I image you are all familiar with the phrase ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips,’ but were you aware that poor diet can lead to the appearance of your face suffering too.
Most of us have a basic idea of what a healthy food choice would be. We're aware that fast food probably isn't the best option for our overall well-being, and that brownies pack a lot more calories than, say, a stick of celery.
But, have you ever stopped to consider how your skin is affected by what you eat? Other than being aware than fried foods and chocolate may cause breakouts, do you even stop to think about how what you're eating will make your skin look?
Well, you should, because, cliché or not, we most definitely are what we eat ⎯ especially when it comes to our skin!
That doesn't mean I'm implying that you have to do a restrictive juice cleanse or anything that drastic in order to have healthy glowing skin; it just means that having knowledge of how skin reacts to the various things we eat can make a huge difference in the overall quality of your skin.
Simple carbohydrates like the refined sugar found in most cakes, biscuits, sweets, and soft drinks cause insulin levels to spike and create a wave of inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation leads to a breakdown in collagen and elastin, the fibres that give skin its elasticity and strength. Sugar also attaches itself to proteins in the body and produces a harmful byproduct called AGE (advanced glycation end product) which results in the skin sagging, breakouts and a dull complexion. There's also research that links sugar to acne ⎯ those spikes in insulin levels can also increase sebum production. A recent study reveals that people who eat a low-glycemic diet had fewer breakouts.
Seek out foods that contain zinc, to help reduce inflammation and bacteria production. Cashews, avocados, blackberries, and raspberries are all high in zinc. Fresh fruit is always a satisfying and healthy sweet treat, but if you have to eat sugar, try to eat dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids). It also contains zinc and has antioxidants that help fight sun damage. If a low-glycemic diet is something you're interested in trying, incorporate more whole grains, veggies, and beans while cutting way back on white pasta, rice, bread, and, of course, sugar.
Too much fatty protein (think: sausage rolls, cheese, pizza and, of course, red meat) results in dull, puffy skin and dark under eye circles.
If you are an omnivore choose lean proteins like chicken or fish (pssst salmon and sardines fight acne inflammation) and plant-based proteins like lentils and beans (which are also great if following the low glycemic diet)
Caffeine increases the production of your stress hormone cortisol. Raised cortisol levels often lead to acne breakouts. So try to avoid. If you are really craving that caffeine hit choose green tea which is also packed full of antioxidants that will help to reduce inflammation. Remember though, if you really want to give your skin a gift, drink water.
The salt found in crisps and popcorn encourage your skin retain water, which makes you puffy and bloated. Iodized salt, especially in high doses, can also aggravate pimples. (Be aware: just because you don't sprinkle salt onto your foods doesn't mean they're not loaded with it ⎯ check labels on anything packaged and the sodium content might shock you.) Also, most processed foods contain countless chemicals and additives that generate free radicals which cause inflammation and premature aging. Craving salt? Opt for nuts! Most contain selenium, vitamin E, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium and iron, which are all essential for healthy skin.
If you’re craving a crunch, choose raw vegetables in a variety of colours so you get essential vitamins and minerals. Carrots, for example, are rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, which improve skin health.
Whether it's in sweet (ice cream) or savoury (sour cream, cheese) form, dairy promotes increased blood levels of androgen, which leads to excess oil production and increased potential for breakouts. So reach for dairy alternatives, such as almond milk and fruit sorbets (without lots of added sugar).
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!