protein, like that found in meat), peanut butter, flaxseed, soybeans (but watch out for plant estrogens), black beans with rice (wild or not) and spirulina are all rich in protein. Of course, meat, eggs & dairy have it too. Adequate protein will fight bags under the eyes, and help balance blood sugar because it is metabolized slowly.
A varied meal plan with lots of healthy, colorful plant-based foods enriches your health and skin… but did you notice one seed that falls into every nutritional category related to skin health? Only chia seeds fit near the top of each category. It’s also the only item without its own flavor. The value of chia lies in its ability to be added to almost any other food you already enjoy without changing its taste. Its small, inconspicuous seeds can be used with every meal to improve your skin & overall health.