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People say “food is the best medicine.” Maybe you've heard that “glowing skin comes from within.”
That’s all good and well, but it raises the question - what food will give me that glow, and what should we be munching on to put our best skin forward?
Here’s what you need to know.
The idea of “eating for healthy skin” is all about incorporating foods into your diet that are rich in skin-feeding nutrients - things like beta carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, and selenium.
That means consuming things like antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, healthy fats from oily fish and nuts, and a varied, balanced diet.
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty and discuss specific foods and nutrients that are helpful for your most pressing skin concerns:
Acne is caused by three things: excess sugar, inflammation, and infection of the skin's sebaceous glands.
The biggest issue that causes all of these? Excess sugar in the bloodstream and processed foods.
Excess sugar leads to an overload of insulin, which can damage collagen and accelerate the formation of wrinkles. Similarly, processed foods can alter hormone production, which overstimulates the sebaceous glands.1
The trick is to avoid high-GI carbohydrates - like sugary drinks, cookies, and sweets - along with saturated and hydrogenated fats found in processed foods.
Instead, incorporate low-GI foods - foods that the body breaks down into glucose more slowly. These include things like beans and oatmeal.
Also eat more raw vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit, and fish - along with selenium-rich foods, such as Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, fresh tuna, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and wholegrain bread.
All these will provide you with a steady supply of energy, helping you feel satisfied for longer and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
Dry skin happens for two reasons:
This can become a major problem pretty quickly: even mild dehydration can make your skin look tired, tight, and flaky. This can age skin and cause problems like:
The most obvious solution here? Water in any form that you can get it. The ideal, of course, is to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day (or herbal, caffeine-free tea if you want some flavor). But you can also eat your H2O by adding foods with a high water content to your daily diet, like:
And, of course, avoid things that further dehydrate your skin like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Essential Fatty Acids
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats - the kind found in avocado, oily fish, seeds, and nuts - are a great source of essential fatty acids. These help with cellular function, joint health, and more. They also act as natural moisturizers for your skin.
Bonus: these sources of fats are also packed with vitamin E, so they help protect against free radical damage.
Skincare formulations containing vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid or panthenol) provide some of the best skin hydration. Vitamin B5 is also shown to prevent skin water loss and improve skin barrier functioning.2
So, if you find a beauty product with vitamin B5 at the top of the ingredients, know that it’s a good choice. You can also get plenty of this vitamin from whole grains, avocado, and chicken.
A compromised natural barrier is the source of many common skin issues, including dryness, fine lines, and infection.
It happens, more often than not, because of the products that you use - they’re too harsh, and they strip the skin of its natural oils. That leaves your skin fully exposed and prone to infection, acne, and other problems.
This problem is also exacerbated by pollution and free radicals - harmful, unstable molecules that wreak havoc on the skin and cause a slew of harmful effects.
The solution? Consume foods that feed and strengthen your natural barrier. They includes:
Dark spots, or hyperpigmentation, generally come from sun damage and hormonal changes - though they can also be a side effect of inflammation or medication use.
They’re not harmful, per se- but they do feel like a major eyesore for many people - and definitely something that most people want to get rid of.
Vitamin C is a super antioxidant that supports the immune system, heals blemishes, and brightens the skin. While you can (and should) apply it topically, you can also find it abundantly in:
Selenium is another antioxidant that works synergistically with vitamin C (and vitamin E) to protect against skin cancer, sun damage, and age spots. It can be found in brazil nuts, though you can also incorporate fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat germ, and broccoli if nuts aren’t you're taste or readily available.
Skin inflammation can happen for a variety of reasons, including infection and - once again - a compromised natural barrier. In some cases it can be beneficial: acute inflammation in response to injury or infection is a sign of your immune system at work, and it’s an important part of the healing process.
The problem comes with ongoing, low-grade inflammation. This can happen because of:
An overreaction can compromise your skin long-term, leading to conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
Omega Fatty Acids
One awesome go-to to fight inflammation? Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids - which can’t be made in the body - are found in oily fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts. They encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds which help calm the skin.
These include turmeric, red pepper, ginger, garlic, fennel, rosemary, and cumin.
Food sensitivities can trigger skin issues. The most common offenders are dairy, eggs, fish, cheese, nuts, saturated fats, and synthetic additives - so cutting these out as much as possible help ease symptoms in many individuals.
In a word: age. As you get older, collagen production decreases dramatically. On top of that, some of the above issues - like dry skin, a compromised natural barrier, or overly harsh skincare products - can exacerbate the problem. And lost collagen can be a big deal, leading to things like:
Folic acid is vital for the creation of new cells. It also plays an important role in skin health and appearance. One study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that topical application of a mixture containing folic acid and creatine improved the firmness of skin by boosting collagen synthesis.
Your body needs a variety of nutrients in order to make collagen. If you don’t consume enough of them, it will struggle - no matter how healthy you are otherwise. Incorporate helpful foods in your diet like:
Most of this comes down to just being good to yourself, protecting your natural barrier, and adopting a more balanced, healthy lifestyle. Time to get started!