Is there seriously anything food can’t do? I wrote about the right foods to reduce stress and decided to follow it up (eventually!) with how the right nutrients can help improve your skin. Many people have a favorite face cream or skin routine, but fabulous skin starts with what you feed your body.
Skin does age no matter how hard we try to stop it. Wrinkles and discoloration are the result of gradual damage from the sun or our habits like smoking, using harsh soaps and poor nutrition.
At a high level, old skin cells constantly shed and are replaced by new ones. You need a steady supply of nutrients to support this growth. By eating the right balance of foods, you’ll give your skin the proper nutrients it needs to keep soft and free of blemishes.
Here’s how to do your skin a solid
Check crash diets at the door
Crash dieting can take a toll on many parts of your body. There are long-term as well as some shorter-term consequences of not eating enough of the things your body requires to function properly. Because this is a post about skin, I won’t get into the potential liver and kidney issues that can develop from some of these diets after time.
Repeatedly losing and regaining weight can cause wrinkles, stretch marks and your skin to sag. Some crash diets also don’t have enough of the essential vitamins. Over time, it will show on your skin.
Cheers more – with water
I know this is known, and like sleep, this is one of the “do as I say, not as I do” tips. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to keep your skin soft. Even if you’re mildly dehydrated, your skin will look dry, tired and off-color.
Eat the rainbow
At least five portions of colorful fruits of vegetables a day can help protect your skin from the damage (wrinkles and age spots) caused by things like smoking, pollution, and the sun.
Here are some of the antioxidants you want to eat
Beta-carotene and Lutein to protect against wrinkles and age spots.
- Foods high in beta-carotene: Carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potato
- Foods high in lutein: Kale, papaya, and spinach
Vitamin C-rich foods help produce collagen to help with radiant skin and to heal blemishes.
- Foods high in vitamin C: Blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes
Selenium can help to protect against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots.
- Foods high in selenium: Brazil nuts (four of them give you more than five times the amount of three ounces of tuna), broccoli, eggs, fish, shellfish, tomatoes and wheatgerm
Vitamin E protects your skin from cell damage to support healthy skin growth.
- Foods high in vitamin E: Almonds, avocado, corn oil, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower oil
Fat is your friend
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats provide the essential fatty acids that act as a natural skin moisturizer. They also have a high amount of vitamin E which I already covered.
- Foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats: Avocados, fish, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 – your body can’t make it, so you have to take it
Omega-3 fats are essential fatty acids. The body doesn’t make them, so you have to get enough in your diet. Omega-3 helps the body produce anti-inflammatories so it’s particularly good for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Foods high in Omega-3: Oily fish like salmon and plant-sourced oils like flaxseed, linseed, walnut, and grapeseed.
Phyto’s the way to go
Phyto means plant, and phytoestrogens are natural chemicals found in plant foods. They help keep your natural hormones in balance and your skin even. Types of phytoestrogens:
- Isoflavones: Soya beans
- Lignans: Flax seeds, fruit, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains
Z may be the last letter of the alphabet but this is not last when it comes to key dietary minerals
Zinc helps to regulate the glands in the skin that produce oil to help repair skin damage and keep it soft.
- Foods high in zinc: Fish, lean red meat, nuts, poultry, seeds, shellfish, and whole grains.
Combat common skin conditions
Here’s a breakdown of foods that can help with some of the main skin conditions.
Eat more fresh fruit, fish, raw vegetables and whole grains. Include foods with a lot of selenium such as Brazil and cashew nuts, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Four Brazil nuts will give almost your recommended daily amount. Omega-3 helps inflammation so fish and flaxseed are good options. Strawberries contain salicylic acid which helps fight acne.
Just say no
Cut out saturated and hydrogenated fat. They are found in processed foods and junk food. You want to stop eating foods high in sugar.
For more information about what to eat or not to eat, read this article on Webmd.com.
Eczema is a skin condition that usually begins as patchy redness, often on the hands, but they can appear anywhere. Although there are many triggers like stress, for some people food sensitivity is one.
Foods high in Omega-3s (plant-based), zinc and vitamin E may help reduce your symptoms. Eat more lean red meat, poultry, seeds, flaxseed, linseed or sunflower oils, and avocado.
Just say no
Stay away from milk, eggs, fish, cheese, nuts and food additives.
For more information about what to eat or not to eat, read the National Eczema Association.
Psoriasis appears as red skin patches with scales found most commonly on the elbows and knees. Patches may feel itchy and sore, and in severe cases, the skin may bleed. Alcohol, smoking, obesity, stress and sunburns can be triggers for an outbreak.
Eat more anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, red pepper, ginger, cumin, fennel, rosemary and garlic; and foods like kale, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, mangoes, strawberries, and figs. Lean meats, fish and colorful fruits and vegetables are also good.
Just say no
Foods that may be triggers depend on each person and can be identified by your doctor. Some common things to stay away from include processed foods, sugars and for some, gluten has been a sensitivity.
For more information about what to eat or not to eat, read the National Psoriasis Institute.
Rosacea appears as redness on the nose, cheeks, chin or forehead, small visible bumps and blood vessels on the face and watery or irritated eyes. Alcohol, skin care products, stress, and weather can be triggers for an outbreak.
Eat vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, leafy greens, okra, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and zucchini, and soothing spices like cardamom, coriander, fennel and saffron. Omega-3 rich foods like salmon and flaxseed oil are also good.
Just say no
Foods that may be triggers depend on each person. Some common things to stay away from include foods that are processed or spicy, dairy, sugars, and gluten. Vinegar, eggplant, avocados, bananas, vanilla, raisins, red plums, and tomatoes also can trigger an outbreak.
For more information about what to eat or not to eat, read the National Rosacea Society.
Don’t forget these delights
- Eat bananas. They give you energy, boost your mood, help with dehydration so your skin doesn’t wrinkle and they make your skin glow.
- Cucumber slices, black teabags, or ice over your eyes helps to reduce puffiness and darkness. Leave either one of on for 10 minutes with your eyes shut and relax.
- Eat cherries. They contain melatonin to help you sleep better. I’ve written about this benefit in my smoothie bowl recipes with cherries.
- A daily cup of green tea can keep wrinkles at bay. Studies have shown that green tea is 200 times more powerful than Vitamin E at healing damaged skin.
Stay clear of these
You’ll want to focus on the neglected food groups such as the whipped group, the congealed group and the chocotastic. This line comes from a Simpsons episode, King-Size Homer, but it sums up my “what not to do” list well!
- High-glycemic carbohydrates like sugar, sugary drinks, cookies: They produce insulin which may damage your collagen and speed up wrinkles.
- Smoking: Other than the obvious health negatives, smoking will prematurely age your skin
- Too much alcohol and caffeine: These will dehydrate you and prematurely age your skin.
I’m doing research into if this list should include Prosecco because I refuse to believe it’s bad for you (alcohol or not), so stay tuned!
Changes to your skin will take some time to notice. It takes approximately six weeks for new skin to surface, so the visible benefits from dietary changes will take that long.
If you have persistent conditions that don’t clear up, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.