Beauty IS Skin Deep

by Dave on September 3, 2009

by Lisa Harkins, RD, LDN

from Coastal Sussex Weekly, September 3, 2009

What is the first thing people notice about a person?  Some would say eyes, or a smile, while many others agree the first thing they notice is skin.  Clear, blemish-free, radiant skin is an indicator of good health and what we as humans deem attractive.  But how does one get good skin? There are thousands of skin care products on the market, where does one begin? Well, this nutritionist will tell you: start with your plate!

The skin is our largest organ, and if stretched out flat would cover about two square yards and weigh about nine pounds.  It works hard every day protecting our bodies from external pathogens, regulating body temp, and preventing excessive water loss. It is also critical for the synthesis of vitamin D, and heals to form scar tissue when it is damaged.  Skin is made up of three layers, the Epidermis (or top layer), the Dermis (or middle layer) and the Subcutis layer (bottom layer). The outer most area of the epidermis is constantly being recreated every 3-4 weeks when new cells filled with keratin grow and rise from the inner layers, making their way to the top.  This top layer is then sloughed off making room for the newer cells.

It is this outermost layer that the beauty industry likes to target.  You can loofah, scrub, cream, lotion, and dermabrasion your way through those old cells to expose those newer, prettier and plumper ones, but without a proper diet rich in certain nutrients, all that money spent on treatments will go to waste!

According to Gloria Tsang, RD, and Editor-in-Chief of, the key to happy skin comes down to five things: Fiber, Omega-3s, vitamin C, silica, and water.  Fiber contains anti-aging antioxidants and helps eliminate toxins from our systems. Aim for about 25-30 grams per day or more for the best boost.  Omega-3s are touted for their heart-healthy benefits, but they also are very protective for skin, reducing the risk of skin cancer and keeping it supple. The American Heart Association recommends two servings (about eight ounces) of fatty fish per week (like salmon, tuna, and trout). If you prefer a fish oil supplement, 1,000mg daily is recommended, or about 2-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily will do the trick.

Vitamin C assists with the synthesis of the protein collagen, which is the glue that keeps healthy cells and tissues intact. It gives skin that plump, firm look we all want, so load up on your citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries and broccoli. Silica is in the parts of the fruits and veggies that most of us scrap – the strings and the peels. But it is also a key component to maintaining our skin’s elasticity. So eat that cucumber or potato with skin intact, munch on some celery or asparagus, or grate some fresh lemon rind in your next dish.  And of course, no healthy diet is complete without adequate water intake.  Water helps keep us hydrated and flushes waste, so aim for 6-8 eight ounce glasses per day, more if you are physically active or exposed to high temperatures.

Lisa Harkins is a clinical registered dietitian with Bayhealth Medical Centers and the owner of Ideal Nutrition and Fitness LLC.

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