The Best Diet for Your Skin
Everyone wants to eat a healthy diet for a youthful, fit, healthy body. But we also want to look young too. Sometimes, believe it or not, these goals can be at odds with one another — nutritional health trends do not always correlate to great skin!
But, the last thing I wanted to do with this post was present another run-of-the-mill bit of nutritional advice. Let’s face it, if one more expert out there tells me to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, I’m going to throw up. I really am tired of the standard blah advice — one of the reasons I started FutureDerm in the first place!
So, without further ado, here are some unusual (but accurate) nutritional tips for your best skin ever:
1.) Stop cooking food at high temperatures.
Score one for the Instant Pot: Advanced glycation end products are formed when sugars, fats, and proteins are heated at high temperatures, as when food is grilled, broiled, or microwaved (Larsen).
According to the best-selling anti-aging book Ending Aging, advanced glycation endproducts (appropriate acronym: AGE) play an important role in the aging of all of the cells of your body, including within the skin. AGEs come from the processing of blood sugar via the Maillard pathway. The advanced glycation endproduct called glucosepane is believed to be in some part responsible for the toughened, hardened state of aged collagen in your skin.
However, according to Larsen, slow-cooked meals are prepared at lower temperatures than those from a stove or microwave, and hence should not form as many advanced glycation end products in your skin cells.
2.) Avoid a low- or no-carb diet.
One study I love to talk about (particularly as a carb lover): In a 2005 study by Beisswenger, patients were put on the Atkins diet, and it was found that the rate of AGE formation was actually doubled. (The patients were proven to be following the diet and appropriately “in ketosis” by the presence of ketones in their urine.) This means that eating low- or no-carb diets can theoretically lead your skin to get to that less-resilient, non-supple, more-brittle phase faster.
So while I know that simple carbohydrates turn to sugar in your bloodstream, which then in turn causes insulin to be released, which in turn causes more fat storage, what I recommend is going to complex carbohydrates. Think sweet potatoes, quinoa, millet, whole-grain pasta, and berries and vegetables regularly — not simple carbohydrates like potato chips, candy, white rice, bread, or the like.
For the ultra-scientific, it seems that ketosis doubles the presence of methylglyoxal (see 3 above) in the body, which react with Amadori products, forming twice the AGE products that would normally be present. It is further notable that methylglyoxal is 40000 times more reactive than blood sugar itself, so it seems that avoiding sugar in hopes of decreasing AGE formation is incredibly counterproductive. It thereby seems to be the best advice to eat a well-balanced diet, with sugars in moderation, but certainly not restricted as in the Atkins diet.
3.) Eat protein in moderation.
“Old skinny” is how celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder puts it. According to Snyder, digesting protein creates all sorts of by-products in the body like purines, uric acid, and ammonia, which create acidity in the body. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D., it may also increase free radical damage and cross-linking (again, associated with wrinkles, brittle collagen, and aging), and deplete the body’s energy.
The book The China Study also talks about strong correlations between animal protein and dairy consumption (two sources of protein) and cancer. As Dr. Campbell, the study’s author, states: “Animal-based foods are linked to higher breast cancer rates; plant-based foods are linked to lower rates.”
That said, it’s hard to get a straight answer about how much protein to eat. For instance, the World Health Organization recommends about 5% of daily calories from protein — that’s 100 calories/day, or 11 grams of protein/day of a 2000 calorie diet. On the other hand, the FDA recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram we weigh, which means for a 120-pound woman, is 43.2 grams of protein/day. (For a 150 pound woman, that’s 54 grams of protein/day)! That’s a huge gap between 11 grams and 43+ grams — who to trust?!
Based on the information out there, I think it’s wise to eat protein in a way that makes sense. Half a plate of vegetables, a quarter of a plate with carbs, and a quarter of a plate with protein, about 4 ounces per meal. Don’t overload yourself with protein, but don’t avoid it, either.
4.) Slow digestion = fast aging. 2-3 meals/day, that’s it.
We are told that eating often will stabilize blood sugar. But according again to nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, grazing all day accelerates aging. The slower foods pass through your system, the greater the chance of them creating fermented matter, putrefaction, and methane-based gas — all of which contribute to aging. As Snyder says, “More Grazing = More Aging!”
5.) Intermittent fasting — eat only 8, 10, or 12 hours per day.
We also see the “More Grazing = More Aging!” idea proved out in reverse with intermittent fasting (IF). With IF, you eat only 8, 10, or 12 hours of the day, or you can choose to eat only 5 days a week, and fast the other two. Regardless of method, IF is associated with blood sugar stabilization (Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences), better brain aging (Aging Research Reviews), and lower rates of inflammation (Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism).
6.) Get the most antioxidants you can from fruits and veggies.
According to the American Chemical Society, strawberries are the best fruit for your skin. The ACS compared the antioxidant activities of twelve common fruits via ORAC score, and the results were the following:
- 1. Strawberry
- 2. Plum
- 3. Orange
- 4. Red grape
- 5. Kiwi fruit
- 6. Pink grapefruit
- 7. White grape
- 8. Banana
- 9. Apple
- 10. Tomato
- 11. Pear
- 12. Honeydew melon
As far as vegetables go, the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score of 27 vegetables were compared, and artichokes, beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, red chicory, red chili, and yellow pepper had the highest ORAC score, indicating that these vegetables have the highest antioxidant activity.
Bottom Line on Your Diet
From the readings I’ve done, it seems that the best way to keep your skin looking younger for longer is to eat each food group moderately — fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Too little fat, and your skin looks less plump. Too much fat, and circulation is impaired. Too little protein, and your skin is not getting the building blocks it needs to repair itself. Too much protein, and your cells are putting out a lot of free radicals in digesting it. Too little carbs, and your skin is wrinkling and cross-linking itself in ketosis. Too many carbs, and aging features like a double chin and jowls tend to form.
While it may not be hip, cool, or trendy, if you want to look your best, eat from each of the food groups at each meal (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). For bonus points, slow-cook your food, and, yes (yawn!), load up on fruits and vegetables.