Did you know that your diet can affect how beautiful you are?
What we eat affects many aspects of our appearance from weight to skin condition, hair, nails and the rate at which we age. In fact what you put inside your body has way more of a long-term and lasting affect on your skin condition than any creams you might use on the outside. The health of your skin is very much dependent on the nutrients it receives and feeding your skin from within is one of the most effective beauty ‘treatments’ you can do!
Antioxidants protect all of our body cells, including those of the skin, from damage from the environment (smoke, pollution, stress, bad diet etc.) and the everyday ‘wear and tear’ that causes ageing. This damage is carried out by molecules known as ‘free radicals’ and the job of antioxidants is to literally ‘mop up’ free radicals to prevent them from causing harm.
Antioxidants put the ‘super’ into ‘super-foods’ such as blueberries and dark chocolate and are one of the key reasons you are always told to eat your fruit and veg! Antioxidants are present in plants to protect the plants themselves from environmental damage (from things like the weather or insect attacks). When we eat the plants, these lovely protective properties are passed on to us!
To get more antioxidants in your diet, include as many different brightly coloured fruits and vegetables as possible. Squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, tomatoes and berries are all fantastic sources. Cacao and green tea are rich in antioxidants too.
Essential fats are a key part of your beauty regime, as they moisturise skin from the inside, giving you supple and glowing skin. They are also good for keeping hair and nails strong and healthy. Oily fish are the best source of omega-3 fats and ideally should be included in your diet two or three times a week. Salmon, mackerel and sardines are good sources that are easy to incorporate into your diet. For example, sardines on rye toast make a great fast lunch, smoked mackerel is delicious with beetroot salad and a salmon fillet with brown rice and green veg is an easy midweek dinner. If you don’t eat fish, it is definitely worth considering taking either a fish oil or vegan (algal derived) omega-3 supplement, as the benefits are so massive.
Nuts and seeds are also a fantastic source of healthy fats; chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds are particularly good. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts are also great, as are all other nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds along with avocados also provide a healthy dose of vitamin E, another essential skin nutrient, which helps skin retain moisture, aids healing and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Try to include some nuts and seeds in your daily diet and avocados at least a couple of times each week.
A healthy, balanced diet including a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds, beans, eggs and fish (especially oily fish), is the basis for healthy glowing skin (and good health!). Including the following skin ‘super-foods’ will give your skin an extra boost of skin-feeding nutrients.
Chia seeds originate from South America, where ancient armies used them as ‘marching food’ due to their amazing energy content. They are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 essential fats, which help skin cells to retain moisture and fluidity. Chia seeds are also a great source of anti-ageing and protective antioxidants and are rich in minerals including zinc, needed for skin healing and helpful for acne sufferers.
Pomegranates contain punicalagins, an extremely powerful antioxidant also with anti-inflammatory effects. Pomegranates are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is needed for healthy collagen formation – collagen gives the skin structure and elasticity. They also provide essential skin vitamins A and E.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that protects the skin against free radical damage and aging. Berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C (1 cup provides more than 100% RDA), for collagen formation. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant itself, protecting cells from free radical damage.
An excellent source of vitamin E, which helps skin retain moisture and aids skin healing. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant so protects skin from the ageing effects of free radicals. Vitamin E may also help protect against sun damage and reduce inflammation in the skin, which is involved in acne, eczema and skin rashes. The healthy monounsaturated fats present in avocadoes also act as a natural moisturiser and softener for skin.
Vegetables such as carrots, squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes contain particularly high levels of beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which give them their lovely colour. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to ‘skin hero’ vitamin A, an essential nutrient for skin integrity – meaning skin that is firm, resists damage and can heal quickly. Beta-carotene itself also helps to prevent the free radical damage that can result in ageing, as it has antioxidant effects. Orange veg also provide vitamin C for healthy collagen formation, vitamin E and a host of protective plant compounds. Just 100g of sweet potato provides the RDA for Vitamin A.
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its anti-inflammatory effects are beneficial for calming any skin irritation such as acne flare-ups. In India it is traditionally used as a facemask, mixed with honey, which has anti-bacterial effects, so the combination is great for spots. Turmeric also helps protect skin against ageing, as it not only acts as an antioxidant itself, but also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes, so its actions against free radicals are two-fold.
Turmeric Facemask: mix 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp live natural yoghurt. Leave for 20 mins and rinse with warm water.