Omega 3 fatty acids and protein are great for healthy skin. Hair, skin and nails are mostly made of protein, though the minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals we get from the best type of carbohydrates – fruit and vegetables – are also crucial if skin care is your goal.
Protein is needed to repair cells, it is important for energy levels, balancing blood sugar levels, and is involved with glutathione production. Glutathione is an important antioxidant, and antioxidants are essential components of eating your way to beauty.
So what are some good sources of protein that are somewhat under-represented in our average diet?
Fish is excellent as it supplies both protein, and the omega 3 fatty acids, which are believed to contribute to skin health. The oily fish like salmon, tuna, cod and mackerel are good natural sources of omega 3, that have the advantage of avoiding the reflux problem associated with many fish oil supplements. Being a whole food, these fish also have DMAE, which is excellent for protecting cellular membranes and improving skin tone. (Angyal) Recommended sources of DMAE from fish are anchovies, sardines, and wild salmon.
Canned salmon is a good option, generally. Although it may seem strange to encourage people to eat canned salmon over fresh salmon, it has some important advantages that are the direct result of farming practices for fresh fish. According to Erica Angyal, the author of Gorgeous Skin In 30 Days, canned salmon is typically wild salmon. Wild salmon and farmed salmon that was raised in crowded pens made of nets (think of an underwater battery cage), have some important differences in nutrient value.
The food farmed salmon are fed is very different to what wild salmon eat. Wild salmon eat other sea residents such as shrimp and krill. And it is this diet that gives them the lovely pink color we associate with salmon. On the other hand, farmed salmon are fed soybean pellets and other cereal based food, which changes their ratio of essential fatty acids. They become characterized by higher levels of saturated fats and omega 6 fatty acids (linoleic acid), which we get plenty of in our diets anyway, and their levels of the beneficial omega 3 fatty acids become lower. Given that the whole point many people eat fish for is to change this very ratio in themselves, it seems to negate the point somewhat.
On top of this, farmed salmon, like their counterparts in the poultry and beef industries, are fed antibiotics to keep them healthy and protect the farmer’s investment. There is an expectation of cost effectiveness and market value that determines the type of conditions farmed salmon grow in. To compensate for the lack of pink color, colors are added that can be made both naturally and synthetically. Whether they are natural or synthetic is generally up to the farmer.
This is not to say farmed salmon is bad, or has no omega 3 fatty acids. It does, and it is better than nothing. And fresh fish is a lovely meal. But like eating free range eggs in preference to battery cage eggs, wild salmon is an infinitely better nutritional choice.
References: E Angyal, Gorgeous Skin In 30 Days (Lothian, 2005)