Modern life is stressful. There’s any number of physical, emotional and hormonal stresses that attack your body daily, and nowhere is the effect more obvious than on your skin. Well, you are what you eat, so eat yourself beautiful!
So much diet information is couched in science, that it’s difficult to figure out the simple stuff you need to know – what should I eat? We consulted Ben Davidson, a nutrition writer for Total Diet Food, which provides a personalised food plan delivery service to women across the capital. Here’s his checklist of the best nutrients to give your skin a healthy glow, and the best foods to eat for several common skin problems.
“Essentially, it’s about vitamins A, C and E, Omega 3 fatty acids and zinc,” Ben says.
Vitamin A – helps to maintain and repair the skin. Deficiencies can result in a dry, flaky complexion. Vitamin A is a common ingredient in many skin creams and is often used to treat acne and psoriasis. Good sources of vitamin A include liver, chilli, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, kale and spinach.
Vitamin C – helps to maintain the structure of the skin and reduce wrinkles. It combats the damage caused by free radicals associated with over-exposure to the sun or pollution. It’s also essential to the prevention of scurvy, and encourages faster healing of wounds and strong scar tissue. Everyone knows citrus fruits are good for vitamin C, but it’s also in bell peppers, guava, broccoli, leafy greens and fresh herbs such as thyme, basil and parsley. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, so don’t overcook these foods – eat them raw for the best results.
Vitamin E – has strong antioxidant properties, which means it helps to combat those free radicals that can do so much damage. Like vitamin C, it also reduces the effects of exposure to the sun, and helps prevent wrinkles. In combination with Vitamin A, it can even help to prevent certain skin cancers. That’s quite a claim, but when you think it’s reducing the effect of exposure to the sun, it’s basically like a sunscreen booster. You’ll find it in almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, tomatoes, avocados, asparagus, prunes, spinach and cabbage.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – responsible for the skin’s moisture content and elasticity, as well as helping with repairs. Omega 3 fats can help with inflamed skin, blackheads and psoriasis. They’re a great thing to include in your diet, as aside from the skin benefits, they can also help to treat a huge range of conditions from depression and cancer to arthritis and heart disease. Omega 3s are found in oily fish like sardines, salmon, mackerel and tuna, but also in flax seeds, chia seeds, mustard oil, seaweed and mangoes.
Zinc – another multi-function mineral that works on so many parts of the body. It’s required for the immune system, but also helps with wound healing, prevents dermatitis and controls the production of oil in the skin. It helps the absorption of vitamin A as well, so is effective against acne, and it has anti-inflammatory effects too. Zinc is absorbed better from animal sources such as kidney, liver, red meats and seafood. But plant sources such as pumpkin seeds, ginger, pecans, Brazil nuts and oats are also high in zinc; to maximise the absorption from plant sources, soak the nuts and seeds for several hours before eating, or eat plenty of protein which also aids the absorption.
But if you’ve got a specific problem – what should you eat?
Acne – Vitamin A and Zinc – so red meats, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, ginger. Garlic can also help as it has antibacterial properties that can fight the infection causing the acne.
Wrinkles – Omega 3 fatty acids, plus vitamins C and E. Oily fish, flax seeds, mangoes, citrus fruits, spinach.
Under-eye circles – can be caused by many factors, but one reason is poor circulation. Vitamin C can help with this, so eat fruits and leafy greens. Or you may just need more sleep!
Baggy eyes – a puffy face or eyes could be due to water retention. Cut down on salt, and eat potassium rich foods such as avocados, potatoes and bananas.
Dry skin – Omega 3s and vitamin A. Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, oily fish, mangoes.
Scars, ulcers, burns, eczema – Manuka honey has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and can actually be applied directly onto the skin to help these problems to heal. Check the anti-bacterial strength rating and go for at least UMF16.
Of course, that’s just a tiny selection of the nutrients that will help you eat yourself beautiful. It’s common sense that everything you eat gets absorbed and used by your body one way or another, for good or bad. You can read any number of checklists and plan your diet down to a T, and if that works for you, then great.
But if you haven’t got the time, or find it too confusing, the simple rule of thumb is this: eat fresh food, not processed, and try to get a good balance of different food types. A little bit of everything means you’ll be getting a good variety of all the nutrients, and in no time at all, you’ll be the envy of your friends with a new healthy glow even without your makeup.
Totaldietfood.com is London’s fresh and personalised diet delivery service which delivers Chef and nutritionist prepared tailor-made food packages to your door daily. They cater widely for all food intolerances, matching calorie levels with personal preferences. All meals are preservative free. Feel free to call the team today on 020 8626 9360.