We regularly get asked if what you eat affects your skin and if there are any specific foods that help improve the health of your skin, well, as the saying goes ‘you are what you eat’ has never been truer when it comes to your skin!
The skin is one of the largest organs of the body and the only one which provides a visible reflection of our health and age.
What most people don’t realise is that one of the secrets to healthy skin is a healthy balanced diet ensuring you are nourishing your skin from within. Skin cells are regularly shed and renewed, and a steady supply of key nutrients is essential to support the skin renewal process.
Eating the correct foods will aid in feeding your skin with the vital nutrients it needs to help to stay, healthy, youthful, bright, radiant and blemish-free.
That said, as much as we may try to resist it, our skin does naturally age. Wrinkles and age spots are the inevitable result of time, but skin ageing may be accelerated by overexposure to the sun and tanning beds, strong soaps, chemicals and poor nutrition. With this in mind, a holistic approach is best. Treat your skin kindly and optimise your nutrition by eating antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, healthy fats from oily fish and nuts, and a varied and balanced diet. This should give optimal levels of the nutrients that are crucial for radiant skin, including beta carotene, vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium.
Oils & Fats
Include healthy fats and oils in your diet. Lipids form from the membrane of every cell in the body, these oils keep the membranes fluid, flexible and supple and protect them from damaging external factors as well as internal free radicals.
Include foods which are high in omega 3 & 9 found in nuts, olives, avocados, salmon, mackerel, sardines, organic meats, chia seeds, flaxseeds, organic butter and coconut oil.
Zinc is one element that is essential for healthy skin. It is a mineral that the body requires for the synthesis of collagen and is also a component in the proper functioning of enzymes that are required by the body to repair skin wounds.
Zinc oxide has a mild astringent property that acts as a skin-drying agent and can act as a skin anti-inflammatory and helps sooth the skin from itching and rashes.
Another benefit of zinc is in the treatment and prevention of acne. Zinc in the form of zinc gluconate or zinc sulphate is thought to help heal acne blemishes, reduce inflammation caused by acne, and reduce androgenic hormonal effects on skin that contribute to acne breakouts or in other words help regulate the skin’s oil gland activity.
Highest sources of zinc include; red meat, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, seeds, nuts and potatoes.
Vitamin A, C & E
Vitamin A is one of the most widely recognised nutrients for skin health, as it supports cell replication, regeneration and suppresses sebaceous gland activity, which can contribute to conditions such as acne. Vitamin A deficiency can often show in scaly skin and raised bumps on the back of the arms.
To boost your intake of Vitamin A, try eating foods such as liver, organic butter & yoghurt which have the most easily absorbed levels of this essential vitamin, as well as those in the provitamin form, most notably beta-carotene, that you can get from foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash.
Vitamin C is essential for building structural protein collagen, which is crucial for the stability and plumpness of the skin. Found in peppers, berries and kiwi fruit, as well as green vegetables which are another great source, especially the brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower, which can assist with helping balance hormones, which may also affect the skin.
Vitamin E found in all nuts and seeds helps to prevent premature ageing and DNA cell damage.
Feed your gut
Skin can often be influenced by gut health, so helping to support a thriving gut microbiome (aka the trillions of microbes in the gut) should also be part of your skin ‘regime’. Poor gut health can result in a lack of absorption of nutrients, reduced production of anti-inflammatory substances and a compromised immune system that can manifest itself in conditions such as psoriasis, acne and eczema.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, cheese and kefir, as well as veggies such as sauerkraut that also contains sulphur can help support collagen production and reduce premature ageing. Including a diverse and plentiful repertoire of fibre in your diet is also integral to a healthy gut, so vary your intake of veggies, fruits, nuts & seeds and wholegrains as much as possible.
Just like any other part of the body your skin is made up of cells and skin cells, like any other cell in the body, are made up of water. Without water, the organs will certainly not function properly or at their best.
If your skin is not getting the enough water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and flaky. Dry skin has less resilience and is more prone to wrinkling. As water is lost in large quantities every day, you need to replace it somehow. The unfortunate truth about drinking water and how that affects the skin is that water will reach all the other organs before it reaches the skin. So, it is important to drink more water. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day will help rid the body and skin of toxins. After a good couple of weeks of increased water intake, you should see how hydration affects your own skin.
Selenium neutralizes free radicals and other skin-damaging compounds before they can lead to wrinkles. It’s similar to vitamin E and works with the vitamin to safeguard cell membranes, the protective coating around cells. That makes selenium a key player when it comes to slowing the signs of aging. In fact, research has shown that it’s a triple threat to ageing, protecting against UV-induced cell damage, skin inflammation and pigmentation. Recent studies continue to emphasize the importance of selenium and other antioxidants on skin health and reducing the risk of skin cancer.
Selenium may help prevent the production of inflammatory cytokines, molecules that can build up in the body and harm the health of the skin.
Foods containing a high level of selenium include; brazil nuts, tuna & eggs.