We all strive to keep feeling and looking young, as well as keeping our bodies fit we need to look after our skin and good skin starts from within. Older cells are constantly shed and replaced by younger ones and a steady supply of micronutrients is essential to support this rapid growth. Eat the correct balance of foods and you’ll feed your skin the vital nutrients it needs.
A healthy diet with a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables, containing powerful antioxidants that help to protect skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. These free radicals are caused by smoking, pollution and sunlight and can cause wrinkling and age spots. Betacarotene, found in pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes, and lutein, found in kale, papaya and spinach are powerful antioxidants, important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.
The association between diet and acne isn’t clear, but some research suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C and low in unhealthy fats and processed or refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant which is needed for a strong immune system, radiant skin and helps blemishes heal properly. The best sources are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes. They all help to produce collagen that strengthens the capillaries that supply the skin.
Another powerful antioxidant is selenium which works alongside other antioxidants such as vitamins E and C and is also essential for the immune system. Studies suggest that a selenium-rich diet can help to protect against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots. You can boost your intake by eating just four Brazil nuts which will provide the recommended daily amount. Mix these with other seeds rich in vitamin E as a snack or salad sprinkle. Other good sources are fish, shellfish, eggs, wheatgerm, tomatoes and broccoli.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – the types found in avocados, fish, nuts and seeds – provide essential fatty acids which act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple. These fats also come packaged with a healthy dose of vitamin E, which protects skin from cell damage and supports healthy skin growth.
Your body needs omega-3 and omega-6 fats, essential fatty acids that cannot be made in the body and they therefore must be obtained through the diet. You will find omega-3s in oily fish and plant sources such as flaxseed oil, linseeds, walnut and rapeseed oil. Omega-3 fats encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help skin, particularly inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin and helps to repair skin damage and keeps the skin soft and supple. Good sources are foods include fish, lean red meat, wholegrains, poultry, nuts, seeds and shellfish.
Over long periods of time repeatedly gaining and losing weight can have an adverse effect on your skin, causing wrinkles, sagging and stretch marks, and this type of crash dieting is often low in essential vitamins too. By eating plenty of beans, pulses, porridge and other slow-releasing carbohydrates you will release sugar into the blood stream gradually, providing you with a steady supply of energy and leaving you feeling satisfied for longer and therefore less likely to snack. Try to avoid high GI carbohydrates like biscuits and sugary drinks, as they lead to production of insulin, which may damage collagen and accelerate wrinkles. Your personal trainer can advise you on a healthy diet plan that can support your nutritional needs.
Skin needs moisture to stay flexible. Even mild dehydration will cause your skin to look dry, tired and slightly grey. Water is the best although all fluids count, but do try to keep a large bottle of water with you at all times to remind you to drink.
Smoking is linked to early ageing of the skin as it is thought smoking reduces the skin’s natural elasticity by causing the breakdown of collagen and reducing collagen production. Collagen is a protein that supports skin strength. It also reduces blood flow to your skin, so your skin gets fewer nutrients and less oxygen.
When you drink alcohol, your body and skin can become dehydrated, leaving the skin looking older and tired. By drinking water you can help your skin stay hydrated, preventing it drying out. So when you have alcohol, try to drink within the recommended limits, and have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic drinks.
And lastly something we should all we aware of is skin damage cause by sunlight which contains ultraviolet rays, which are the main cause of skin ageing and can cause skin cancer. It is important to protect the skin at any age against sun damage. Although you need to spend some time in sunlight so your body can make vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones, you have to balance the need for getting vitamin D and protecting your skin from sun damage.