Expert's Opinion

Prescribing Functional Foods

By Dr. Howard Murad, Murad Inc. | February 9, 2012

Looking to the farmer’s market as the new pharmacopeia.

I have often been called the “father of Internal skincare,” because I have long advocated using nutrition as a critical path to healing the skin – after all, before there was medicine, there was food.

With only 20% of the cells in the skin accessible for topical treatments, the health of 80% of the skin can only be supported internally—through the blood stream.In my practice I have seen countless examples of the way in which an improvement in diet has a therapeutic effect on the skin that patients can see and feel in their skin.It’s not merely avoiding cell damaging foods like sugar, red meat, cheese, fried foods and alcohol.It’s much more about adding the “super foods” that protect and promote cellular health.Because the benefits of these foods are so pronounced, many are being actively investigated as sources for new topical skin care ingredients.

Here is a list of some of my favorite foods and their skin benefits for the winter season.

Fruits and Vegetables:

•Pomegranates provide immense benefits since they are high in polyphenols which act as sun shields and fight against skin damaging inflammation. This fruit is a powerful source of antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, which assists in cellular renewal and hydration. Research also shows that eating pomegranate seeds and drinking pomegranate juice can increase oxygen levels in the blood and even reduce blood pressure levels.
•Broccoli, kale and other leafy green vegetables are great sources of Alpha Lipoic Acid which is a potent fat-and-water-soluble antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. In addition to Alpha Lipoic Acid, these vegetables are rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C and K, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals that support cellular health and fiber which helps detoxify the body and skin.
•Beets and other root vegetables offer key betaines which support cellular reproduction, while also offering high levels of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin C.
•Sweet potatoes are bursting with vitamin A (containing 377 percent of your daily recommended intake per cup!) which helps clear acne. Sweet potatoes also offer the benefits of carotenoids and retinoids which hydrate, detoxify and regenerate skin cells. They are high in potassium, fiber, and vitamins C and B6 as well. Other orange vegetables such as carrots have similar benefits.
•Apples are very high in antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber. Apple skin, in particular contains phloretin, which fights against free radicals, inflammation and hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Embryonic Foods:

•Walnuts and almonds are lipid rich which makes them an ideal source for cell strengthening essential fatty acids. Nuts also provide high levels of phosphorus, zinc and iron – important for protecting cells and supporting cell hydration.
•Eggs are important sources of lecithin, a major component of cell membranes. Lecithin found in eggs repairs skin tissue and seals in cell water. They are anti-aging, and particularly important for hormonal aging. If a patient does not eat eggs, soy can be substituted for similar benefits.

All of the foods listed above are in-season during the winter months. Encourage your patients to incorporate some of them into their diet for health benefits that go beyond nutrition. People are often surprised to learn that nutrition can have such a positive role in resolving most skin problems, and even many health problems. Incorporating nutritional recommendations into your skincare recommendations also forces you to look at a person’s complete care regimen—what I call an Inclusive approach to Health.

By looking at patient’s topical, internal and emotional condition we can make a comprehensive diagnosis. This approach is crucial to uncovering other issues like challenges in a patient’s day-to-day lifestyle that are taxing their emotional wellbeing and harming their skin’s health. In many instances, nutritional care, the internal prong of inclusive care, may prove to be the most important aspect of treatment.It is well established that we are what we eat—and it shows, not just at the waistline, but on our face!

About the Author
Howard Murad, MD, FAAD, is a trained pharmacist, Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine, founder of Murad Skincare Inc., President of The University for Inclusive Health and a physician who specializes in both inclusive health and dermatology. He has been acclaimed as a "Beauty Genius" by ELLE magazine and an "Industry Visionary" by the International SPA Association. His research in The Science of Cellular Water™ has revealed the ability of cell membranes to hold water as the fundamental marker of youthful good health and offers the world's most comprehensive insights into health and aging. His advocacy of the use of dietary supplements to promote skin health has earned him international recognition as the "Father of Internal Skincare." Dr. Murad is the accomplished author of four books advocating practical lifestyle choices as the path to looking and feeling as healthy and beautiful as possible.

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