Today more than ever, both in adolescence and in adulthood, men and women feel increased pressure to look well-rested, youthful and attractive.
We all know that nutrition is important for health. An unhealthy diet can have a negative impact on our bodies’ metabolism and weight and put us at risk for chronic disease. However, we tend to forget that healthy, glowing skin starts on our plates – what we eat can significantly affect our skin’s structural integrity and how quickly it ages. The following are seven simple ways to improve the look of your skin through diet.
7 easy nutrition strategies for a lifetime of healthy skin
1. FOCUS ON A PLANT-BASED DIET
Try to include vitamin A- and C-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet. Both are antioxidants and contain anti-inflammatory properties, which promote cell reproduction and combat cell damage. Vitamin C supports proper wound-healing (this includes those popped pimples!). It’s also vital for collagen production. Rich in both vitamins A and C, raw red bell peppers are skin superstars — they even contain more vitamin C than oranges! (Keep in mind that vitamin C is heat-unstable, so vegetables must be uncooked to enjoy these benefits.
2. CHOOSE HIGH-QUALITY, COMPLETE PROTEINS AT EACH MEAL
Complete proteins are rich in amino acids that produce collagen. Collagen, one of the most abundant proteins in the body, provides the skin with elasticity. Whole eggs, chicken, wild salmon and bone broth are excellent high-quality proteins and sources of collagen.
3. INCLUDE MORE FOODS RICH IN OMEGA-3
Omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory effects that may help to reduce skin inflammation and irritation. Sources include wild salmon, halibut, trout, arctic char, sablefish, mackerel, walnuts, hemp and chia seeds.
4. LOOK FOR FOOD RICH IN ZINC
Zinc may protect skin from UV damage and work to treat skin lesions with the help of other vitamins and minerals. Inadequate zinc can also look like eczema, but the itchy rash won’t improve when you moisturize the area. Eggs, pulses, shellfish (especially oysters), meats, poultry, liver, legumes and whole grains are sources of zinc.
5. AVOID DEEP-FRIED FOODS
It’s a myth that greasy food causes oily skin. However, the consistent consumption of fried foods can damage cell structures and promote inflammation due to the oxidized fat they contain.
6. CUT DOWN ON SUGAR
Sugar has been linked to a process called glycation. Not only does glycation deteriorate your existing collagen and elastin stocks, but a diet high in sugar also prevents the body from making more, which results in wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
7. STAY HYDRATED
Proper hydration is very important to help maintain body temperature, digestion, absorption and transport of nutrients, as well as eliminate toxins and other waste from the body, but it is also essential to maintain skin tautness and clarity. It is recommended to aim for an average daily fluid intake of at least 3 L (12 cups) for healthy men and 2.2 L (9 cups) for healthy women. Also, limit alcohol as it dehydrates the skin.
If your skin is already inflamed, there are strategies to help calm it. Avoid topical agents that can activate the skin, such as serums, exfoliating scrubs and charcoal or mud masks. Avoid extractions and touching your skin, too.
Jessica Tong is a registered dietitian at the Medisys Clinic in Vancouver.
To learn more about eating for healthy skin, reach out to your registered dietitian for additional support.