You are what you eat has never been truer than when it comes to glowing skin. And while creams, moisturizers, facial oils and masks can work wonders, the real work and nourishment from your cells comes from within.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help to protect skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals, smoking, pollution and sunlight and can cause wrinkling and age spots. Eat a rainbow of colourful fruit and vegetables and aim for at least five portions a day. Betacarotene, found in carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, and lutein, found in kale, papaya and spinach are potent antioxidants, important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.
Vitamin C is also a super antioxidant. It is needed to support the immune system, promote radiant skin and help blemishes heal properly. The best sources are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen that strengthens the capillaries that supply the skin.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant. It works alongside other antioxidants such as vitamins E and C and is essential to support the immune system. Studies suggest that a selenium-rich diet can help to protect against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots. One way to boost your intake is to eat Brazil nuts. Just four nuts will provide the recommended daily amount (RDA). Mix Brazil nuts with other seeds rich in vitamin E as a snack or salad sprinkle. Other good sources are fish, shellfish, eggs, wheatgerm, tomatoes and broccoli.
Vitamin E protects skin from oxidative (cell) damage and supports healthy skin growth. Foods high in vitamin E include almonds, avocado, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower and corn oils.
Skin needs moisture to stay flexible. Even mild dehydration will cause your skin to look dry, tired and slightly grey. Drink six to eight glasses of water a day – all fluids count towards your daily allowance, but water is the best. If you work in an office, keep a large bottle of water on your desk to remind you to drink. Herbal, caffeine-free teas are good too.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – the types found in avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds – provide essential fatty acids which act as a natural moisturizer for your skin, keeping it supple and improving elasticity. These fats also come packaged with a healthy dose of vitamin E (a vitamin many of us lack), which will help protect against free radical damage.
Make sure you get enough omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are essential fatty acids which mean they cannot be made in the body and must be obtained through the diet. You will find omega-3s in oily fish and plant sources such as linseed and their oil, chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil. Omega-3 fats encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help skin, particularly inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Phyto-estrogens are natural chemicals found in plant foods (phyto from the Greek word for plant). They have a similar structure to the female sex hormone oestrogen and have been found to help keep our natural hormones in balance. There are different types, some are found in soya bean products(isoflavones) such as tofu, whereas others are found in the fibre of wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and linseed (lignans). Include phyto-estrogen rich soya, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.
The glycaemic index (GI) is a system that ranks carbohydrate-based foods on how slowly or quickly they are broken down in the body into glucose. Try to eat plenty of beans, pulses, porridge and other low-GI, slow-releasing carbohydrates. These release sugar into the blood stream gradually, providing you with a steady supply of energy and leaving you feeling satisfied for longer and therefore less likely to snack. Avoid high-GI carbohydrates like biscuits and sugary drinks, as they lead to production of insulin, which may damage collagen and accelerate wrinkles.
Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin (which produce oil) and helps to repair skin damage and keep skin soft and supple. Zinc-rich foods include fish, lean red meat, wholegrains, poultry, nuts, seeds and shellfish.