I remember back to early days of my practice when a patient would say to me, “Tell me what to eat.”
I would start explaining the basics of healthy nutrition and they’d almost always stop me and say something like, “Yeah, yeah. I know all that. I want to know what one food I can eat to deal …(insert whatever issue they were dealing with).
That’s when I wanted to scream.
It’s never one food, one supplement, one ingredient, or one product that’s going to set you and your world right. That goes for your health and your skincare.
To be at your best, you need an overall healthy, active lifestyle which includes lots of fruits and vegetables and not much in the way of sugar or processed foods. If this is something you struggle with, a health or nutrition coach can help.
The same goes for your skin. Great skin, as you’ve no doubt heard me say (at least once) comes from both the outside in and inside out. Sugar and processed foods are one of the roots of inflammation and a process called glycination that causes your skin to wrinkle and sag before its time.
But amid all of the general (and valuable) advice on diet, a new study has emerged that I think is worth sharing. The study focused on a single food that seems to have a strong positive effect on your skin.
The almond study
This study was a pilot study (which means it’s a small study that is designed to see if the research question and preliminary results are worthy of further investigation and research dollars). It involved 28 women over a 16 week period. The women were all post menopausal and had Fitzparick skin type I or II (which means light skin that burns easily).
More consumers are seeking skin health and beauty benefits from foods and supplements. Many studies are done by researching the effects of one isolated ingredient on skin health, wrinkles, etc.This is one of the few that examined the benefits of a whole food.
This pilot study looked at the results of eating a whole food as a snack. The researchers chose almonds because of their traditional role in skin and hair health in Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a traditional medical system in India that dates to between 1500 and 3000 BCE. Ancient Ayurvedic texts talk about using almonds for their skin and hair benefits.
This study was designed to test those writings using 21 century methodologies.
The study consisted of 28 healthy postmenopausal women. They were divided into two groups. The first group ate about two handfuls of almonds as a snack (about 20% of their total daily calories) and the other group that ate about 20% of their daily calories as a nut-free snack (like a granola bar or pretzels).
The researchers studied the women’s skin at 4,8, and 16 weeks using special imaging equipment to get a detailed look at the any wrinkles and their changes over the course of the trial.
After 16 weeks of eating two handfuls of almonds a day, the women in the study showed a statistically significant 10 percent reduction in wrinkle width and a 9 percent reduction in wrinkle severity (wrinkle width and length taken together). The women in the control showed no change.
The skin of the women eating the almonds also showed reduced water loss from the skin (TEWL) and a reduction in hyper pigmentation (age spots).
That’s a significant result from eating a whole food. Most studies are done on plant compounds that are isolated, extracted, then repackaged as nutraceuticals (supplements) or pharmaceuticals.
The results from eating a whole food is exciting, and I love the back to basics, real food focus of this study.
Almonds are known to contain several nutrients related to good skin health. The two ounce (about 60 grams) serving of almonds in this study provided 12 grams of plant protein and seven grams of fiber in addition to 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin E (14.6 mg), 50 percent of the Daily Value for riboflavin (0.6 mg), 26 percent of the Daily Value for niacin (2.1 mg) and 16 percent of the Daily Value for zinc (1.8 mg).
Which is impressive for a few little nuts. But, what I most like about this study (especially as a practitioner of Chinese medicine who also has training in Ayurveda and functional medicine) is that it illustrates the synergy and energetics that are present in whole, unprocessed foods.
The whole food is more than just a collection of ingredients. The parts work together to become more than just the protein, fiber, and vitamin content in the food.
We need more studies like this that emphasize the benefits of eating unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods.
Since we all have a snack once in a while, why not make them almonds? Besides the benefits for your skin, almonds can:
- help reduce cravings and aid in weight loss
-keep your blood sugar in check
-support your brain function
- improve heart health and lower cholesterol
- provide significant fiber to your system and help your intestines work better
-reduce your risk of gallstones (ouch!)
-provide healthy protein, vitamins, and minerals
-help your body absorb nutrients better
-improve dental and bone health
Almonds are both nutrient and calorie dense, so you don’t need to over do it. More isn’t always better. They can be a valuable addition to your diet especially if they take the place of overly processed and sugary snacks.
Just remember, if you eat a lot of sugar and highly processed foods, almonds are unlikely to make a huge improvement in your skin.
I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for a quick and easy snack that’s also good for me. It seems like a handful or two of almonds is a better way to go than a granola bar or cookies (which I must admit I’m partial to).
Almonds have so many health benefits and they're great for your skin. What’s not to love?
Some of my favorite nutrition and food coaches:
Kristen Coffield https://theculinarycure.com/services/
Emily Potter https://www.nourishmintwellness.com/