Could your diet be affecting your skin?

We are what we eat. Our nutrition has an effect on our weight, our general health, our metabolism and even our organs – including our skin. Although research on food and skin is limited, there are some general guidelines that can be followed in order to help avoid inflammation, irritation, breakouts and early ageing of the skin. Fortunately, the best foods to support the health of our skin typically also help us maintain our general health.

Can certain foods help us maintain healthy skin?

It has been found that foods high in antioxidants can have a protective effect on our skin. Additionally, foods that are high in certain vitamins such as vitamin E, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids can also help us maintain youthful, glowing skin. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the skin from inflammation, while healthy fatty acids such as Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids have collagen-boosting properties that can help protect the skin from dryness, photoaging, damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and some skin cancers.

The best foods incorporating those and providing other added health benefits include:

  • Walnuts constitute one of the richest sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, herring and sardines are high in vitamin E as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Sunflower seeds and flaxseeds are both rich in healthy fatty oils.
  • Avocados provide an abundance of healthy fats and vitamin E.
  • Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which have collagen-boosting properties.
  • Green tea and dark chocolate are both rich in antioxidants.
  • Carotenoids (found in fruit and vegetables such as papayas, mangoes, carrots, bell peppers, kale, spinach) can also help reduce damage caused by sun exposure and free radicals.

Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also key to maintaining the health of our skin as high levels of hydration help our skin cells release toxins and absorb nutrients.

What foods should be avoided to keep clear, healthy skin?

Some research shows that a high intake of the following foods can promote inflammation, breakouts and irritation of the skin; as well as speed up the skin ageing process if sustained over a certain amount of time:

  • Processed and/or refined sugars
  • Carbohydrates
  • Dairy
  • Unhealthy fats
  • Foods with a high glycaemic index

The content of the above elements in the foods you buy can be found on all standard food labels.

A high intake of caffeine can also cause skin dryness as it is a diuretic and may lead to too much water being eliminated from the body. It is also worth noting that harsh chemicals and additives should also be avoided as they could potentially aggravate skin conditions such as acne and sensitive skin.

The verdict on diet and skin health

Following these general guidelines can help maintain healthy skin, protect us against damage caused by environmental factors, and help us slow down the skin ageing process. However, a diet rich in skin-healthy ingredients cannot counteract an unhealthy lifestyle, therefore it is essential to consider other aspects of our health to help support your skin-boosting diet.  This includes not smoking, not drinking too much alcohol, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight as these can all affect our skin as well as our general health.

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