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Nutrition and the function it plays in your skin health.

Written by Virginia Swan

The layers and functions of the skin.
Skin is the largest organ in the body and covers the body's entire external surface. It is made up of two main layers, the epidermis and dermis, both of which vary significantly in their functionality. The dermis makes up 90% of the skin's thickness. This middle layer of skin contains blood vessels called capillaries, collagen and elastin amongst other things. Collagen is a protein that makes skin cells strong and resilient and elastin keeps skin flexible. 
The epidermal layers of the skin however, do not contain blood vessels, instead, cells in the deepest layers are nourished by diffusion from blood capillaries that are present in the upper layers of the dermis. Diffusion provides nourishment and waste removal from the cells of the dermis.
Therefore the dermis and epidermis work hand in hand to nourish all layers of the skin.

Nutrition plays an important role in the maintenance of the dermis. 
Every one of your cells, including skin cells, are supplied by blood vessels. The dermis contains a network of nerve fibers and very small blood vessels called capillaries. Nutrients and oxygen in the blood pass from the capillaries into the cells transporting  nutrients like vitamins, healthy fats, and minerals with the assistance from carrier proteins to help them enter skin cells working together to maintain and repair connective tissues, specifically collagen and elastin. The healthier the food choices, the more nutrition will be transported to your skin resulting in stronger collagen and elastin and overall strength of the dermis.
Healthy whole-food diet = healthy skin.
Barbara George from the Samaritan Heartspring Wellness Center, Oregon USA, sums whole food up perfectly:
"The benefits to whole foods are multi-faceted. You avoid the chemically altered preservatives that are added to many processed foods, as well as sugar and salt. You retain water-soluble nutrients  and when you eat it, your body understands how to process it.
When you eat, the process of chewing begins the digestion process before you even swallow. When you remove part of the food, then everything happens in a different time, in a different way.
Often what’s removed from food is the fiber, which makes it more palatable but less filling, and speeds up digestion so your body doesn’t have time to absorb all the nutrients. Making white flour or fruit juice removes the bulky fiber and leaves you with something tasty, but nutritionally incomplete.
Fortunately you don’t have to eat all your food raw to get the benefits. Some foods become nutritious when cooked, although you do need some raw foods for gut health" 
Barbara George recommends "getting a mixture of both every day".
What foods are especially good for your skin?
Essential fatty acids - Omega 3 - help your skin stay hydrated
Vegan options - chia and flax seeds, walnuts or almonds. (Flax seeds should be freshly ground to be absorbed)
Non vegan options - mackerel, sardines and cod liver oil (Small wild caught fish are healthier than farmed or large fish)
Antioxidants and phyto-nutrients - help protect your cells by reducing free radicals.
Vitamin A - Retinoids. Retinoids are the group of vitamin A derivatives that have been proven, study after study, to unclog pores, stimulate collagen production and improve collagen density.
Vegan options  - (vegetables and fruit can help your body produce Vitamin A). Sweet potato, kale, carrots, capsicum.
Non vegan options - liver, eggs, fatty fish (choose free-range and organic if possible)
Lycopene helps prevent skin discoloration, texture changes, and fine lines and wrinkles.
Stewed tomatoes appears to increase the availability of key nutrients, such as the carotenoids lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Vitamin C - plays an important role in collagen synthesis.
Citrus fruit, kiwi and capsicums and almost any fruit or vegetable raw or lightly cooked.
Vitamin E - can help prevent cell damage.
Almonds, sunflower seeds or most seeds.
Polyphenols protects the skin against ultraviolet radiation and enhances the skin's cell growth.
 Flavonoids, (catechins and phenolic acids)  - helps prevent photoaging and hyperpigmentation and reduces the rough texture of your skin. 
Tea and coffee. (Try to use decaffeinated if possible. Caffeine can dehydrate your skin.)
Dark chocolate with more than 60% cocoa to reduce the sugar content.
Resveratrol  neutralizing free radicals and boosting antioxidant levels
Grapes and grape seeds are the highest.
Sugar - What it does to your skin.
There are so many reasons for reducing or eliminating refined sugar from your diet. To concentrate just on the skin, sugar breaks down collagen and elastin – the proteins that give your skin shape, structure, and firmness. 
Reducing your sugar intake can help improve your complexion by strengthening elastin and collagen and reducing the level of inflammation present in your skin. Eating too much sugar makes your skin wrinkle faster and can also lead to acne breakouts.
Limiting or quitting addictive substances
Free radicals generated by smoking damage repair mechanisms and reduces collagen and elastin turnover, leading to premature signs of skin aging. Nicotine is a diuretic. Research shows for every decade you smoke, your skin ages 14 years. After quitting smoking, it won’t take long to see results. Your complexion will brighten within about a month and within six months to a year, the visible effects of smoking will virtually disappear if you quit early enough.

Alcohol is also a diuretic and  desiccant, meaning that it has a powerful drying effect.
Over a period of years it will steadily destroy collagen, which is what gives our skin its smooth elasticity.   Alcohol consumption also impairs the skin’s antioxidant defense system and can lead to dilated facial capillaries, wrinkles; under-eye puffiness, uneven skin tone, and volume loss around the eyes, midface, and lips all adding to the perception of increased age.
If you want to look younger than your age, eat a nutrient-dense diet.