Love the Skin You're In

Laura Heflin preparing food in her kitchen.

Oh, that summer glow! Everyone wants it but not everyone really knows how to get it. But, did you know that the key to glowing skin, strong nails, and shiny hair is at your fingertips and possibly right in your fridge? Yes! I am being serious! You see, so often when we think of our diet and the foods that we are putting in our bodies, our mind instantly goes to the scale or our waistline. But yet, we don’t give our diet enough credit for what it can do for our skin (aka our body’s largest organ). Truly, the foods we feed our bodies have the power to turn back the clock in such a powerful way, and in this article, I am here to tell you all about it!

Let’s take collagen for instance. There are many types of collagen however the most abundant forms within our body are types one, two, and three. Collagen in any form is known as “the building block of new, connective tissue”. It is what helps make up our skin, muscles, cartilage, tendons, bones, ligaments, and blood vessels. Collagen is also what keeps our skin looking hydrated and plump and it keeps wrinkles at bay. Unfortunately, though, we lose collagen over time as we age and our skin eventually begins to thin out and gravity takes hold which then can cause it to sag. Thankfully though, there are things we can do to help slow down this natural and inevitable collagen decline. The first, most powerful thing we can do is increase our intake of collagen-rich foods and decrease our intake of foods that accelerate this breakdown.

Okay, so let’s get right to it! What specific steps can we take to halt or slow down this process of aging? Well for starters, we can start by adding more organic, free-range eggs, organic chicken, wild-caught fish, and organic bone broth to our diet. These foods are whole, one-ingredient foods that contain loads of collagen that can be easily recognized and utilized within the body. They also contain specific amino acids that are required for the creation of new collagen. So, though a vegetarian or vegan can maintain their collagen in other plant-based forms or through certain supplements, it is no secret that it is more difficult as the most abundant forms of collagen are without a doubt found in animal protein.

Now in addition to animal-based protein, we also need to be diligent in increasing our vitamin C-rich foods as well. Vitamin C not only helps extinguish inflammation and free radicals within our body but also helps speed up the production of collagen within our bodies. It also has been shown to even skin tone, reduce under-eye circles, and brighten one’s complexion! So, do your best to add more citrus fruits and bright-colored vegetables as well as greens such as kale and spinach to your diet, and also consider using vitamin C topically as well.

So, now that we know what foods help build up our collagen stores, how do we help prevent or slow the breakdown of collagen within our body? Is there really any hope for us after we kiss our twenties goodbye? Thankfully, I am here to tell you that yes there actually is! The first thing we can do is stop worshiping the sun and protect our skin with mineral-based sunscreen every single day. Sun damage and sun exposure are one of the fastest ways to break down and destroy our collagen and leave us with wrinkles we don’t want. As tempting as it may be to lay out in the sun on a glorious summer day and get on our glow, we have to remember that the more ultraviolet radiation we expose our skin to, the faster our collagen and elastin are destroyed. I personally am a big fan of organic sunless tanners that can be used at home and without any negative impact on my skin!

The second thing we can do is to avoid or greatly limit our intake of refined sugar. Sugar, as tasty as it may be, literally eats away at our collagen stores. Opt for other natural, sugar-free alternatives such as stevia, monk fruit, agave, or raw honey instead. In addition to sugar, alcohol breaks down our collagen stores as well so be sure to keep alcoholic beverages in your 20% window, or better yet, consider eliminating it altogether. Alcohol has been shown to deplete nutrients within our body and it also contains free radicals which not only can contribute to collagen damage but various diseases and cancers as well.

Lastly, in addition to focusing on what foods you should and should not consume, I don’t want you to forget about water! Drinking enough water is essential to maintaining smooth, plump, hydrated, and glowing skin! Think about a dessert for a minute. There are cracks and crevices all throughout it. But if it were to rain, the lay of the land would look completely different. The same goes for your skin and our overall complexion! We must hydrate our bodies enough each day to ensure it stays moisturized from the inside out. If you feel that you struggle to drink enough water consider downloading one of the many water drinking apps available to help keep you on track! Try drinking half of your body weight of ounces of water each day and get ready to watch your skin glow!

Okay, so let’s take a minute to review, shall we? The keys to maintaining glowing, youthful skin are to load up on organic, animal protein, vitamin C-rich foods, and lots of water. Then, we must limit our consumption of refined sugar and alcohol and limit our sun exposure. Got it? Okay, great! Now, will you join me this month by implementing these tips and loving on the skin that you are in?