Dr. Sandra El Hajj-MSc, N-MD, DHSc
By now, we’re all used to hearing the term “you are what you eat.” While the phrase can carry a number of meanings, it’s certainly an accurate representation for skin health. The human body and the food we eat are made up of the same elements, just arranged in a different way. If you fail to offer your body the right nutrients, its metabolic processes are affected and your wellness suffers as a result. The first place you may notice the consequences is on your skin.
Your skin is among the many bodily organs that are affected by what you eat. This article will outline some basic rules to adopt for healthy, radiant skin. Before picking the right foods to incorporate into your diet, though, it’s important to keep in mind that healthy skin begins with proper water intake, a well-balanced diet, a good night’s sleep and a consistent exercise routine. Together, these elements will set your skin up for success.
Referred to as “alligator pears” due to their color and shape, avocados pack a hefty dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They have the ability to boost the activity of cells against free radicals, promoting healthy skin aging. They are high in fat-soluble vitamins A and E that keep the skin nourished, youthful and well-moisturized.
Due to their high content of beta-carotene, potassium and lecithin, avocados also promote softening and restoring of the skin by maintaining healthy functioning of cell membranes.
Aside from their excellent skin-enhancing properties, avocados are very tasty and can be added to your diet in many ways. Some of the best recipes for avocados include the following:
Salmon, mackerel and herring are amazing choices for healthy skin. What makes these fish special is that they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for promoting supple and moisturized skin. One study explained that having a deficiency of such fatty acids—namely DHA—may contribute to dry skin (1).
Another study published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2016 added that the skin-boosting effects of omega-3s goes far beyond radiant skin. Fatty fish can help reduce redness and acne by helping to ease skin inflammation. They can also lower the sensitivity of your skin, making it less prone to UV damage(2).
Rich in vitamin E, fatty fish are powerful sources of antioxidants that can help protect the skin from free radicals. They are also great sources of high-quality protein, which contributes to keeping your skin firm and intact. Finally, the zinc content of fatty fish makes them a great choice for combating inflammation, keeping your skin healthy and promoting the formation of new skin cells.
Salmon and other fatty fish can be easily incorporated into your diet as a main meal or as a snack. With salmon, you can either eat the fish smoked or as a grilled fillet.
Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, walnuts are a wholesome source of essential fatty acids your body cannot synthesize on its own. You have to be careful though, while omega-3 fats can reduce inflammation of the skin, consuming too many omega-6 fats can promote inflammation in the body(3).
Walnuts are also rich in zinc, which is an important mineral for healing wounds and fighting off both inflammation and harmful bacteria. Finally, these nuts are high in vitamin E and selenium, two potent antioxidants.
The simplest way to get walnuts into your diet is having a handful of raw walnuts as a snack. You can also use these nuts to top any salad or crush them with other ingredients to make a great filling.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which functions as a precursor for vitamin A. This potent root vegetable contains up to six times your daily needs of Vitamin A in as little as half a cooked cup (4). One study even explained that carotenoids found in sweet potatoes can add an orange hue to your skin when consumed in large quantities (5).
Sweet potatoes are excellent antioxidants. They are high in anthocyanins and paired with their high concentrations of vitamins A, C and retinol, they help to fight off signs of skin aging.
Sweet potatoes are a fruitful addition to any diet. You can enjoy them as a main dish, a side or even in a smoothie. Diced and grilled, you can enjoy them alone or with other vegetables.
Bell peppers come in many colors: red, green, orange, yellow and even striped varieties. Like sweet potatoes, they are high in beta carotene that help the body meet its daily requirements for vitamin A. In fact, you can get more than 150 percent of your daily needs for this vitamin with just one cup of red bell pepper (6).
Bell peppers are also rich in vitamin C that’s helpful for restoringcollagen and works to keep your skin firm and strong. In one study examining the dietary habits of 4,025 women, those who consumed a higher intake of vitamin C had a lower likelihood of aged skin (7).
You can incorporate bell peppers into your diet in so many ways. They can be roasted, grilled, sauteed or enjoyed raw in a salad.
Aloe is a cactus-like plant well known for its medicinal properties that can combat acne, prevent dark spots and slow down aging. Its gel can help treat many conditions like burns, psoriasis, cold sores and others. It is rich in vitamin C and E and helps keep your skin supple and hydrated by promoting continuous repair. The ancient civilizations used to call it ‘the plant of immortality’ for its rejuvenating properties to the body and skin. A study published by theJournal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology explained the powerful functions of aloe vera as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory and a skin-regenerative food (8).
Above all, aloe vera is a plant that boosts the moisture retention of skin. It can quench thirsty cells in your skin while retaining moisture, combating itchiness and soothing irritations. Applied topically, it’s a great remedy for cracked skin. While many are familiar with the gel as a mask or incorporated into facial creams, eating aloe vera can present an accentuated benefit by acting on internal aging processes.
Aside from using aloe vera as a topical hydrator, you can drink its gel in a smoothie. When prepared with the right ingredients, smoothies containing aloe vera are rejuvenating mixes for your entire body.
Strawberry Smoothie: This smoothie is easy to prepare and presents antioxidant-rich benefits for your skin. Combining the healing properties of aloe vera gel with fresh fruit, this refreshing treat is perfect for summer.Get the recipe here.
Cleansing Aloe Vera Smoothie: This cleansing smoothie can help rejuvenate your skin while keeping it radiant. Blending the micronutrient power of greens with antioxidant-rich green tea, this is one smoothie you won’t want to miss.Get the recipe here.
Your skin is your body’s first line of defense, keeping you safe from the elements surrounding you each day in the environment. Unfortunately, this puts it at a higher risk for exposure to harmful toxins and environmental elements like UV light. Over time, these elements can cause tangible damage to your skin. Such damages often appear in the forms of dryness, dullness, fine lines or acne. While the process of skin aging can’t be reversed, it can be slowed by intentional lifestyle choices.
Eating a well-balanced diet full of nutrients and healthy fats, drinking enough water, getting a good night’s sleep and keeping up a consistent exercise routine can all contribute to radiant skin today and in the future. Among the many super foods to choose from, consider adding sweet potatoes, bell peppers, walnuts, aloe vera and fatty fish into your diet. With a little help from essential fatty acids and antioxidants, your skin will be on its way to its best glow yet.