Feed your skin
Eat your way to a smooth complexion with our pick of the best foods to nourish your skin from within.
When our skin's feeling dry, it's a reflex action to reach for an intensive moisturiser. An outbreak of spots? Then we make a beeline for the nearest bacterial treatment. But have you ever thought about improving your complexion from the inside, by changing what you put 'into' rather than 'onto' your body? While it's a myth that overdosing on crisps and chocolate will give you greasy, unpredictable complexion, it is true that eating healthily can transform your complexion and give you a glow unrivalled by any expensive face product. Think of your skin as a shop window for your lifestyle.
We've picked the top 10 foods you should be eating to give your skin a lift - all delicious and so seamlessly easy to add into your normal diet. Alongside eating them and having a balanced diet in general, try to drink lots of water - between one and two litres each day, take exercise to boost your circulation and give you a healthy glow, maintain a thorough skincare routine, and get plenty of 'beauty' sleep - it's essential for rejuvenating the skin.
Most of us have heard the news that it's good for your brain, but did you know that fish is also good for your skin? Oily varieties of fish - sardines, mackerel, fresh tuna (sadly the tinned stuff doesn't count) and pilchards - are packed full of so-called 'good' fats known as essential fatty acids (EFAs), which can calm inflammation and keep your skin moisturised. So they're especially great if you suffer from dry or sensitive skin and eczema. You need to be eating it up to three times a week to feel and see the benefits. If you can't stomach the taste, try fish oil supplements. Or if you're vegetarian, go for flaxseed oil, which contains a plant-based version of the EFAs.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a nutritional powerhouse - in other words they contain a great deal of goodness in a relatively small weight. They're crammed with skin-enhancing nutrients - in particular vitamins A and E. You'll probably recognise these as ingredients in your skin creams. They're known as antioxidants and they protect your body and your skin against pollutants in the atmosphere, as well as sun damage. Like oily fish, nuts and seeds are also rich in good fats to keep your complexion nourished and smooth. Try our favourites, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts - add to your breakfast cereal, salads or eat simply as a snack.
It's seemingly unassuming - but this scaly skinned, green-fleshed fruit is loaded with loads of nutritional goodies to keep your skin looking great, including vitamin E and 'good' (yep, they're not all bad for you) monounsaturated fats. Again these fats keep your complexion nourished, so they're a must-eat if you suffer from dry skin. Mix avocado into salads or transform it in a guacamole with sour cream and fresh chilli.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil is so revered in countries like Italy and Greece that it's also seen as a medicine rather than a simple cooking ingredient - and it's common practice to soothe sunburn and other irritations by applying it directly to the skin. You can also feel the skin benefits by eating plenty of the stuff too. What makes olive oil so skin-beneficial is that it's also blessed with the good fats and antioxidant vitamin E. Plus it has the added benefit of looking after your heart. It can be expensive but if possible use it in place of your regular cooking oil, drizzle on salads, pasta dishes and pizza.
They taste like sweets, but unlike pick 'n' mix, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are full of goodness for your skin and super-charged with the antioxidants vitamins C and E. Over and above any other nutrient vitamin C is the great skin restorer; it helps produce a 'scaffolding' tissue called collagen, which is vital for keeping the complexion plump and smooth. Best of all, berries are versatile and delicious so it's no effort to add them into your diet; eat them as a dessert, snack or on breakfast cereals.
Ever noticed that Popeye has great skin as well as bulging biceps? Probably not. But you can credit his love of spinach for his rude health. Spinach - and other leafy greens like cabbage, kale and watercress are a great source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and the mineral iron - essential for keeping your blood healthy and your skin bright. They're also rich in B vitamins, so they have the added benefit of boosting your energy (and so in turn your activity levels and your 'glow' factor). Try adding rocket, watercress or baby spinach to your regular salad and in sandwiches. And, honestly, cabbage doesn't have to be the limp school-dinner affair you're used to - use it raw in salads or in stir fries so it retains some crunchiness.
Beta-carotene is the nutrient that's supposed to help you see in the dark, and it's crucial for your skin. It also gives mango, and other fruits and veg like carrots, sweet potatoes and apricots, its distinctive orange colour. It's converted by your body into vitamin A and is so important that it's often prescribed as a topical treatment (one that's applied directly on to the skin) for acne. Replace your regular baked potato with a sweet potato or try a thick, wholesome carrot and coriander soup. Got a sweet tooth? Whizz up a ripe mango with orange juice or plain yogurt for a healthy breakfast smoothie.
Having a healthy digestion is essential for your complexion - because if your body isn't able to get rid of waste efficiently, toxins will build up and show on your skin. Wholegrains, the brown, wholemeal versions of everyday essentials like bread and pasta are packed with fibre for your digestion (which also means they keep you feeling full up), plus iron and another skin-loving nutrient, vitamin B. Swap your usual processed 'white' carbs for wholegrain versions, such as granary bread in place of white sliced loaves and brown rice for your usual long-grain.
You've seen the 'friendly bacteria' ads, right? Live yogurts are crammed to bursting with good bacteria - Lactobacillus Acidophilus if you want to be precise - that keep your digestion and hence your skin, in tip-top health. Research shows that a daily intake can help eczema sufferers. Use in fruit smoothies, salad dressings and as an alternative to cream in desserts.
It's good for the heart and is increasingly used as an ingredient in top-of-the-range skin creams. The reason? It's bursting with antioxidants, called catechins, which are also said to fight viruses and slow ageing. It's an acquired taste but try to have about one to two cups daily.
Written by Antonia Kanczula
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