Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Yes, skin is an organ, just like your heart and lungs. Your skin is your first layer of defense against disease, infection, and injury. It regulates your body temperature and houses the nerves that allow you to feel hot, cold, and pressure. Your skin holds your hair follicles, which produce the fine hair on your arms to the hair on your head. Your skin is key to your good health.
Fresh, beautiful skin takes good nutrition and hydration, plenty of sleep and exercise throughout your life, constant protection from the sun, gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and treatment of issues. There are heredity factors that affect your skin, but you can take everyday action for glowing skin that lasts a lifetime.
Nutrition fuels your body’s cells to regenerate so if you are nourishing your body with a combination of good lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and plenty of clean water, then you are well on your way to healthy, vibrant skin and hair.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are macronutrients that are important to balance. I prefer a diet that is lean protein-based with colorful fruits, cruciferous and dark leafy vegetables, legumes, and a few healthy fats from nuts and avocados.
Protein is my main fuel, so I keep it lean and fresh with eggs, fish, chicken, lean pork and beef, and tofu. Protein is the building block of your cells. I generally stay around 100 grams of protein a day over 5 smaller meals. This also helps me to manage my weight, feel satiated, and maintain my healthy blood sugar level.
Processed carbs like bread, rolls, crackers, pastas, and pastries are out. The simple carbs turn to sugar in your body. Clean carbs are the basis of my carb intake. It is important to have several servings of fruits and veg each day, preferably fresh fruits and veg with few sauces and no added sugar. For most serving sizes, a 1/2 cup will do. The one exception that I revel in is berries with a full cup, please. Almost daily, I enjoy a 1/2 cup of blueberries or raspberries and 1/2 cup of strawberries. For a treat, I top the bowl of fresh berries with a touch of whipped topping, and my fruit is ready to go along with 2 eggs for breakfast or 10 almonds for my morning snack! I generally keep my total carbs around 60 grams/net 40 grams each day.
Good fats are found in nuts like almonds, fish like salmon, and fruits like avocados. Fats keep your hair shiny and your skin supple. While I don’t focus on fats, I keep to a lower fat menu and really watch fat portions. You only need 1/4 of an avocado a day and 10 almonds – so count them out, don’t just grab a handful.
Vitamins and Minerals
Micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals, amino acids, fiber, etc… play an increasingly key role in overall health, healthy skin, and hair as more studies are conducted and outcomes reveal how important the small nutrients are to cell development, operation and turnover.
Think of vitamins and minerals A, C, D, E, B-complex (including Biotin), and Zinc as your beauty vitamins. Getting them through the good food you eat provides the best delivery and keeps you from over-doing it, which can lead to poisoning. Vitamin A is important for cell development and prevents aging. Vitamin C helps to build collagen in the skin providing clarity and structure. Vitamin D is a key element to the development of skin cells. Vitamin E helps with protecting and healing the skin. The B-complex vitamins are critical for processing food, cell development and contain Biotin, which also helps the hair and nails grow, and can prevent dermatitis and hair loss. Zinc reduces inflammation in the skin and promotes healing.
And now a few words about fiber! Love it! Just add lots of water! Why is fiber important? Well, yes, of course, it prevents constipation by promoting regular bowel movements, which is important to eliminating toxins from the body. Researchers are looking at how fiber ferments in the bowels to prevent diverticulitis (pouches that form in the colon causing abdominal pain and diarrhea/constipation) and other bowel diseases like colorectal cancers. But fiber also helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy weight by forcing you to take more time chewing, which allows time for your satiation gears to kick in, making you feel fuller – and hopefully, eat less. Why add water? Water keeps the fiber flowing through your digestive system. Fiber without water is very uncomfortable and an experience you really want to avoid! I aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber every day. With a menu high in fibrous foods, this should be easy to obtain.
Begin looking a the food labels as you prepare your menus and determine if you are getting the daily recommended amount of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber for good health. A great resource that I use is: NutritionData.org. You can search for a general type of food and then get more specific, even down to the way it is prepared! It gives you a variety of information on macro and micronutrients. And the database is massive!
Include Your Doctor
Trying to understand what your personal calorie intake should be, the level of vitamins, minerals, and fiber for each day is a perfect discussion for you and your doctor or registered dietitian to have, and have again each and every year at your annual check-up or during regular sessions, as needed. Why is this important? Well, some supplements interfere or amplify the effects of medications or other supplements. For example, Calcium (Ca) interferes with Iron (Fe) absorption in the body. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice give statin takers real issues. Vitamin D, Calcium, Zinc (Zn), and Magnesium (Mg) taken together help the body absorb more of each nutrient. Working with your health care professional on foods, medications, and supplements is important to giving your body the best fuel! So you need to work with a professional to develop a plan just for you.
You may find that it is difficult to reach the vitamin, mineral, and fiber levels you personally need in a caloric range that is right for you. This is a difficulty I have faced, so I do take supplements to help me reach my goals. Supplements are a tool to help me, with my focus on getting as much of my nutrition from fresh, delicious, whole food.
Water: The Key to Hydration
And now let’s talk about water! I used to loathe water! There, I’ve said it. And now I know why – sugar, my nemesis! Everything I drank had sugar in it from my morning coffee and juice to sodas to cocktails at night. Wow! Noticed that I never mentioned drinking water!
Water is essential to your body as it keeps systems hydrated, cleansed and clear. Water makes up about 50-65% of your body. Specifically, for your skin, water flushes the skin and greatly increases its density, while reducing its thickness. Water also supports the internal systems that help the skin stay healthy by removing toxins, regulating body temperature, etc…
Today, I do have coffee, but I’ve stopped adding sugar. I rarely have juices as I prefer to eat my fruits and vegetables getting vital fiber. Sodas really altered my palate so that I could not enjoy the water. My tongue wanted sugar, sugar, and more sugar. After I dumped sodas, there was a real change in my ability to taste within about two weeks. And alcohol… I still drink a glass or two on the weekends, but my days of margaritas are over.
Every morning, I fill a cute pitcher (80 oz) with water. I’ll put pieces of lemon, cucumber, or fruit to infuse the water. And it stays on the counter or my desk until it is empty! I also have green tea each afternoon as a pick me up and chamomile tea at night to help me relax. Instead of a cocktail, I’ll have sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice in it. When I do drink alcohol, I look at low carb versions like a glass of bubbly (brut champagne/sparkling wine) or vodka/gin with diet tonic water or club soda. When I’m at parties, I alternate cocktails with a glass of water or club soda.
Healthy Day’s Menu
So what does a day of healthy nutrition look like? Here’s my menu for today!
Pre-Breakfast: 8 oz of water with 1/4 lemon juice
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with 1 tsp of sour cream and 1 cup of berries with 1 TBS of whipped cream; 1 large coffee with 2 TBS of creamer; morning supplements
Morning Snack: 10 almonds and 1/2 of an apple; 8 oz of infused water
Lunch: salad – 2 1/2 cup of dark greens, 1/2 of red cabbage, 1/4 cup of black beans, 1.5 oz of grilled chicken, 1/4 avocado, 2 TBS of salsa for dressing; 2 oz glasses of infused water
Afternoon Snack: Pure Protein Chocolate Shake; 8 oz of infused water; 8 oz hot green tea
Dinner: 3 oz of baked Tilapia with lemon, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli with 1 TBS of gorgonzola cheese sauce; 8 ox of infused water; 8-16 oz of chamomile tea; evening supplements
Supplements: I split my supplements up for AM and PM dosing
Start today improving your skin for life! Fueling your body with lean proteins, fresh veg and fruit, good fats, and plenty of water will help you begin to see improvements within a month! And the best part is, you’ll be giving all of your systems a real boost!