Skin is, quite literally, the face we show to the world. It is our shell, the most exposed part of us. It is our first line of physiological defence and is exquisitely sensitive to touch and temperature. It reflects our state of health, capable of turning yellow from liver toxins, red from rush of blood, blue from lack of oxygen, or grey from cell death. Unfortunately, wrinkles are a fact of life. As we age, collagen and elastin, the substances that keep skin firm and elastic, gradually decrease. Fat pads in the face also thin out. Without this underlying structure, skin sags, creases form and as a result, we have wrinkles.
You may have been led to believe that food has no impact on us as we age, but skin is built from the inside out. Day to day and year to year, skin draws its healthy glow from good nutrition. Even though acne and wrinkles have different causes and occur at different times in our lives, paying attention to nutrition can help minimise or prevent these problems and enhance your skin’s natural beauty and complexion.
How does food affects your skin's health?
While it’s important to develop a skincare routine that helps cleanse, rehydrate, nourish and protect your complexion against external factors, such as pollution, sunburn, and dehydration, there are several dietary aspects that have a direct impact on not only your skin’s vitality, but also your overall health.
It’s so basic, yet I can’t begin to emphasise how essential water is for skin’s health and radiance. Water helps your body flush away toxins, allows the smooth flow of nutrients into the cells and keeps organs functioning at their best. Plus, cells that are well-hydrated are plump and full, making your skin look firmer and clearer (but not fat).
Recommendations vary, but load up on water throughout the day by allowing your thirst to guide your intake. If you are still unsure, the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines suggest an average of nine total cups of fluids from water and other beverages for women and 13 cups for men. Although liquids are the main source of water, many foods have such a high water content that they contribute to overall hydration.
• Choose fruits that are made up of 75 per cent water – apples, grapefruits, mangoes, cantaloupes, pineapples, blueberries, watermelons, cherries, oranges, etc.
• Also go for vegetables – artichokes, asparagus, carrots, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, kale, lettuce, spinach, red, yellow and green peppers, etc.
Decaffeinated teas are another good option for hydration and contain natural compounds called polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that help increase collagen production.
A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals is the body’s best defence against the free radical damage of oxidation. Certain antioxidants – vitamins A, E, A (in the form of beta carotene) and selenium found in food have been shown to nourish and protect the skin to extend its youthful appearance.
• Vitamin C is naturally found in the skin, involved in collagen production and protects cells from radical damage. It is Important to replenish your skin’s vitamin C storage by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C. Some of the best examples include guavas, bell peppers, oranges, orange juice, pineapples, berries, papayas, limes, lemons and lemon juice, mangoes, grapefruits and grapefruit juice, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, lychees, persimmons, potatoes, kidney beans, summer squash, okras, turnips and mustard greens.
• Vitamin E helps cell membranes guard against UV radiation damage. Some studies have raised questions about the safety of vitamin E supplements, so these nutrients should come from your diet and NOT from potent pills. Best foods include wheat germ oil, fortified wholegrain cereals, almonds, almond butter, sunflower seeds and sunflower butter, peanuts and peanut butter, avocado, pine nuts, flaxseed oil, kiwis, papaya, broccoli, olive oil, spinach, canola oil and mangoes.
• Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that helps protect the skin from sun damage and delays the ageing process by maintaining the skin’s quality and elasticity. Selenium- rich foods include Brazil nuts, tuna (tinned light), crab, whole-wheat pasta, lean beef, cod, prawns, whole wheat bread, brown rice, chicken breast, mushrooms, eggs, and cottage cheese (fat-free, one per cent reduced-fat.)
• Beta-carotene is critical for skin health and is converted into vitamin A in the body to aid the growth and repair of body tissues, including your skin. Beta-carotene also acts as an antioxidant that helps protect your body from sun damage. In extremely high doses, vitamin A from supplements can be toxic, so I never recommend taking it in this form. On the contrary, loading up on beta-carotene-rich food is completely safe. Best foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, pumpkins, apricots, butternut squash, grapefruits (pink and red), cantaloupes, Chinese cabbage, watermelons, mangoes, cherries, red ripe tomatoes, guavas and spinach.
Skin contains about six per cent of all zinc in your body. It is critically involved in skin renewal, which means if you want to keep your skin fresh and youthful, be sure to include zinc-rich foods in your diet.
Best zinc-rich foods:
• Oysters, crabs, pork tenderloin, turkey and chicken breast, wheat germ, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, cashews, lima beans, reduced- fat or fat-free cheese, walnuts, almonds, veal, pumpkin, low-fat yoghurt, etc.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Last but certainly not least, healthy fats called omega-3s help maintain cell membranes as effective barriers, allowing water and nutrients in and keeping toxins outs. They have also been shown to be protective against sun damage, so they should most definitely be incorporated into your daily diet.
Best omega-3 rich foods:
• Wild salmon (fresh or tinned), herring, mackerel (not king), Pacific oysters, chia seeds, anchovies, omega-3 fortified eggs, sardines, rainbow trout, seaweed, flaxseed (ground, oil), canola oil, walnut oil, butternuts (white walnuts), soybeans and walnuts.
• Don’t smoke
• Don’t leave the house without sunscreen.
• Avoid drinking coffee and alcohol.
• Avoidrefinedfoods,salty,processed, sugary foods and saturated fats.
• Do cleanse your skin every morning and evening.
• Do exercise regularly to improve your circulation. Sweat produces sebum, the body’s natural moisturiser.
• Do sleep for at least eight hours a night.
• Do make sure your stress levels are kept under control as stress produces cortisol, which in turn aggravates the digestive system and the skin.
This article was first published on Asia Spa