I'll admit that, until I happened upon a health-related article on melanin and how to protect it, I had absolutely no idea that you could literally "eat your way" into increasing the melanin in your skin, hair and nails. If you didn't either, here's how doing that is possible.
In short, melanin is what gives us our skin pigmentation. Aside from the Most High, it's the reason why we come in such beautiful hues. It's what makes us smile, big time, whenever we watch informational and entertaining programming like PBS's Say It Loud (if you've never checked it out before, it really is pretty dope!). It's what makes us stand a little taller whenever we wear apparel from sistah-ran brands like Melanin Babes Apparel. It's what makes us proud to be profoundly and unapologetically Black. Melanin? It's everything.
Now, from a scientific standpoint, the reason why it's important to take care of our melanin is because it's also what helps us to protect our skin from sun damage. Because yes, y'all, contrary to popular belief (which is really no more than a myth), Black people can get sunburned. We can get skin cancer too (the risks are much lower than Caucasians for sure, but it does indeed happen).
So, if you want to be proactive when it comes to your own natural-born melanin and even want to do your part to enhance the amount of melanin that you have (because some studies claim that taking in more melanin can give our skin, hair and nails a "deeper" appearance over time), here are some foods that are proven to help you do it.
Vitamin C strengthens your immune system and helps your body to produce collagen (which keeps you looking young). Vitamin K helps to keep your bones healthy and promotes wound healing. Fiber keeps you regular. Folate helps your body to produce new cells. Broccoli contains all of this, plus Vitamin A, potassium and even some protein.
The reason why it's featured in this particular article on melanin is because it's a green vegetable; those contain micronutrients like flavonoids or polyphenols which help to play a significant role in increasing melanin production in our system. (By the way, if you boil your broccoli, please stop. You get much more nutrients out of it by steaming your broccoli instead.)
I take turmeric in supplement form. I will give a heads up that while I used to do it every day, now it's down to a couple of times a week. The reason why is because it's a kind of spice that can thin your blood; for me, that resulted in a much heavier period flow. Still, I have no regrets with adding it to my health regimen because when it contains curcumin too, turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, helps to prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease and is even great at relieving arthritis and depression-related symptoms.
Whether you take turmeric in supplement form or cook with it, it's interesting what it can do. On one hand, it contains properties that can inhibit the overproduction of melanin that can ultimately result in hyperpigmentation issues. On the flip side, because turmeric is also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, it can increase melanin production; especially when you're in the sun.
So, how do you know which way to make it work in your melanin-increasing favor? If you want to consume turmeric in order to add melanin to your body, get the kind that does not have curcumin in it. It's the properties in curcumin that blocks the ACTH hormone in your system and helps to keep melanin from increasing in your body. If you get some that doesn't contain curcumin, you should be pretty good to go.
Eggs are high in protein. They also contain betaine and choline to regulate your cells and protect your heart. It also has the lipoprotein HDL to maintain your body's "good protein", the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin to keep your eyes strong and amino acids to support your body tissues.
Two other things that eggs have in them are Vitamin D (the same nutrient that the sun gives us) and Vitamin E. As far as Vitamin E goes, what a lot of people don't know is if you do decide to sunbathe (because yes, a lot of us do it too) and you want a more radiant glow, you should consume Vitamin E and put some Vitamin E oil onto your skin as well. The reason why is because it's a nutrient that "triggers" the production of melanin in your system. Oftentimes, you'll see slight physical effects of this within hours of eating it and putting it on. (As far as eggs go, focus on the yolk more than the egg whites; that's where most of the Vitamin E is found.)
4. Red Peppers
If you're someone who likes to cook with red peppers, you're in luck. They're a veggie that is loaded with antioxidants, burns calories and, thanks to the folate and Vitamin B6 that's in them, they're also good for you if you are currently pregnant or are trying to conceive a child.
Melanin-wise, bell peppers made the list because of all of the Vitamin C that they contain. Vitamin C is also a proven nutrient that increases the production of melanin in our bodies. And, as far as red peppers go, they contain a whopping 200 percent more than the reference daily intake (RDI) of C. So, on the getting your Vitamin C in tip, it's a vegetable that definitely has you covered.
At some point in your childhood, you were probably told that you couldn't get up from the dinner table until you finished your peas. Good thing too because that means you got a good amount of vitamins A, B1, B6 and K, folate, manganese, iron, fiber and protein in your system. As a direct result, you were able to digest your food better and your blood sugar was kept under control.
Peas also have Vitamin C in them to produce melanin. Also, thanks to the folate (folic acid) that are in peas, you can slow down the lack of melanin in your hair's strands; it's something that typically comes with age or even premature greying.
6. Orange Fruits and Veggies
Something that all orange fruits and vegetables—oranges, papaya, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, etc.—contain beta-carotene. We all need beta-carotene in our system because it's also an antioxidant. Some of beta-carotene's benefits include that it can help to keep our lungs healthy and strong, it protects your brain from cognitive decline, and it can even help to prevent diabetes and cancer. From a beauty standpoint, beta-carotene is awesome because it reduces our sensitivity to the sun, increases hair growth, and gives your skin a natural healthy glow.
Beta-carotene is a must-have, melanin-wise, because it contains carotenoids that help us to maintain our natural skin color. It works well even during the cooler seasons when we tend to not have quite as much exposure to the sun.
It can never hurt to snack on a few almonds every day. They've got fiber, protein, manganese, and magnesium in them. They're also full of antioxidants. And, as far as proven health benefits go, they are the kind of nut that stabilizes your blood pressure, lowers cholesterol levels, and they can reduce your overall caloric intake by helping to curb any midday cravings that you may have.
We've already discussed why consuming Vitamin E is critical to the health and quality of your melanin. Well, when it comes to Vitamin E, almonds have a whopping 37 percent of your RDI in just one ounce. So yep, a few almonds a day can be just what you need to keep your melanin on point.
8. Green Tea
How good is green tea for you? The list is kind of endless. It contains a lot of antioxidants to strengthen your immune system. It's got polyphenols that help to reduce bodily inflammation and prevent cancer. Green tea also has compounds in it to improve your brain function, improve your workouts, lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes—and that's just for starters!
It's a good idea to drink green tea because the properties in it can also help to regulate melanin production in your system; it will help to keep your hair, skin and nail's pigment in balance.
9. Brewer's Yeast
If you don't have a container of Brewer's Yeast in your pantry, maybe this will gas you up to buy one. Basically, if you're looking for a type of supplement that will provide you with more energy, this is the one that will do it. That's because it contains magnesium, iron, protein, zinc, and just about every B-vitamin that you can think of. Because Brewer's Yeast is loaded with so many vitamins and minerals, it has a great reputation for naturally maintaining your hair, skin, and nails. Plus, it's loaded with Vitamin D; the same thing that the sun offers us to give our skin—our melanin—a rich warm glow.
Just make sure that if you are already on any type of medication that you consult your healthcare provider before taking Brewer's Yeast. Otherwise, you could end up with diarrhea or chest pain as a side effect of consuming it.
Plums are a fruit that have the organic compounds isatin and sorbitol in them. Both of these are necessary because they help to relieve constipation. Plums also contain antioxidants that keep free radicals at bay and fiber to lower your cholesterol levels. Something else that's in this particular kind of fruit is the mineral boron; it aids in preserving bone density.
Another good thing about plums is, like eggs, they have Vitamin E in them too. This kind of vitamin is not only essential to the health of your skin, but again, it also has the ability to increase the production of melanin in your body. Plus, they're in season through the middle of October which is just a few weeks away (then they return again in April).
So, the next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a few. You can eat them raw or try this easy to make plum jam recipe (here). They're sweet, they're delicious, and they're just one more way to give your already bomb melanin an extra boost! Pretty cool, huh?
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