Eat your way to better looking skin
Anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, anti-acne; cleansers, toners, moisturisers; day cream, night cream, eye cream – you name it, we’re willing to buy it. In 2019, here in Australia we spent $4.2 billion on skin care products. Face creams account for the largest share of the global skin care product market.
Do we really need to splash all that cash? Not according to CBHS wellness consultant Jasmine Wolfe.
‘Skin care products can be beneficial, but if you don’t look after your skin from the inside, you could be wasting your money. The best way to achieve a healthy, glowing complexion is to eat a varied diet. Focus on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein, dairy, healthy fats and drink lots of water,’ says Jasmine.
And don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun. Tanning and sunburn damages and dehydrates the skin, leading to premature wrinkles.
You are what you eat
There’s a clear relationship between nutrition and our physical, emotional and mental health. Everything we consume has an impact on our bodies, including on our organs, and our skin is the largest organ of all.
Skin cells are constantly being renewed and they need nourishment from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to reduce the effect of damaging free radicals. Free radicals can accelerate the signs of ageing. Vitamins E, C and beta-carotene are among some of the most important antioxidants and our main source is food. These vitamins can’t be produced by our bodies.
When we consume healthy, nutritious food, our skin is more likely to glow with health and vitality. A diet of junk food, sugary drinks and too much alcohol can have the opposite effect.
‘You really can get all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need for healthy, glowing skin from the food you eat,’ says Jasmine.
It comes down to being consistent with your daily food and drink choices and eating whole foods as often as possible.
Variety is the key
The ideal diet for healthy, glowing skin contains a variety of plant-based whole foods, with healthy fats, lean protein from both fish and meat, and plenty of colour from fruit and veg. If that sounds a lot like current guidelines on healthy eating, you’d be right.
‘Upping your intake of plant-based food is one of the best things you can do to help the health of your skin,’ says Jasmine.
Top tips for healthier looking skin
- Eat more plant-based food
Fruit and vegetables contain powerful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which are vital to maintain skin health. Antioxidants can help fight free-radicals, which, along with smoking, sunlight, stress and pollution, can damage your skin and increase wrinkling. If you’re not sure where to start, focus on anything that comes from a plant – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, tubers (carrot, beetroot, sweet potato) legumes (beans, lentils, pulses) and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water
Our bodies are made up largely of water and it’s easy to become dehydrated. We need water to help digest food, absorb nutrients, prevent constipation, regulate temperature, remove waste products and prevent dehydration. Dehydration will increase the appearance of wrinkles and make skin look dull.
Current guidelines are only estimates. Each of us have different requirements based on our physical activity levels, how much we sweat and the amount of fibre we consume. As a general guide, around eight to ten cups a day (2.5L) for men and eight for women can meet a healthy average person’s needs. All liquids count – including tea, coffee and milk – but caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, so they may contribute to dehydration if consumed in excess.
- Choose healthy fat
Healthy fats are those we call unsaturated fats. They include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known commonly for their heart health benefits. Healthy fats can help reduce inflammation and keep your skin hydrated and supple.
Good sources of healthy fats include:
- Extra virgin olive oil, including olives
- Oily fish – best sources are salmon, mackerel & sardines
- Avocado (packed full of vitamins and antioxidants)
- Nuts and seeds – walnuts and linseeds are great picks for plant-based omega 3
- Focus on whole grains
Studies have shown that people eating a low-GI diet, with plenty of whole foods and lots of fruit and veg, may experience less acne. Brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats (like natural muesli) and wholemeal or grainy bread are all examples of low-GI, high fibre foods. They are digested more slowly, which helps you maintain stable blood glucose levels and avoid erratic spikes of insulin thought to aggravate existing acne.
- Eat more orange vegetables
Orange vegetables are a rich source of beta carotene, which our bodies convert into retinol in the liver. Retinol is necessary to stimulate the production of new skin cells. Green vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and kale are also rich in beta carotene. Include plenty of orange coloured and green leafy vegetables as part of a healthy diet:
- Sweet potato
- Asian greens
- Include zinc in your diet
Zinc is important for the normal growth, functioning and repair of body cells. Zinc has been prescribed as a complimentary medicine with mixed results in reducing the inflammation associated with mild to moderate acne. Zinc can have side effects, so it is important to consult your doctor before taking high dose supplements. The richest source of zinc is found in shellfish and animal products. Include a combination of foods rich in zinc to boost your intake.
- Lean red meat
- Choose food rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is important in the formation of collagen, which helps skin maintain its elasticity. Most people equate Vitamin C with berries and citrus fruit, but it’s also found in green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli.
- Citrus fruit
- Kale, spinach, broccoli
- Focus on five.
The easiest way to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet is to eat the recommended serves of food from each of the five food groups. Not sure what they are? Check these guidelines. For vegetables it’s five serves a day.
- Eat a rainbow
The different colours in fruit and veg represent different phytochemicals, many of which are powerful antioxidants which can help protect skin from inflammation. Nutritionists advocate ‘eating a rainbow’ to ensure you get the widest variety of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. And no, M&Ms don’t count!
Should you eat superfoods or take supplements?
There’s nothing magical about so-called superfoods. They’re marketed as being better for you, but they are simply more nutritionally dense than most other foods. There’s no magic bullet when it comes to nutritional health.
And the only reason to take supplements is if you’re deficient in some way. For example, vegetarians might need iron or vitamin B12, or people with osteoporosis might need extra calcium and vitamin D. If you already eat a healthy balanced diet, and you have no vitamin deficiencies, adding supplements is unlikely to make any difference to the health of your skin. In fact, some can be toxic in large doses so it’s best to get your nutritional needs from food.
The message from Jasmine is simple.
‘Eat a variety of unprocessed food, avoid excess and don’t get caught up into thinking supplements and superfoods are the only way to achieve healthy, glowing skin.’
Can we help?
Consult an accredited practicing dietitian if you’re considering making any radical changes to your diet. Some crash diets can limit the intake of certain food groups which won’t help your overall nutrition or health.
Your CBHS health cover may qualify you for a discount on the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, a healthy way of losing weight that will benefit your body and your skin. If you have a BMI of 25+ and/or diabetes, joint pain, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you might be eligible to enrol in a fully funded program. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Disclaimer: All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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