Aging skin is deprived of moisture, firmness, and the unique springy quality that is characteristic of youth, but plant-based nutrients can bring it back. Some of the most visible signs of aging— fine lines, wrinkles, and sagginess— are the result of the skin’s structure, or connective tissue, breaking down. This process occurs naturally as the body’s production of essential proteins like collagen and elastin declines. Furthermore, as we age, blood circulation that pumps important nutrients to the skin slows.
Skin aging can also be “moved along” by external factors, like excessive sun exposure, environmental pollutants, and poor diet. These circumstances introduce molecules to the body called free radicals, which damage healthy cells and cause premature aging. The same visible effects of skin aging also impact the health and vitality of your hair and nails. Hair and nails become weak and brittle, and less likely to grow as abundantly.
It's true that diet can serve as a vehicle that speeds up the breakdown and aging of your skin, hair, and nails. However, the reverse is also true: consuming the right nutrients through diet and supplementation can help slow the aging process. Below is a list of vital nutrients to include in your plant-based diet. These nutrients support and maintain the overall structure and health of your skin, hair, and nails.
Keratin is the tough, fibrous protein that strengthens and shields hair and nails. It's also one of the main components making up the epidermis, or outermost layer of the skin. Skin also depends on proteins like collagen and elastin to remain supple and firm. These structural proteins are formed with amino acids that come from high-quality protein-rich foods.
WHAT TO EAT: Get plant-based protein from foods like legumes, quinoa, mushrooms, dark leafy greens, tempeh, almonds, and chia seeds.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin and cofactor in the production of collagen. Greater collagen levels strengthen the body's connective tissue and helps skin stay smooth and firm. Vitamin C also serves as an antioxidant by fighting off free radicals that prematurely age the skin, hair, and nails.
WHAT TO EAT: Excellent food sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, kale, and cooked broccoli.
Biotin, or Vitamin B7, plays a key role in the development of keratin, which is essential to a healthy structure for hair, skin, and nails. B-complex vitamins also support cell metabolism and renewal so that hair and nails can thrive. People with weak hair and nails are often deficient in biotin.
WHAT TO EAT: Increase your biotin intake through foods like bananas, cauliflower, legumes, and avocados.
Zinc is an important trace mineral responsible for cell division. That means it's central to the formulation of stronger, healthier cells throughout the body. It also supports the repair of damaged cells. Zinc also helps generate new proteins, such as keratin that support the structure of hair, nails, and skin.
WHAT TO EAT: Great plant-based foods providing zinc include nuts, beans, oats, and mushrooms.
If your body lacks selenium, your hair, skin, and nails may appear dull and brittle. That’s because selenium stimulates growth and strengthens the connective tissues. Selenium also protects hair, skin, and nails from sun exposure and damaging free radicals. It does this by releasing enzymes that search out and destroy free radical compounds.
WHAT TO EAT: Walnuts, Brazil nuts, brown rice, shiitake mushrooms, and chia seeds are top sources of selenium.
This trace mineral is necessary for the production of proteins like collagen and elastin that promote skin health. It's also key in formulating new red blood cells that speed up healing by rushing oxygen to damaged body tissues. Copper also fights off free radicals and protects your skin and hair from ultraviolet exposure.
WHAT TO EAT: Choose foods like beans, whole grains, cocoa, leafy greens, and prunes to add more copper to your diet.
Sulfur is crucial for the maintenance and growth of healthy skin, hair, and nails. It’s a critical ingredient needed to form amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Sulfur also helps eliminate harmful toxins that compromise tissue health.
WHAT TO EAT: Eating nuts, seeds, grains, and cruciferous veggies are the best way to include sulfur in your plant-based diet.
Silicon is a trace mineral that ensures the proper growth and functioning of the connective tissues. Declining silicon levels in the blood due to aging are partly responsible for weak and lackluster skin, hair, and nails. Silicon is also a key ingredient for producing beauty proteins like collagen as well as proteoglycans, which hydrate and smooth skin.
WHAT TO EAT: Muesli, oats, artichoke, green beans, asparagus and red beets are plant-based sources of silicon.
Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are special compounds typically found inside the skins of fruits and vegetables. These compounds protect the plants from external factors like pollution, and they work to protect humans in similar ways. Eating foods rich in phytochemicals provides antioxidants that neutralize free radicals that damage healthy skin, hair, and nails. Antioxidants also limit damage from other factors such as sun exposure and inflammation that jeopardize beauty and vitality.WHAT TO EAT: Phytonutrients are found in a range of colorful foods, like blueberries, apples, raspberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots kale, mushrooms, beans, and green tea.
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Stay Ever Well,
Lynne + Renee