How is your diet connected to your skin? Your hair, skin and nails are all active parts of the body and are constantly renewing themselves. The nutrients in our food are the building blocks that make this whole process take place. Pastries, vegetable oils, fried foods, sugar, processed foods, alcohol and coffee do nothing but damage your health and your skin (think wrinkles, acne, dull skin, dark circles, puffiness, hair loss and brittle hair and nails). Here are 6 ways to change your diet to improve your skin health:
1. Cut White Carbs and Refined Sugar.
Being sugar-conscious is one of the smartest things you can do for your skin. White Carbs are broken down into glucose, which stimulates enzymes that break down collagen and elastic tissue resulting in wrinkles. The body also steals moisture from the skin in order to process refined sugar, leading to dryness and more visible signs of ageing. Work on slowly cutting refined sugar (you know, the added sugars you get in just about every processed food, from granola bars to yoghurt to cereals and ketchup) out of your diet.
2. Ditch The Dairy.
Dairy is a common food allergen that can have a direct effect on your skin. If you’re sensitive to dairy you may suffer from skin irritation and inflammation such as generally itchy skin, hives, eczema or acne breakouts. There is also a very strong correlation between consuming dairy products — such as milk — and acne, skin breakouts and ageing. Eliminate dairy from your diet and replace it with calcium-rich plant-based foods. Almond milk is loaded with calcium, and fortified tofu, soybeans and nuts have substantial amounts too. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli are also high in calcium.
3. Load Up On The Vegetables.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are associated with premature ageing, acne, psoriasis and wrinkles. Vegetables help to reduce oxidative stress and get rid of inflammation in the body. High in fibre and full of antioxidants, you should be getting in 2-3 servings at every meal. Steamed veggies or a fresh salad as a side is always a good start. Adding extra veggies such as spinach, cucumber or zucchini into your morning smoothie is another way to sneak some extra veg in. The presence of fibre in your diet ensures that your body gets more time to absorb the nutrients required for collagen production (the protein that holds the whole body together and is essential for skin, hair and nails). A fibre-rich diet also works like a broom to cleanse the body of fats, waste, and toxins, which otherwise manifest in the form of breakouts on your face, arms, and back.
4. Increase Zinc Rich Foods In Your Diet.
Zinc is a major player in the growth of new cells, boosting collagen, preventing wrinkles, general skin health and healing wounds. It’s also important for immune function and for eye health. Since the body doesn’t store zinc (and ladies, zinc is also depleted by the birth control pill), it’s important to get some zinc in your diet each day. Start to incorporate sustainable meats into your diet for a good dose of zinc. Try sustainable fish, grass-fed beef or organic eggs. If you don’t eat red meat or poultry try pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (or tahini), cashew nuts, chickpeas, lima beans, walnuts and mushrooms. These food sources are also high in zinc.
5. Eat More Foods High In Beta Carotene.
When eaten in the right amount, foods high in beta-carotene give your skin and face a golden radiance that’s perceived as more attractive and healthy. Yellow-orange fruits and dark green veggies are packed with these carotenoids. The body converts beta-carotene into active vitamin A which is required for healthy eyes and skin. Getting your carotenoids from foods is your safest bet; include more carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, mangoes, spinach, rockmelon, greens, kale, Swiss chard, and tomato-vegetable juice into your diet (just don’t go overboard or you’ll end up looking orange- fact!)
6. Eat All The Healthy Fats.
Healthy Omega 3 fats maintain the lipid barrier of your skin to keep skin cells hydrated and moisturised. Diets that are too low in fat may cause dry, flaky skin and make you look older than you should. Avocado, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, oily fish, olives etc. Most wholesome pure fats such as these are anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce redness and irritation of the body and the skin. Avocado and almonds are also packed with vitamin E- antioxidants that are essential for skin health. Nuts and seeds are also a great source of essential minerals like zinc and iron. Deficiencies in zinc and iron are known to cause skin and hair problems.