04 May What to eat for glowing skin
Nothing makes you feel more radiant than having a naturally beautiful complexion.
On the flipside, few things can zap your confidence more quickly than having less-than-perfect skin.
I see this again and again in clinic. Whether it’s dryness, acne or rosacea, when someone feels self-conscious about their skin, it slowly erodes their self-esteem and their vibrancy—often to a degree that seems excessive to those not dealing with complexion woes.
There was a time when the official medical line was that your diet has no bearing on the quality of your skin but, fortunately, attitudes to this are now shifting. It makes sense that, as your largest organ, your skin is an indication of how the rest of your body is faring. If it’s suffering in some way, chances are there’s something inside that needs addressing.
Thankfully, nutrition is a hugely powerful tool to do this. As with any therapeutic intervention, the approach is two-fold: what do you need more of? And what should you have less of?
There are many approaches you can take to deal with specific conditions (which will be covered in future articles) but these simple steps will lay the foundations for healthy, glowing skin.
It may seem basic, but insufficient hydration is surprisingly common! Think of your cells as little balloons. If they’re only filled with a little bit of water, they’re more likely to be saggy and even a bit wrinkly. If, however, they’re full of water, they’re taut, firm and plump—which is exactly what you want your skin to be.
Drinking lots of water also helps to flush out a wide variety of toxins, which can otherwise lead to a dull complexion. Aim to drink a minimum of two litres of filtered water each day, and more if you’re particularly active.
Thankfully, we now understand that good fat does not make us fat—but it does do wonders for our skin.
Once again, it’s all down to your cells. The membranes that surround them are made from the fats that you eat. Consuming adequate amounts of good, essential fats—from oily fish, olive oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds—help to create strong yet flexible cell membranes . This, in turn, helps your cells to retain all that water you’ve drunk, leading to smooth and supple skin.
Get into the habit of enjoying a little good fat with every meal, such a drizzle of olive oil on your salad or a few nuts sprinkled on your porridge.
Your skin in the barrier between you and the outside world, which means it’s subject to a host of assaults: pollution, smoke, UV rays, chlorine in water, and even extreme heat or cold. Together, these add up to create oxidative stress.
In order to prevent excessive damage, your skin needs to harness the protective power of antioxidants, which neutralise these stresses on a cellular level .
Colourful fruits and vegetables are a wonderful source of antioxidants—and the darker, the better. Add some blueberries to your breakfast, enjoy some beetroot for lunch and chomp on kale for dinner, and you’ll help to build your skin-protecting antioxidant army.
The health of your skin is intrinsically linked to that of your gut. Your intestines are home to abundance of bacteria and, like any community, you want more good beings than bad!
The correct amount of good bacteria will support a clear, radiant complexion, while too many off the bad guys (both bacteria and fungi) can lead to a whole host of issues, including eczema and acne.
The best way to boost your good bacteria is to eat a range of fermented foods. These include sauerkraut, kombucha (and refreshing drink made from fermented tea) and good, old-fashioned natural yoghurt.
Building up these good bacteria takes time so it’s best to be consistent—try to eat a little fermented food daily.
This is also an antioxidant, but it deserves its own special mention when it comes to skin health. Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the development of collagen, which keeps skin firm, and elastin, which keeps in supple.
In fact, studies suggest that diets high in vitamin C lead to faster wound healing, reduced skin damage and overall better skin appearance .
Most people think oranges are rich in vitamin C, but peppers, dark leafy greens and broccoli (sorry!) are actually some of the best sources.
Study after study shows that a high sugar intake can wreak havoc on skin, exacerbating everything from acne to ageing .
This does not mean we must eschew all sugar, forever. Mindful consumption of the sweet stuff—a bit of a friend’s birthday cake, for example—is an important part of a healthy, balanced life.
What we do need to pay attention to is the hidden and/or unnecessary sugar in our food: sweet drinks, packaged goods and ready meals are prime culprits.
A little bit of red wine has many health-promoting benefits. The trouble is, when it comes to booze, many of us indulge in more than a little.
Alcohol is dehydrating and places a heavy detoxification demand on the body, ultimately making your skin suffer. It can also increase the risk of rosacea (chronic inflammation of the skin) in women .
When drinking, a simple yet effective tactic for reducing your intake is to alternative every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water.
High levels of caffeine increase your output of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, raises the hormone insulin—which can cause skin to produce excess oil and turn over skin cells too quickly, leading to congestion.
One eye-opening study found that in drinking coffee before a stressful event (and such events are, sadly, a daily occurrence for most people) increased cortisol levels by up to 211% .
So what can you do? Aim to enjoy just one cup of coffee per day. If you fancy the comfort of a hot drink after that, opt for antioxidant-rich green tea.
An abridged version of this article first appeared on Hip and Healthy.
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