Great skin isn’t just about the right cosmetic treatments. Skin is created inside the body, and a healthy diet can make a big difference to your appearance. This article has details on the vitamins, minerals, fats and anti-oxidant compounds that your skin needs, as well as suggestions for the foods that contain them. It will reveal how changes to your diet can really make a noticeable difference to the way you look and feel.
Everyone wants to have great-looking skin. Sure, beauty is only skin deep, but that important first impression is all about appearances. Where many people go wrong is assuming that because their skin is on the outside of their body, the best way to improve it is from the outside. Generally, this means putting things on or in it — and helping cosmetic companies make a profit in the process. But your skin is created from the inside, which means that your diet can have a dramatic effect on the way that your skin looks and feels.
The good news is that the foods which are great for your skin are mostly easy to source and prepare, tasty, varied and, unless you’re on a very restricted diet because of allergies or other health concerns, easy to incorporate into your usual meals. You’re looking for foods which include some specific vitamins, minerals and fats, as well as some essential antioxidants.
Vitamin A is involved in the production of skin cells. A lack of Vitamin A interferes with the creation of new cells, which can mean dull, dry, lifeless skin on the surface. This is a great example of a problem that many people try to solve through moisturizers, concealers or peels, but which could easily be made better through a healthy diet. Try and get the nutrients your skin needs from food, not from supplements. It’s not going to benefit your skin if the only change you make is to add a multivitamin tablet to your burger and fries! With regard to Vitamin A, it’s particularly important to avoid taking supplements if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You can find Vitamin A in fish oil, salmon, broccoli, carrots and spinach.
Everyone knows that Vitamin C is good for you, helping your body fight off coughs and colds. But did you know that Vitamin C is also responsible for the production of collagen? Collagen is what makes your skin supple and stretchy. A lack of collagen means more fine lines and wrinkles. It also strengthens the capillaries that bring blood (and therefore nutrients) to your skin.
You’ll get Vitamin C from citrus fruit, strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and guava, as well as sweet potatoes, broccoli and tomatoes.
Vitamins E and B12
Vitamin E (found in leafy green vegetables, avocado, nuts, sunflower seeds and olive oil) has anti-inflammatory properties, and low levels of this vitamin are linked with acne. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 is linked to dark spots (hyperpigmentation) or white spots (vitiligo). Vitamin B12 is found in mackerel and yeast.
A generation ago, acne was associated with poor diet; the spotty kid eating yet another chocolate bar was an easy stereotype. Then scientists declared that acne was caused by bacteria, and was nothing to do with what you ate. Now, dermatologists accept that diet is a contributory factor in acne. The bacteria that cause this distressing skin condition thrive in blocked pores and sebaceous glands, so a diet that includes not only foods that help with the production of new skin cells (so that pores aren’t blocked by old, dead cells) but also nutrients that help reduce inflammation, will help with the prevention of acne.
Zinc and Selenium
Zinc is involved in the healthy functioning of the sebaceous glands, and also has marked anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc is found in whole grains and wheatgerm, almonds and brazil nuts, turkey, fish and shellfish and lean red meat.
Selenium helps protect your skin against sun damage, and works together with Vitamin E to reduce the risk of age spots and some kinds of skin cancer. Food sources of selenium include brown rice, tuna, garlic, eggs and tomatoes. Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium – just four brazil nuts contain your recommended daily dose!
Omega -3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids will maintain your skin’s natural oil barrier, helping to keep skin hydrated. A diet low in omega-3s can mean dry, itchy skin and an increased likelihood of spots and inflammation. You’ll get these essential fatty acids from cold water fish like sardines or salmon, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and soy, as well as safflower oil and flaxseed oil.
It’s important to get a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; for most people this means eating more oily fish and less meat from corn-fed animals (or eggs from corn-fed chickens) and cutting down on the amount of corn oil you use in cooking.
You already know that antioxidants are important for maintaining health, combating the effects of pollution and stress and helping to prevent some cancers. Certain antioxidant compounds in your diet will also have a beneficial effect on your skin. Betacarotene reduces the damage caused by free radicals and is converted by your body into Vitamin A. You’ll find it in carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Lutein and zeaxanthin, both found in kale, combat free radicals and UV rays in sunlight, helping to reduce the damage done to your skin. Lycopene from tomatoes (especially cooked processed tomatoes) and limonene from citrus fruit peel also have great anti-UV properties, creating a natural sunblock for your skin.
Aglycone (found in soy) helps reduce damage to collagen, while high consumption of polyphenol-rich olive oil is associated with fewer signs of ageing. Catechins (found in green tea) help to deliver nutrients and oxygen to your skin by boosting blood flow, and you can also improve your circulation with cocoa flavonols from dark chocolate. But not too much or the calorie content outweighs the health benefits!
Mostly its commonsense
Remember to drink plenty of water, and to avoid excess alcohol and smoking, both of which will age your skin. Crash diets are not only bad for your general health, but will cause unsightly skin sagging too. In general, small meals often will deliver greater health benefits than skipping breakfast or lunch and then eating too much because you’re hungry. Be aware that it takes up to six weeks for new skin cells to come to the surface, so changes to your diet won’t be obvious in your appearance straight away.
Of course, eating a healthy diet doesn’t exclude sensible care of your skin by other means. You’ll still want to cleanse and moisturise, and use sunblock. However, small purposeful changes to your diet can really give you the healthy skin you’ve always wanted.