Dietary interventions have traditionally been an under appreciated feature of skin therapy. However, recent research has discovered a significant link between diet and several skin conditions such as acne, aging, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Diet alone is not the only culprit for skin conditions, stress, genetics, autoimmune diseases, the sun and pregnancy can also contribute to the health of an individual’s skin. For the purpose of this article I will be focusing on food and nutrients that support healthy skin.
A good diet consisting of whole foods, quality protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and minimal processed foods will do wonders for your body and remember that nourishment starts from within. However, there are some foods in particular that are renowned for their beneficial effects on skin, here they are.
AVOCADOS – avocados are an excellent source of beneficial fats that support the skin by providing moisture and flexibility, avocados contain vitamin C which is important for the production of collagen (a protein that maintains strong and healthy skin) and vitamin E which is an antioxidant that can help protect the skin from oxidative damage (oxidative damage occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants within the body, this can cause damage to cells and tissues).
BLUEBERRIES – blueberries, arguably one of the most nutrient dense plant foods on the planet. These little berries are known for their abundance of antioxidants which play a role in protecting against oxidative damage and are a rich source of vitamin C which you now know is important for the production of collagen.
CAPSICUM – a rich source of beta carotene which converts to vitamin A (retinol) in the body. Vitamin A stimulates the production of new skin cells and provides potent antioxidant protection.
Vitamin A, C and E are all important in maintaining healthy skin and also function as antioxidants. Vitamin C is necessary to synthesise collagen, the structural protein that provides strength. These vitamins can be found in most fruits and vegetables, in particular the ones listed above.
NUTS (WALNUTS, BRAZIL NUTS) – walnuts are a good plant based source of essential fatty acids which are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes, these fatty acids also help the skin to produce the natural oil barrier which supports hydration and younger looking skin. Brazil nuts which are rich in selenium which acts as powerful antioxidant to support the skin.
OILY FISH (SALMON, SARDINES) – oily fish are an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids which again support the moisture of skin, oily fish are a source of vitamin E which is one of the most important antioxidants for the skin. Oily fish are a high quality source of protein, protein is crucial for maintaining the strength and integrity of the skin.
OYSTERS – personally I am not a fan but if you enjoy oysters you can reap the benefits – oysters are extremely high in zinc, zinc is the mineral for skin, see below.
Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for skin health, zinc is essential for the development and functioning of skin. Zinc is a nutrient that is essential for humans, our body cannot make it so we must obtain it from the diet. Zinc is required for processes such as protein synthesis and wound healing which aid in maintaining the strength and integrity of our skin. Zinc also functions as an antioxidant; antioxidants neutralise free radicals preventing them from causing damage to DNA which can impact the skin. Zinc can also be food in red meat, eggs, fish, sunflower seeds and dairy.
SPINACH – full of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and E that support skin as well as containing antioxidants that help protect against skin conditions.
Try to avoid foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugar, white bread, cereals and most processed foods as these are not surprisingly, among some of the most common culprits contributing to skin conditions. These foods are rapidly absorbed, leading to higher levels of glucose in the blood and corresponding high levels of insulin. Insulin has been shown to increase the production of sebum and stimulate the secretion of androgens both of which play a role in the pathogenesis of acne.
An easy swap to avoid a spike in blood sugar from these foods is to switch to a whole grain variety, brown bread and brown rice contain the whole grain which means it takes the body longer to digest thus resulting in a slower release and less of glucose in the blood.
Last but not least – water. Water is absolutely crucial for not only our health and almost every process in the body but our skin. Aim for at least 2L every single day! Water assists in flushing out toxins and keeps the skin well hydrated. Drink up x
Illustration by Nakia Jones.