As they say, ‘you are what you eat’ and this can certainly be the case when it comes to the health, appearance, and longevity of our skin. Mounting research is continuing to support the strong correlation between our complexions and our gut health and nutrition.
While there may still be plenty of misconceptions or myths out there, such as 'chocolate gives you pimples', there is also plenty of research suggesting specific foods can help boost our skin health, of course, benefiting other vital organs at the same time. After all, our skin is often simply a reflection of what’s happening below the surface. Here are some foods which may assist in keeping your skin at its best and most youthful, as well as staving off premature ageing and inflammatory conditions, backed up by peer-reviewed research.
Citrus fruits are well known for their high vitamin C content. Not only is vitamin C essential in the production of collagen and a great antioxidant, but if you experience high levels of stress, vitamin C is depleted at a higher rate. It's best to replenish through fresh foods rather than self-supplementation, so you can benefit from other plant-based phytonutrients.
2. Blackcurrant, Rosehip & Parsley
Not a citrus fan? These three are other great sources of vitamin C.
3. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, which many of us know to be a great anti-inflammatory agent. In addition to this, it’s a great vitamin to use alongside vitamin C – working together to provide support during free radical neutralisation.
For those wishing not to partake because you aren’t fond of the taste, or don’t like the ‘jittery’ feeling it gives you – completely reasonable. However, many avoid coffee because it has been said to trigger rosacea symptoms. While there have been several studies to suggest this, there have been just as many to support the opposite, with some rosacea candidates benefiting from coffee-drinking. With such inconclusive evidence, and rosacea symptoms varying so dramatically between individuals, it's probably best to stick to your own individual experience on this one.
5. Carrots, Pumpkin & Sweet Potato
That bright orange or yellow colour found in these vegetables is a sign of beta-carotene content. This is our body’s precursor to vitamin A, making it a wonderful substance to support healthy ageing and slow premature damage. It’s also wonderful for eye health, giving some truth to the old wive's tale about eating carrots to help you see in the dark!
6. Kale, Spinach & Yellow Capsicum
More powerful carotenoids, zeaxanthin and lutein have shown to offer excellent antioxidant properties and improve macular health.
7. Cocoa, Tea & Berries
This group of foods is rich in polyphenols, which have shown to offer a handful of skin benefits. The polyphenol Catechin has in particular has shown promise in rosacea management.
8. Green Tea
Already favourited as a health and beauty beverage, the evidence is there to support green tea’s benefits. It is indeed a powerful antioxidant, which can neutralise free radicals before they cause damage to cells, proteins and lipids and therefore age us prematurely. It has also shown anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
9. Whole Grains & Nuts
These foods contain zinc, which has proven to reduce inflammation. Foods containing zinc can therefore by utilised by those suffering inflammatory conditions, as well as those just wishing to prevent the natural increase in systemic inflammation that always occurs with age.
10. Flaxseed & Walnuts
Another gold-standard ingredient in the reduction of tissue inflammation and improved barrier function is omega fatty acids. There is significant evidence showing that omegas 3 and 6 in particular can reduce symptoms of impaired barrier function and inflammatory conditions like eczema and rosacea. It should be noted that new research also suggests that in order to reduce inflammatory markers, the ratio of omegas 3:6 should be greater or equal, whereas a surplus of omega 6 suggests a pro-inflammatory response. Flaxseed and walnuts are a great source of omegas, with the right ratio of omegas 3:6.
While these have been used for centuries as part of alternative medicine, greater use of them is now emerging in western culture. Adaptogens are foods that have shown to regulate cellular functions to a degree, which is the ideal outcome when seeking to improve skin health and longevity. Problems arise either when cellular activity is too high or too long. Turmeric is a popular one, which is not only a strong antioxidant but is linked to enhanced brain function. Ashwagandha mushroom is another popular ingredient linked with stress management. We know that stress can significantly impact our skin through a complex cascade of hormones released during and after a stressor, so ingredients that can down-regulate that cascade will, in turn, benefit our skin greatly, protecting it from harm to a degree.
Collagen gives skin structure, as we age, our collagen levels decline. Clinically proven, supplementation with marine collagen replaces and replenishes lost collagen.
In an effort to further reduce inflammation and enhance cell function, as well as incorporating these foods, there are also a number of things that can be avoided.
Highly-processed foods or those containing high sugar content, pesticides, or artificial sweeteners have all been linked with elevated systemic inflammation and increased free radical production. These then lead to a decline in our skin, its appearance, its function, and its ability to deal with infections or bacteria. So remember, if your goal is to give your skin (and your body) its best possible chance at health and longevity, approach with loving kindness – both from outside and within.