Eat your way to fabulous skin
If you want radiant skin, the old adage 'you are what you eat' has never rung more true. Our nutritionist tips will help you nourish your skin from the inside out.
Eat more phyto-estrogens
Phyto-estrogens are natural chemicals found in plant foods (phyto meaning plant). They have a similar structure to the female sex hormone oestrogen and have been found to help keep our natural hormones in balance. There are different types, some are found in soya bean products (isoflavones), whereas others are found in the fibre of wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and flax seeds (lignans). Include phyto-estrogen rich soya, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.
Opt for omega-3
Make sure you get enough omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are essential fatty acids which mean they cannot be made in the body and 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 psorasis.
Go for low-GI carbs
Eat plenty of beans, pulses, porridge and other slow-releasing carbohydrates. These 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. Avoid high GI carbohydrates like biscuits and sugary drinks, as they lead to production of insulin, which may damage collagen and accelerate wrinkles.
Don't forget zinc
Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin (which produce oil) and helps to repair skin damage and keep skin soft and supple. Zinc-rich foods include fish, lean red meat, wholegrains, poultry, nuts, seeds and shellfish.
Common skin problems
As much as we try to resist it, our skin does age. Wrinkles and age spots are the result of gradual, accumulated damage from the sun, strong soaps, chemicals and poor nutrition. Make sure you follow the guidelines above and try to include antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables containing beta carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc and selenium.
...is caused by inflammation and infection of the sebaceous glands of the skin. Sebaceous glands are stimulated by hormones (particularly androgens). To avoid acne, cut back on saturated and hydrogenated fats in margarines and processed foods. Also cut down on junk food as well as foods high in sugar, such as cakes and biscuits. Eat more raw vegetables, wholegrains, fresh fruit and fish. Try to include selenium-rich foods, such as Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, fresh tuna, sunflower seeds, walnuts and wholemeal bread.
...appears as red skin patches with silvery scales, most commonly on the elbows and knees. The patches are caused by rapid growth and proliferation of cells in the outer skin layers. Patches can be itchy and sore and in severe cases, the skin may crack and bleed. Some people find outbreaks occur when they feel rundown. Sunburn, alcohol, smoking, obesity and stress are also implicated and there may be trigger foods which you will have to identify using an exclusion diet, though always check with your GP before cutting out food groups. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) from fish oil or cold-pressed nut and seed oils are important to include in the diet. It should also be low in saturated fat and include anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, red pepper, ginger, cumin, fennel, rosemary and garlic.
...is a skin condition that usually begins as patchy redness, often on the hands by can appear anywhere on the skin. Although there are many triggers, one of the most common is food sensitivity. The most common offending foods are milk, eggs, fish, cheese, nuts and food additives. Omega-3 fats, zinc and vitamin E may help reduce symptoms.
Finally, once you make changes to your diet, don't expect an overnight miracle. It takes six weeks for new skin to emerge up to the surface, so the visible benefits from dietary changes will take just as long. For persistent skin conditions, talk to your GP or consider seeing a dermatologist.