Radiant Skin 101

As a young person living in America, the superficial society that it is, I have an aversion for any blemish, pimple, or mark that threatens to make its presence known on my face. Glowing, blemish free skin is the ideal and a sign of good health.    Every girl is entitled to radiant, clear skin and avoidance of the bad mood that occurs as a consequence of the appearance of a gargantuan pimple. Granted, I do realize that there are infinitely worse scenarios that can be inflicted upon a person, but at the same time one should not have to face the awfulness of pimples or a dull complexion amidst all the other chaos in one’s life.

Thankfully, as the daughter of Dr. Fuhrman, I know that diet plays a huge role in maintaining healthful, as well as youthful, looking skin. The same nutrient dense diet that keeps us healthy and prevents chronic diseases naturally helps prevent pimples, acne, and the like. Welcome to Radiant Skin 101, my one article class on the ins and outs of how to attain and maintain healthy, radiant skin:

skin

Radiant Skin 101:

1)     The hormones inside our bodies are important contributors to what cause pimples to appear on the outside. In particular, the hormone insulin an important modulator of breakouts. Insulin is most commonly known as the hormone for regulating blood sugar and is associated with diabetes, yet interestingly it also increases   oils that appear on our skin. Who would have thought? Insulin levels fluctuate based on what we eat, and these fluctuations can affect other hormones such as testosterone that also promote acne.

2)     Processed foods made with white flour and sugar lead to blood sugar spikes, causing insulin levels to go into the hateful “pimple-producing zone”. Sugar and processed foods are nada good for our skin. 

3)     Of course this is more complicated than just sugar and insulin. The peeps at Harvard say milk is not skin-friendly food. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study in which the diets of 6,084 teenage girls were analyzed. Girls who drank two or more servings of milk per day were 20 percent more likely to have acne. Milk contains bioactive molecules that act on the glands where blackheads are formed. William Danby MD, a dermatologist at Dartmouth, noted in an editorial accompanying the study that 70 to 90 percent of all milk comes from pregnant cows and that the milk contains hormones such as progesterone, testosterone precursors and insulin-like growth factor releasing hormones, all linked to acne.

4)     The foods you should eat for radiant skin? Green vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, starchy vegetables, and whole grains, of course. These foods are loaded with antioxidants, substances that help our skin repair damage. Plant foods also contain an array of phytochemicals. The foods rich in carotenoids are super foods for your body, not just your face. They supercharge the immune system’s defensive capabilities and help prevent many diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Many thousands of these chemicals are found in brightly colored plant foods. So in regards to the health of our skin, the more carotenoids and phytochemicals that are present, the faster our skin can repair damage, and remove and detoxify waste products and toxic compounds. 

So, in summary, consumption of micronutrient-rich natural plant foods leads to radiant, pimple free skin and processed foods and dairy are blackhead friendly.   How many more teenagers would eat a cancer-protective diet, if they knew it would repair their skin and keep them looking good? Avoiding dairy and junk food is easy when there are so many healthier, just as tasty, food options available. I’m a huge fan of soymilk and almond milk, for example. To me, faux milks taste better than actual cow’s milk. Resisting processed foods becomes pie in the sky when I know I can have a delicious fruit smoothie instead. Instead of poppin’ M and M’s, pop blueberries and cherries. Great skin and tasty food? Check!  

Sesamin: a protective lignan found in sesame seeds

 Unhulled sesame seeds are rich in calcium as well as several forms of vitamin E.  Natural forms of vitamin E such as those found in sesame seeds are thought to have anti-aging properties, and sesame consumption is known to raise plasma levels of tocopherols (vitamin E) in humans.1 Sesame seeds display high antioxidative capacity and inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, especially black sesame seeds, which have triple the phenol antioxidant content of white sesame seeds.2

Research is accumulating on sesamin, the most abundant antioxidant in sesame seeds.  Sesamin is a lignan – a class of phytoestrogen with antioxidant activity.  Flaxseeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds are the richest sources of lignans.3

In human studies, sesamin has been previously shown to have cholesterol-lowering , antihypertensive, and antioxidative effects.Consumption of sesame seeds has also been found to result in decreased total and LDL cholesterol and oxidative stress, and increased sex hormone binding globulin concentrations, which could have implications for prevention of hormonal cancers.5

In cell culture studies, sesamin has been found to have these protective biological activities:

  •  Suppression of angiogenic activity (formation of new blood vessels) and expression of pro-angiogenic, pro-inflammatory, and pro-invasion molecules in breast cancer cells.6
  • Inhibition of proliferation of tumor cells from leukemia, multiple myeloma, and breast, colon, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers.7
  • Decreased expression of adhesion molecules on endothelial cells initiated by an inflammatory stimulus (expression of adhesion molecules contributes to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque by attracting white blood cells).8,9

These data suggest that sesame seeds can be an important tool for prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Be sure to buy raw, unhulled sesame seeds or raw tahini (sesame seed butter) for maximum nutritional benefit.  White or black sesame seeds (or tahini) are a great addition to dips and salad dressings.


References:

1. Cooney RV, Custer LJ, Okinaka L, Franke AA. Effects of dietary sesame seeds on plasma tocopherol levels. Nutr Cancer. 2001;39(1):66-71.

2. Shahidi F, Liyana-Pathirana CM, Wall DS. Antioxidant activity of white and black sesame seeds and their hull fractions. Food Chemistry 2006 99(3):478-483.

3. Coulman KD, Liu Z, Hum WQ, et al. Whole sesame seed is as rich a source of mammalian lignan precursors as whole flaxseed. Nutr Cancer. 2005;52(2):156-65.

4. Miyawaki T, Aono H, Toyoda-Ono Y, Maeda H, Kiso Y, Moriyama K. Antihypertensive effects of sesamin in humans. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Feb;55(1):87-91.

5. Wu WH, Kang YP, Wang NH, et al. Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status, and blood lipids in postmenopausal women. J Nutr.2006 May;136(5):1270-5.

6.  Lee CC, Liu KJ, Wu YC, Lin SJ, et al. Sesamin Inhibits Macrophage-Induced Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Expression and Proangiogenic Activity in Breast Cancer Cells. Inflammation. 2010 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print]

7. Harikumar KB, Sung B, Tharakan ST, et al. Sesamin manifests chemopreventive effects through the suppression of NF-kappaB-regulated cell survival, proliferation, invasion, and angiogenic gene products. Mol Cancer Res. 2010 May;8(5):751-61. Epub 2010 May 11.

8. Wu WH, Wang SH, Kuan II, et al. Sesamin attenuates intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 expression in vitro in TNF-alpha-treated human aortic endothelial cells and in vivo in apolipoprotein-E-deficient mice. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Mar 19. [Epub ahead of print]

9. Lee WJ, Ou HC, Wu CM, et al. Sesamin mitigates inflammation and oxidative stress in endothelial cells exposed to oxidized low-density lipoprotein. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Dec 9;57(23):11406-17.

Oh, Poor Me, No Junk Food in my Childhood?

Girl eating watermelon

While growing up, food is what set me apart from my peers. Naturally, being the daughter of Dr. Fuhrman is going to result in some pretty unconventional school lunches and after school snacks. As a young child, it didn’t take me long to figure out that my friends were being packed ham sandwiches and chips and I was not. My parents only packed me healthy stuff, never processed foods, white bread sandwiches or Lunchables, those highly processed convenience foods that children thought (due to commercials) were as cool as winning a game of dodgeball. I did not try a McDonald’s French Fry until I was in the fourth grade. I felt like a rebel buying chocolate chip cookies in middle school, a thought process never occurring to my friends. 

During my childhood, I chose to ignore the health consequences of what I ate and was a pleasure seeking eater, as any little one has a right to be. I was allowed to have pizza at lunch on some Fridays and I was never denied Carvel ice cream cake at my friend’s birthday parties. I looked forward to those Fridays and any other time my mom would let me eat something she deemed “unhealthy”. My parents were not completely rigid; they just only had healthy foods at home. They did not make me feel guilty or punish us if we strayed. They understood that kids need some flexibility and are going to want to explore the food culture in our society. Yet, while I had some occasional treats, I still wished I was like the other kids. I wanted a box of Brownie cookies when my Brownie troop sold them and I wanted my mom to buy me Lucky Charms like my friend Alyssa’s mom bought them for her. Don’t get me wrong, I liked, and even loved, many of the foods that were provided for me at home. Yet, as a young child, acceptance and pleasure trump health any day of the week.   

Then everything changed. It began in the seventh grade and became an unstoppable force in eighth. Instead of being rebellious, I wanted to be the epitome of a healthful eater. The phrase, “You are what you eat,” finally kicked in, a pride in my unconventional eating habits blossomed, and I became an unstoppable walking nutrition encyclopedia. I went so far as to criticize my friends for their poor eating choices. “Are you really going to eat that donut?” I would proclaim, and then begin a diatribe on the dangers of consuming partially hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids. Understandably, my friends were annoyed and thought I was nuts. After having so many friends become angry with me that year, I learned my lesson to set a good example, yet not attempt to give others diet advice unless I was asked.

Since that time, I have continued to appreciate eating a natural, plant based diet, not only because it is delicious, but because it grants me the gift of health. I could not be more grateful for being raised on our unconventional diet and I am happy to report that I suffered no permanent damage from being allowed only three pieces of candy on Halloween and no other candy. Many of the foods I grew up eating have become my favorite foods and I realize how fortunate I am to never have to transition to eating healthier foods, as I was already there from the get-go. 

Let my previous words be words of encouragement to all mothers who are having difficulties raising nutritious eaters in our junk food world. Even if your child or children don’t appreciate the foods you are feeding them now or resent the denial of junk foods, they will in later years. Years that will be filled with good health, rather than debilitating health problems. Eating well is a lifestyle that should be embraced by the entire family and every child deserves to have the best start in life and can learn to love being “different,” just like I did.