By Sue Ingebretson
“Gee, you don’t look sick.” That’s a common phrase heard in the fibromyalgia and chronic illness community. It’s frustrating to know that the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s going on inside. We may look “fine,” yet we wear the internal scars of relentless pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction.
But, sometimes we don’t look all that great on the outside either. Sleepless nights, digestive dysfunction and other endless symptoms take their toll.
Have your friends ever said to you, “Wow you look tired today!” or, “What’s eating you, you look wiped out!” Friends can get away with that. Good friends might even say something that’s cringe worthy. Not because of their intention to be cruel, but because of the honesty and truth behind the remark.
Nutrition professionals can get away with telling you how you look, too. They can read your skin like a story book. I once had a Naturopath look at my face and tell me I had problems with digestion, insomnia, malnourishment, significant nutrient deficiencies, and severe food allergies. She was just getting warmed up. I won’t deny that she impressed and depressed me at the same time.
I had no idea that my exterior – namely, my skin – had that much to say.
This makes me think of cereal boxes I wanted my mother to buy when I was a kid. We rarely had packaged breakfast foods, and the colorful boxes lining the shelves at the grocery store looked as if they held wonders untold.
The kids and the cartoony characters printed on the box fronts looked cheerful and fun-loving. My naïve assumption was that their glee stemmed from their access to the plastic treasure inside. Who wouldn’t want a Honeycomb watch, a Josie and the Pussycats spoon, or a Kellogg’s baking soda powered submarine? I sure did.
What I wanted even more was a plastic yellow bowl shaped like a banana. It required 3 box tops of some such cereal (I simply don’t remember and won’t bother blaming it on fibrofog). What I do remember was painstakingly completing the cardboard form, writing the address on the envelope, affixing a stamp, and walking it downtown to mail.
Somewhere between 1971 and the turn of the century, I stopped hanging out at the post office waiting for its arrival. It never came.
And, at some point in those 28 years, I recognized that the outside of product packaging is a representation of what’s inside. Just like our skin, for example, which is one of our greatest “advertisements” of inner health. Our complexion has a lot to say about what’s going on with our digestion, hormones, our body’s ability to detoxify, and much more. We may display interesting features on the outside, but what’s truly remarkable is the inner workings of the human body.
This isn’t simple sentiment.
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Our internal health – the health of our digestive system in particular – is reflected in exterior appearances such as our skin’s elasticity, thickness, dryness, wrinkles, rashes, discolorations, and more. Healthy foods not only keep our digestive system running smoothly, they help us to heal from the inside out.
What we eat determines how we feel and how healthy we look. In Chinese medicine, many diseases are primarily diagnosed based on notable clues found on the skin, hair, nails, and tongue.
When you think of food and healthy skin, what comes to mind? You’re probably thinking of using an avocado as a facial mask and cucumbers to reduce the bags around your eyes. The purpose of this article is to go beneath the surface. Many foods, when eaten, can target changes in the health and vitality of our skin. It’s said that beauty is only skin deep. But, true health is deeper than that. Dynamic health is reflected in beautiful skin, for certain. And whole body health is where it begins.
Would you like to have a healthy inner and outer glow about you?
The benefits of the following healthy, nutrient-rich foods impact more than just your skin, but why not take advantage of all that they have to offer? There are dozens of foods that help our skin to look its best.
Here are my top 10 favorites!
Top 10 Beauty Foods
- Water – Yes, water is a nutrient. We’ve all become accustomed to lugging a bottle, jug, or jar of H2O everywhere we go, but why is it good for the skin? To start, water is a great detox. It flushes out toxins and wastes leaving our skin looking healthier and younger. By staying adequately hydrated on the inside, our skin has its best chance at looking healthy and hydrated on the outside.
- Salmon –Have you had your omega-3’s today? We hear a lot about these essential fatty acids because they fight heart disease and are known for cancer prevention. But if you’re looking for results you can see, salmon combats dry, flaky skin, inflammation, and even helps to prevent sun damage to your skin. And salmon isn’t the only fish in the sea that’s a good catch. Herring, mackerel, and anchovies can be good choices, too.
- Dark Greens (veggies) – I’ve lumped together a bunch of great veggies here because green veggies provide outstanding health benefits. Look for spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, and a whole variety of mixed greens to provide you with folate and vitamins A, B’s, and C for starters. They provide skin cell renewal benefits as well as energy and infection-fighting components. Don’t we all look better when we feel healthy and energized?
- Nut and Fats – Here again, the omega-3’s boost the skin’s healthy appearance similar to expensive “plumpers” without the damaging effects of toxic ingredients. And another thing – have you ever noticed those nuisance bumps on the backs of your upper arms? What some call “chicken skin,” may be caused by an essential fatty acid deficiency. For me, increasing my healthy fat consumption made a big difference. Nuts (try walnuts, cashews, and/or macadamias) can help as well as the above-mentioned fish. Don’t forget to add quality healthy oils such as olive, avocado, flax, coconut, and walnut. Almonds happen to be a great source of vitamin E which is well-known for its moisturizing and antioxidant benefits. We don’t want to age any faster than we have to!
- Seeds – At the risk of sounding like a broken record, flax seeds happen to be one of the healthiest sources of omega-3’s. Don’t care for fish? Add flax and/or chia seeds to salads, smoothies, berries or your use as a topping for roasted veggies. For more information on the health benefits of chia seeds, check out this Tiny Superfood article. Essential fatty acids have even been known to unclog the pores of your skin preventing acne and other blemishes.
- Sweet Potatoes – We haven’t talked much yet about antioxidants, so here we go. Free radicals might sound good (because they’re free), but they’re not good. Free radical damage causes premature aging. Antioxidants (found in many brightly colored veggies, fruits, and berries) help to reduce the causes of aging to our skin. Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A making them a great choice for potential healing and reduction of skin blemishes and discoloration. To learn more about phytonutrients and the antioxidant benefits they provide, check out this article, “Phytonutrients for Fibromyalgia Recovery.”
- Green Tea – The medicinal benefits of tea have been studied for decades. The catechins found in green tea, in particular, have been linked to protection from skin cancer as well as faster healing from skin problems. The antioxidant properties of tea are also reported to prevent premature aging, wrinkling, and sagging of skin. Some studies refer to topical application as well as drinking the tea.
- Mangoes – As with sweet potatoes, mangoes contain powerhouse nutrients to fight the causes of aging. Besides the A, B’s, & C vitamins, mangoes provide vital minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron, making them a perfect addition to a post-workout salad or smoothie. The enzymes found in mangoes help the body to eliminate food wastes and toxins, also benefitting the look of the skin.
- Berries – Dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and raspberries make a smart choice for those seeking to lower their sugar intake. Glycation (the result of excess sugar in the body) is responsible for skin damage (dryness, stiffness, and loss of elasticity) among other things. The antioxidant compounds in berries reduce inflammation and further deterioration of the delicate layers of the skin. They also play a strong role in the production of collagen, a strong building component to healthy skin.
- Avocados – As mentioned before, you can use avocado topically as a great hydrating and nourishing skin mask. But why stop there? Avocados contain healthy fats, fiber, and an abundance of hydrating and nourishing nutrients for the skin. Vitamins like niacin and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc all provide vibrant skin health benefits. Enjoy avocados in your salads, smoothies, scrambled eggs and more. Here’s another great kitchen tip. Experiment with substituting mashed avocado in recipes that call for mayonnaise. Most store bought mayo contains unhealthy highly processed oils and avocado makes a powerfully healthy alternative.
There you have it! Ten foods to help your skin look its best. But, I’ve got one more. Here’s another face-friendly BONUS food:
Dark Chocolate – Look for dark chocolate with a minimum of 60% cacao and the least amount of sugar possible. To learn more about the scientific health benefits of dark chocolate, you may wish to review this article, “Fibromyalgia and Chocolate.” Chocolate rich in minimally processed cocoa contains flavanols which are known to preserve blood vessel health. Promoting a healthy blood supply to the skin can keep you looking vibrant and youthful to say nothing of the beautiful smile that comes from nibbling on a bit of rich, dark, delicious chocolate.
Now that you know a bit more about the relationship between healthy food and healthy skin, make a point to browse your grocery store’s produce department. Stop by your local farmer’s market and select vibrantly colored vegetables and berries. Try new recipes at home with healthy fish, quality oils, nuts, and seeds. The benefits you’ll see in the mirror will match the benefits of how young these foods will make you feel. Enjoy!
~Robert C. Peale
Sue Ingebretson is the Natural Healing Editor for ProHealth.com as well as a frequent contributor to ProHealth’s Fibromyalgia site. She’s an Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and workshop leader. Additionally, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. You can find out more and contact Sue at www.RebuildingWellness.com.
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