Glowing youthful skin is what I get asked about all the time, so here is a post all about SKIN!
You may be one of the lucky ones to have escaped annoying breakouts throughout your life and have no need to worry about acne cures, but perhaps you would love to improve your skin’s vitality, firmness, natural glow and even reduce fine lines and wrinkles? All of this is entirely possible with the right nutrients, and without having to shell out for expensive lotions, treatments and facials!
I speak to so many people who spend a small fortune on skin products and treatments every month, whilst failing to nourish it properly from within. They get increasingly frustrated, and understandably so.
While certain foods can greatly help to boost your skin’s health, I must also emphasise that by simply adding in a green smoothie, kale salad or an avocado here and there will not transform your skin, hair, nails and figure. It must be a lifestyle shift, which includes eating an abundance of whole plant foods, efficient stress-management, sufficient sleep, water and regular exercise. And NO crash diets! They’re a disaster for your skin’s radiance and health, not to mention your entire metabolism – and sanity. Also please take note that nothing will happen instantly, but it will happen so don't throw in the towel if you haven't achieved all of your goals by then end of week 1.
We can also eat certain types of food to help address specific beauty and health concerns. For many of us (myself included), a major focus is achieving and maintaining younger-looking skin. Certain nutrients and foods are skin superstars, giving us that healthy glow that anti-ageing creams can only dream of doing, and for a fraction of the price.
Our Skin and Ageing
As we get older, the signs of ageing tend to show first on our skin. it is known as intrinsic ageing. It’s shows up as a decrease in structural support from the two main layers of our skin, the dermis and epidermis. Less collagen will be produced, which increases the fragile texture and appearance of the skin. It also reduces blood supply and nutrients. Overall, our skin enjoys less protection. This is an unfortunate fact of the ageing process. However, there are certain nutrients proven to be essential for prolonging our skin’s health and vitality….
Recent scientific research shows us that there are various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which our skin really loves. These have the ability to deeply nourish and lubricate it from the inside out, and are the very best to eat regularly for glowing, youthful skin.
1. Zinc: This is important for healing skin from acne, so it also makes sense that even non-sufferers should eat plenty of zinc to maintain youthful skin.
Zinc controls oil production in our skin, and certain hormones responsible for producing acne. It’s also needed to strengthen our immune system, which helps to fight off the bacteria that can cause spots and infections.
Did you know that zinc is needed for our taste buds to work properly too? Maintaining healthy and normal taste, vision and smell are another responsibility for this magical micro mineral! The food sources of zinc I favour are pumpkin seeds, ginger, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts and oats.
2. Selenium: This is required for maintaining the elasticity and suppleness of our skin.
It’s important as an antioxidant, and protects our cells from damage by toxic free radicals and it can also help to prevent skin cancer by protecting our skin from damage caused by too much exposure to UV light.
The very best source of selenium is raw Brazil nuts, with just two a day providing sufficient amounts. I love to chop them into my salads and porridge. Other good sources include garlic and brown rice.
3. Silica: This is important for strengthening our body’s connective tissues. Including muscles, tendons, hair, ligaments, nails, bone and cartilage, making it essential for healthy skin too.
If deficient in silica, our body will also struggle to heal wounds and skin will be less smooth and supple. Silica is so effective in keeping our connective tissues healthy due to its help in creating glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are the integral part of structural tissue.
You may have heard of hyaluronic acid. At the moment it is the ultimate ingredient in anti-ageing products, you may even own a face cream containing this well-known GAG! This is because it has been proven to support the re-generation of skin cells, and to increase the levels of skin-hydrating retinoic acid.
A diet containing plenty of silica can therefore be really effective for halting the signs of ageing skin. My favourite food sources of silica include leeks, strawberries, mango, celery, asparagus, cucumber and green beans.
4. Omega-3 Fats: As essential fats, we don’t produce them in our body, so they must come from our diet everyday. I have worked with so many clients, whose dry, inflamed or spotty skin was hugely improved by increasing their intake of omega-3 fats and decreasing their consumption of vegetable oils and animal fats.
Omega-3 fats are needed for the repair of our skin, to maintain healthy moisture content, for general flexibility and they’re important for the structure of each and every cell wall in our body to keep them fluid and supple.
The typical Western diet tends to be rich in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, from eating grains, baked snacks, meat and vegetable oils regularly, but low in omega-3 fats. This can really affect the health of our skin, but simply balancing out our intake of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats can dramatically improve our skin’s health and result in smoother and younger-looking skin.
I always take an Omega-3 supplement daily, as well as ensuring I’m getting plenty of healthy fats. Other good sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and chlorella.
5. The ACE Vitamins: These are vitamins A, C and E, which I’ve nicknamed ACE to help you remember how good they are for our skin
The maintenance and repair of our skin is one of the main jobs of vitamin A, and without sufficient amounts in our body, our complexion can become dry, flaky and dull. Pretty much the exact opposite of what we’re aiming for!
Vitamin A based treatments are often used topically to treat skin problems such as acne, but it’s always best to eat foods rich in vitamin A instead of taking it as a supplement as it can be toxic in high doses.
Some of the very best vitamin A foods include sweet potatoes, spinach, melon, carrots, butternut squash, kale, apricots and mangoes. As it is a fat-soluble vitamin, eating foods rich in vitamin A with a small amount of healthy fat like avocado, nuts, seeds or coconut oil, can boost its absorption and therefore increase its beautifying effect for our skin.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which reduces the free-radical damage to our skin cells caused by pollution or excess sun exposure. These free radicals breakdown the collagen and elastic fibres that support our skin, and cause wrinkles to develop along with other signs of premature ageing.
Particularly when eaten with vitamin E-rich foods, vitamin C is excellent at protecting our skin from too much exposure to the sun.
Some of the very best sources of vitamin C include red and green bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, oranges, kale, parsley, spinach and broccoli. It’s always best to eat vitamin C from its natural, whole food source as nature intended, because synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) does not offer the full spectrum of health benefits.
Vitamin E is another important antioxidant that also reduces damage by sun exposure, environmental toxins and poor food choices. It helps to reduce wrinkles, plus vitamin E oil can be patted onto the skin to reduce the appearance of scars, fine lines and to soothe dry skin.
Some excellent food sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, safflower oil, almonds, spinach, prunes, peaches, hazelnuts, mangoes, avocados, asparagus and cabbage. Studies have shown that vitamin E supplements can actually causes us harm, so consuming it the natural way is always best!
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!