Beautiful skin starts on your plate. We’ve found out exactly what you should always keep in your fridge to get clear and glowing skin. Just in time for summer!
Shona Wilkinson, Head Nutritionist at www.NutriCentre.com, natural health retailer, explains ‘Many people don’t make a link between the foods they eat and their skin. But like any other part of the body, our skin is kept healthy by the food and nutrients that we consume. So while a poor diet can quickly lead to sallow or dry skin, blemishes or acne, a healthy diet based on whole foods including a variety of vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, beans, eggs, fish and whole grains is an excellent basis for glowing, youthful skin. The following foods are particularly good sources of helpful nutrients and great skin boosters.’
Keep it orange
Vegetables such as carrots, squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes contain particularly high levels of beta carotene and other carotenoids, which give them their lovely orange colour. ‘Beta carotene converts to vitamin A in our body, which is one of the most important nutrients for skin integrity (meaning skin that is firm, resists damage and can heal quickly). Beta carotene itself may also help to prevent free radical damage to our cells that can result in ageing, as it works as an antioxidant. The orange vegetables are delicious as a basis for stews and soups in the winter, or roasted with other vegetables such as peppers, red onions and beetroot.’ adds Shona.
Berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are excellent sources of vitamin C. ‘This vitamin is vital for the formation of collagen, which gives our skin structure and elasticity. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, protecting our cells from damage; and berries also contain many other plant nutrients that may work as antioxidants in the body, such as the quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol. Another advantage of berries over most other fruits is that they are lower in sugar (a diet high in sugary foods can speed up skin ageing). Berries are great added to plain yoghurt, with some chopped nuts – an ideal snack or breakfast option. You can also try taking a supplement packed with antioxidants and resveratrol, such as Nature’s Plus AgeLoss Skin Support (www.revital.co.uk, £34.25)’ says Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist.
Oily fish for hydration
Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and so on) contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. ‘It has been found that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play an essential role in skin structure and appearance: they are incorporated into cell membranes in the epidermis (the outermost layer of cells in the skin) and help to maintain the skin’s barrier function and prevent moisture loss. They are also thought to have a role in the dermis (the lower layer of skin) by controlling inflammation and minimising collagen damage from UV rays. Not a fish fan? Try taking a good fish oil supplement such as Quest Vitamins’ Omega 3 (www.revital.co.uk, £8.78).’ says Barns.
A* skin with Avocado
Avocado is a good source of vitamin E, which is thought to have several roles in skin health. Like vitamin C, it works as an antioxidant so may protect the skin cells against damage from free radicals. It is also thought to help protect the skin from UV rays, and have anti-inflammatory activity in the skin (inflammation is involved in skin rashes, blemishes and acne). ‘Although avocado is relatively high in fat, the majority of this is healthy monounsaturated fat like that found in olive oil, and the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid. As we have already seen, omega-6 fats are helpful for preventing moisture loss from the skin; and monounsaturated fats may also have this benefit. On top of this, avocadoes also contain good levels of carotenoids, those same antioxidants that are found in the orange vegetables.’ Explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist (www.marilyglenville.com) and author of The Natural Health Bible for Women.
Pumpkin seeds for problem skin
These nutritional gems are excellent sources of zinc, one of the most important minerals for maintaining healthy, happy skin. ‘It is thought that as much as 20% of the body’s zinc is stored in the skin, and it has a major role in growth and healing. Deficiency in this mineral is linked with acne, dry skin, dermatitis and poor wound healing. Pumpkin seeds, like avocadoes, nuts and other seeds, also contain the omega-6 fat linoleic acid. Other seeds and nuts are also good sources of zinc, as well as biotin, a vitamin that is known to contribute to healthy skin and hair.’ says Wilkinson.
Green juice boost
Juices made with lots of fresh green vegetables are concentrated sources of nutrients, including many that can be beneficial to our skin. ‘They contain minerals like calcium, magnesium and alkaloids, which help to alkalise the body, preventing it from becoming too acidic. Our body generally keeps a fairly stable acid-alkaline balance, but a slight over-acidity may be linked to skin eruptions or problems like eczema. Green juices are also rich in vitamin C, beta carotene and other antioxidants including chlorophyll, the substance that produces the green pigment in plants. If you do not own a juicer, the just eat lots of green vegetables!
Want to get a green veg boost for your super-smoothie? Try Nature’s Plus Green Lightning (www.revital.co.uk, £26.40). This greens-based nutritional powder that includes chlorella, spirulina, wheatgrass and Pacific kelp to purify your skin.’ recommends Barns.
Oats are a particularly rich source of biotin, a vitamin that is well-known for its role in the health of our skin and hair. ‘Oats are also high in gentle fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and bowel function. Healthy digestion is vital for our skin for two main reasons. Firstly, we need to digest foods properly for all those skin-loving nutrients to get into our body; and secondly, if we are not eliminating waste properly then excess toxins can circulate in the blood and may come out through the skin, in the sweat and sebum. The result may be skin rashes and other skin problems.’ says Shona.
Cabbage patch doll
Cruciferous vegetables are the ‘cabbage-family’ vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, red and green cabbage, chard, watercress and Brussels sprouts. ‘They contain lots of sulphur compounds, which can support detoxification in the liver (adequate liver detoxification is just as important as healthy bowel for getting rid of toxins). They may also be supportive for hormone balancing, especially in women, because they contain a substance called indole-3-carbinol that has been found to balance oestrogen levels. Therefore, if you are a woman who is prone to skin breakouts around your period, you may find it helpful to eat one to two portions a day of these vegetables – but make sure you vary your choice so you don’t get bored. But if you are a man, don’t think they won’t help you: cruciferous vegetables are highly nutritious and good for all of us!’ explains Barns.