We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” But this doesn’t just apply to your general wellbeing, but also your skin.
“It’s the body’s largest organ and can benefit from the same nutrition that has positive effects on other major organs,” says anti-aging nutritionist Rick Hay. “Research suggests that eating foods rich in protein and certain vitamins and minerals can provide valuable anti ageing effects.”
Rick explains that your skin is the first line of defence against environmental intruders such as pollution and UV irradiation, and is also busy supporting the body’s electrolyte balance, regulating temperature, absorbing substances and excreting waste. As such, it is susceptible to structural weakness over time (AKA, skin aging).
“The good news is, you can eat your way to better skin,” says Rick.
So, what should we be eating for better skin? Rick explains…
Fatty fish, such as salmon, is an excellent food for healthy skin. As a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids salmon can help keep your skin supple and moisturized. Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation, which can cause acne and outbreaks. Studies have shown that fish oil supplements may fight autoimmune disease and inflammatory conditions affecting your skin.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a nutrient found in plants. It functions as provitamin A and is converted into vitamin A in your body. Beta-carotene keeps your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock. As an antioxidant it is incorporated into your skin and protects your skin cells from sun exposure and therefore helps prevent sunburn and dry, wrinkled skin. A recent study using human skin cells suggests that beta-carotene suppresses UVA induction and boosts skin health.
Broccoli is full of vitamins and minerals important for skin health including vitamin A, C and K as well as zinc and folate. It also contains a special compound called sulforaphane, which is a powerful protective agent against sun damage. It works by neutralizing harmful free radicals and switching on other protective systems in your body. It may also have anti-skin cancer effects. According to a study, sulforaphane reduced the number of skin cells harmed by UV light by as much as 29%, with protection lasting up to 48 hours. It suggests sulforaphane may also maintain collagen levels in your skin
The powerful compounds found in green tea are called catechins. They may protect your skin from damage, reduce redness as well as improve hydration, suppleness and elasticity. A 12-week study in 60 women found that drinking green tea daily could reduce redness from sun exposure by up to 25 percent. Avoid drinking your green tea with dairy as there is evidence that milk could reduce the impact of antioxidants in your cuppa.
Avocados are high in healthy fats, which benefit your skin’s health. Getting enough of these fats is essential to keep skin supple and moisturized. Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps protect skin from free radicals and oxidative damage. Experimental studies suggest that vitamin E has photoprotective properties. Photoprotection is the biochemical process that helps the body cope with molecular damage caused by sunlight.
Red bell peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C builds collagen, a structural protein that forms body tissue, and helps cuts and wounds to heal. It is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from damaging free radicals.
An observational study in women linked eating vitamin C to a reduced risk of wrinkled and dry skin with age. Red bell peppers are also an excellent source of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body converts into vitamin A. It keeps your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock.
Scientists at Manchester University found that when tomatoes are consumed regularly, patients’ skin can over time become less susceptible to sunburn. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a natural carotenoid and phytonutrient that fights cellular damage and skin inflammation – it helps our body recover from UV rays. In fact, lycopene reduces sunburn by up to 40 per cent.
Turmeric is a root packed with curcumin, a nutrient with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Studies suggest that curcumin may possess particularly strong antioxidant activity and may directly reduce skin ageing. It is also known to boost the immune system’s defense mechanisms, enhance metabolism, yielding against bacteria and viruses, and support liver function.
If the liver struggles to do its job as well, it can prevent the body from eliminating toxins which in turn can cause your skin to break out more, or become easily inflamed or red.