We all know that good nutrition is a recipe for healthy bodies and skin, and many countries have a national food guide to help their citizens meet their essential vitamin, mineral, and nutrient requirements. China, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada and the United States each have guides. Most nations recognize four food groups: vegetables and fruits, grain products, dairy and dairy equivalents, and protein in the form meat and its alternatives.
A good example of a national food guide is the United States Department of Agriculture Daily Food Guide. It allows you to have an idea of the foods that you will need each day. Also remember that the types of protein, fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates will vary depending on where you live.
In the United States and Canada bread, cereals, and pasta are popular carbohydrates that serve as the base of the food pyramid. In Asia corn, rice, legumes, seed, and nuts provide the foundation for the diet. Meat and poultry are the forms of protein most often consumed in North America whereas tofu, fish, and shellfish are proteins consumed most in Asia.
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Daily Food Guide
The food pyramid is a handy guide to show you how to eat a healthy and balanced diet every day. This is not a strict guide and obviously every person has different needs, depending on a wide range of factors such as age, sex, weight, and height.
The foods at the base or the bottom of the pyramid are the ones that you should eat the most of, but it is important to note the size of the portions that are recommended. Six to eleven servings of three ounces (85 g) of whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, crackers, or pasta are recommended each day. This means no “super-size” servings.
Additionally, it is important to minimize sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates including potatoes, white rice, and pasta that can cause blood sugar to spike and create free radicals (that are harmful to your skin).
Fruits and Vegetables
Two to four servings of fruits and three to five servings of vegetables are recommended daily. Remember to include dark green and orange colored vegetables in your diet, since these will provide your body with the most nutrients.
The higher up on the pyramid a food is, the less you should consume of it. Protein-rich meats, poultry, and fish should be eaten less often than fruits, vegetables, and other healthy carbohydrates. Although these foods are important in cellular repair, selecting the correct type of protein-rich foods is important.
For poultry, remove the skin on the chicken or turkey, which removes much of the fat. Fish is always a good choice, but some types are actually high in cholesterol, such as shrimp, or high in fat, like salmon, and so consumption should be moderate.
Dairy is an important source of calcium that is responsible for strong bones and the health of your teeth. Calcium is particularly important for women during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. The daily intake requirements increase during these periods of life. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, and fish bones (sardines, mackerel) are great sources of calcium. Select fat-free or low-fat milk and other dairy products.
Fats and Oils
Everyone needs some fat in their diet. It helps absorb some vitamins and helps you to feel full. Some fats actually protect against heart disease, improve brain health and may protect against cancers. Look for fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna. Also, extra-virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil provide the right types of fat for your diet.
We have mentioned several foods that are rich in antioxidants. It is important to understand why it is vital to have a diet rich in antioxidants. Free radicals are generated by ultraviolet light, smoking, pollution, and normal cellular functions.
Free radicals produce inflammation that damages skin cells, leading to skin cancers and premature aging. Antioxidants act as free radical scavengers to prevent or reduce inflammation and subsequent damage to your skin cells. The skin’s antioxidant reservoir is derived primarily from foods. Dietary antioxidants include vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (tocopherol).
Vitamins and Your Skin
So you might wonder how vitamins C and E can directly help your skin. A recent study demonstrated that the skin of individuals who ingested vitamins C and E for three months had less sunburn when exposed to the ultraviolet B burning rays of the sun.
Also, there was less damage to the cell’s DNA after ultraviolet B radiation, which indicates that these two vitamins can protect against DNA damage. Other vitamins, such as vitamin A, have been found to maintain and repair skin tissue. The B vitamin, biotin, is responsible for forming the basis of skin, hair, and nail cells. Click on the image below for a bigger view. Press Esc on your keyboard back to original view.
Recent discoveries indicate that vitamin D may be protective against some cancers with higher levels in blood associated with lower cancer risk in humans. This is best documented for colon and colorectal cancers where vitamin D emerged as a protective factor in a study of over 3,000 adults who underwent a colonoscopy between 1994 and 1997 to look for polyps or lesions in the colon.
Vitamin D is also very important for calcium absorption and bone health. However, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III surveyed vitamin D intake and blood levels of Americans and found significant deficiencies in many Americans. Low blood levels of vitamin D were found in 42.4 percent of African American women and 4.2 percent of white women.
You may wonder if food can help your skin look less wrinkled. That very topic was the subject of the 2001 scientific article, “Skin Wrinkling: Can Food Make a Difference?” Researchers looked at the Swedish population aged 70 or older, and discovered that those who had a higher intake of vegetables, olive oil, and mono-unsaturated fat and legumes had less skin wrinkling.
Also, those who had a lower intake of milk and dairy products, butter, margarine, and sugar products had less skin wrinkling. Although preliminary, these are interesting results. A similar study was performed in the United States looking at dietary nutrient intake and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women.
This study found that higher vitamin C intake lowered the likelihood of a wrinkled appearance and dry skin. Also, higher linoleic acid intake, as found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and seeds, resulted in less skin dryness and less thinning of the skin. A 0.5 oz. (17 g) increase in fat and a 1.7 oz. (50 g) increase in carbohydrate intake increased the likelihood of wrinkles and skin thinning independent of age, race, education, sunlight exposure, income, menopausal status, body mass index, supplement use, physical activity, and energy intake.
Food and Skin Problems
Good nutrition and certain foods can improve your skin. Are there certain foods and beverages that can also worsen skin disorders? The data that support a certain food group causing the worsening of a skin condition are sparse; however, there are some skin disorders that seem to worsen if certain foods are consumed.
Almost every day, patients will ask if there is something in their diet that is causing them to break out. They also ask if their diet is deficient in a nutrient or vitamin that may be responsible for their breakouts. For acne vulgaris, there are numerous studies that have proven no links between diet and the worsening of acne vulgaris.
Recently, however, a study compared young men aged 15 to 25 who consumed a low-glycemic diet consisting of whole-grain cereals, barley, oats, and most fruits to a control group who had a diet rich in carbohydrates. After 12 weeks the men who had consumed a low-glycenic diet had a decrease in their acne lesions, as compared to the control group.
In another study, more than 47,000 nurses with acne as teenagers were asked to complete a questionnaire about their diet while they were in high school. There was a positive association with their teen acne and a diet rich in milk (whole, low-fat, skim), instant breakfast drinks, sherbet, cottage cheese, and cream cheese.
The study posits that the presence of hormones and bioactive molecules in milk contributed to the acne. It is important to note that more studies need to be carried out to confirm these findings before we recommend modifying your diet to improve your acne. Read more on acne and diet.
There are some data implicating the role of certain foods in the worsening of rosacea. There are several important categories of dietary products that have the potential to cause this condition to flare. Rosacea is often triggered by hot beverages that range from tea to coffee to soups and ciders.
Drinking lukewarm, as opposed to hot, beverages can help to minimize rosacea. Spicy foods such as Indian foods that are rich in curry, or foods with cayenne or hot peppers, are certain triggers. Certain types of alcohol, especially red wine, may also cause flares. Since there are other foods that can cause rosacea to flare, it is recommended that patients diagnosed with rosacea keep a journal to track their food and beverage triggers so they will know what to avoid.
It is highly recommended that individuals with rosacea avoid the foods and beverages listed below.
Foods that may worsen Rosacea Symptoms
– Black pepper
– Hot sausage
– Hot peppers
– Red pepper
– White pepper
There are also data that support the role of foods in flares of eczema. Foods reported to worsen eczema symptoms, in some people, include eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, and fish. Since each individual is different, there may be other foods that can cause your particular eczema to flare.
To better understand and identify which foods may be triggers for you, it is important to keep a food journal. When you eczema begins to flare, write down all of the foods that you have eaten in the previous few days. Continue the list until after the flare has resolved. Then you can review the journal and identify possible triggers.
If you still are unsure about your food triggers, an allergist can perform tests and even instruct you to eliminate certain foods from your diet and then re-introduce them to see if they trigger a flare.
Psoriasis is known to flare after the consumption of alcohol. Also, alcohol may inhibit the effectiveness of psoriasis treatment. Therefore, moderate drinking for psoriasis patients is recommended, and if they suspect it is worsening their symptoms, they should avoid alcohol completely.
A study performed in Italy reported that psoriasis improved with eating the following foods: carrots, tomatoes, and fresh fruits.
If you wish to alter your diet to improve a skin condition, it is important that you discuss the evidence supporting an improvement with your doctor or a dermatologist. Do not listen to your best friend or the neighbor next door. You should avoid any radical diets that claim to cure your disorder.