Aging is kind of a bummer, am I right?
Even though our mothers gave us the heads-up that things are going to change, we then wake up one morning (approx. age 35 for me) and realize that 1) Things HAVE changed, along with 2) Mom was right…AGAIN . And unfortunately, our skin is usually where we see the effects of aging in our bodies first. From dryness, to volume loss and fine lines, to perhaps even the oh-so-unfair adult onset acne, time has a way of wreaking havoc on our once pristine skin.
But the great news is, we can reduce these effects by nourishing our skin from the inside, out. And as a registered dietitian, I’m here to provide a few proven nutrition tips and real-life tricks, to nourish your skin to help keep it glowing and healthy for years to come.
Nutrition Tip #1 – Eat the Rainbow
Stay with me, here! I know you are tired of hearing that you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, but you really need to eat more fruits and veggies - if not for your waistline, at least for your skin. A wide variety of these in your diet on the regular will ensure you are fueling your body with lots of antioxidants , which are essentially your internal front-line defense against an army of free radicals.
Free radicals are the bad guys. Without getting too geeky here, free radicals are the result of oxidative stress1, and they like to bust up our normal, healthy cells and make a bit of a mess. This process is believed the key contributor to many negative side effects of aging by many scientists, and has even been connected to the development of cancers, atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. So not only your skin, but your whole body will thank you for eating more fruits and vegetables, to aid in reinforcing your front line defense against aging.
Cheat Sheet to Antioxidants: Vitamins, Carotenoids, & Flavonoids (oh my!)
• Vitamin C, one of the most well-known vitamins in our food supply for being an overall powerhouse nutrient, is found in citrus fruits, berries, leafy green vegetables, green peppers, broccoli and more.
• Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it is best absorbed when combined with a little bit of healthy fat (such as olive oil or avocado). Sources include wheat germ, nuts, seeds, whole grains, & green leafy vegetables.
• Beta Carotene , which converts to Vitamin A in the body through metabolic processes, is found in brightly colored fruits & vegetables such as carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, collard greens, kale, and more.
• Lutein , which is famous for eye health, can be found in okra, red pepper, kale, spinach, collard greens, and other green leafy veggies.
• Flavonoids are a subset of polyphenol compounds that are naturally found in many plant-based foods. Without boring you to tears with the MANY types of polyphenols and flavonoids, the bottom line is that these are powerful antioxidants. As a rule, most fruits and vegetables contain some combination of these various compounds, and scientists are still learning more about their functionality in the body. Find higher concentrations of these guys in berries, grapes, red wine (resveratrol, in particular), coffee, dark chocolate, and nuts.
The Trick to Fruits and Vegetables? Don’t overthink it, just do it! Aim for 2-3 servings of fruit daily, and 5 servings of veggies daily. Or make ½ of your meal fruits and vegetables at all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) if you don’t want to count servings. And make (or seek out) plant-based juices or smoothies, vegetable-based soups & stews, and salads to help you sneak in the goodness without the overthinking & drama.
Nutrition Tip #2 – Don’t Skimp on Protein
In our busy, package-food driven American lifestyle, it is very easy to rely on high-carb convenience foods (5-minute mac & cheese, anyone?). Yes, we can merely survive on such foods, but it is certainly not ideal. Besides missing out on the anti-aging goodness from fruits and vegetables, we also miss out on much-needed protein which is crucial to maintaining lean body mass (aka, muscle, and that sexy shape of yours!), and providing our skin with the essential building blocks to support collagen regeneration (aka, skin firmness & youthful appearance).
Dietary protein, whether from plants or meat, is broken down into amino acids in the body. These amino acids then go to work in thousands of different metabolic reactions, including the regeneration and building of muscle tissue, as well as the regeneration of collagen density in the skin. Therefore, if you skimp on quality protein in your diet, it is possible to not only lose valuable muscle mass, but you may also put your skin appearance at risk. And since the body’s ability to regenerate collagen declines as we age, this can be a double-whammy to your skin’s fullness and overall integrity. No bueno.
So, do you need to become a meat-head to help keep your skin looking great? Absolutely not! Instead, follow these general protein guidelines & tricks to make sure you’re giving your body what it needs.
✔ Make sure to include a source of protein at each meal or snack. This will help stabilize blood sugar levels, too! Great examples include:
• Breakfast smoothie, made with 1 cup of almond milk, 1 cup of berries, ice, and 1-2 scoops of vegetarian-based protein powder.
• Mid-morning snack of a medium banana with 2 tablespoons peanut butter
• Make lunch a large mixed green salad topped with 3-4oz of grilled chicken or salmon
• Mid-afternoon snack of carrots, cherry tomatoes, and a piece of mozzarella string cheese
• For dinner, a bowl homemade chili made with ground chicken or turkey, served with a colorful side salad.
✔ When choosing convenience bars (such as protein bars, breakfast bars, etc.), look for 7-14g of protein for a snack, 20-25g of protein for a meal replacement.
✔ If you are vegan, or avoid dairy, make sure to read the nutrition panels for milk substitutes (almond, soy, cashew, etc.) to check protein content. It may be wise to add 1 scoop of a vegan or vegetarian protein powder to the milk to increase protein content (aim for 7-14g/serving in milk or milk substitutes).
Nutrition Tip #3 - Hydrate & Supplement
Water, water, water!
Granted, 100% juices, fruits, vegetables, soups, and other beverages all contribute to your bodies overall hydration status, but good ol’ H2O sure does a body (and skin) good. Especially if you travel frequently on planes, or live in a very hot climate (whether dry or humid). Unfortunately, everyone has different fluid needs, but the longstanding recommendation has been a “minimum of 64oz of water daily”. While recent studies do not claim this to be a hard rule for adequate hydration for everyone, it certainly doesn’t hurt to aim for this amount.
As for supplements, make sure to look for products that are based on the latest science, and have specific studies listed to support their formulation. Obviously, as a dietitian I have not only thoroughly reviewed, but have also tried the Taut Premium Collagen Supplement Drink, and this is a supplement that I am confident in recommending to those who are looking to support their anti-aging skin health & nutrition regimen. In addition to tasting great (bonus!), this quick & easy supplement is a great way to combine the power of antioxidants with hydrolyzed collagen protein to support skin health and fight aging, from the inside, out!