The food that you eat has a direct impact on the health and appearance of your skin, meaning that a change in diet may be all you need to improve your complexion. From the foods that you should avoid to the way in which different types of diets will affect your skin, this guide will help you to nourish your skin with the foods that you eat.
Soda, Candy and Baked Treats
From sugar-topped cupcakes to tall glasses of fizzy soda, these sweet treats have quickly become a large part of the average person’s diet.
You probably already know that these are no good for your health, but do you know how they affect your skin?
These foods contain simple carbohydrates, such as refined sugars, and these raise insulin levels, which then creates inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation then begins to break down your collagen and elastin, which are the two proteins that give your skin its strength and suppleness.
The sugar itself also attaches to important proteins within the body, resulting in everything from sagging skin to a dull complexion.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, there’s more…
Sugar intake has been linked to acne breakouts, because the spike in insulin levels that they create also trigger an increase in oil production. There are several studies out there that show that those who consume a diet low in simple carbohydrates experience significantly less breakouts.
Just like sugar, salt is another ingredient that has found its way into everyday meals and snacks, and while it may be great for intensifying the taste of certain foods, too much salt is really bad for your skin.
Salt causes your skin to hold on to water, and not in a good way, meaning that you end up puffy and bloated rather than hydrated.
Even if you do not usually sprinkle extra salt over your meals, you should still check the ingredient lists of all of the foods that you buy, as you will likely be surprised at the amount of salt they contain.
Having a serious salt craving?
Try snacking on some raw nuts instead, as these will not only help to satisfy your cravings, but will also nourish your skin.
Dairy products alter the way in which your body regulates testosterone and estrogen, two hormones that play a huge role in your complexion.
Dairy can also increase the levels of androgen within the blood, which then leads to excess oil production, resulting in breakouts.
However, this does not mean that you have to completely avoid dairy…
Moderation is key in this case, especially since dairy products are a great source of other nutrients. Try to stick to just one or two servings of dairy a day, and opt for raw dairy products, rather than processed, whenever possible.
Is Caffeine Good or Bad?
There are two opposing schools of thought when it comes to whether or not caffeine is good for you, and there are studies to back both of these up.
On one hand, some believe that caffeine can cause dehydration, while also triggering the release of cortisol, which is the stress hormone, in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that is definitely not good for your skin, as it can lead to breakouts, and a breakdown in collagen.
However, there are also multiple studies out there to back up the many health benefits that caffeine can have. These include:
- The possibility of reducing chronic age-related inflammation
- Could potentially prevent skin cancer
- Protects against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
- Boosts the memory
- Increases stamina during exercise
However, the key here is to remember that everything should be in moderation. Excessive caffeine consumption will most likely lead to negative effects for both your overall health as well as your skin.
While there are some foods out there that can pretty much immediately cause a negative reaction in your skin, there are others that will quickly help to boost its health.
Antioxidants are really important when it comes to your skin, especially as you age. These are compounds that are able to neutralize free radicals within the body, which would have otherwise caused a breakdown in collagen and elastin, resulting in accelerated skin aging. Studies have shown that those who have higher levels of antioxidants in their skin enjoy a much smoother skin texture.
So, where do antioxidants come from?
Colorful fruits and vegetables are a huge source of many different antioxidants. Generally, the darker and deeper the color of the fruit, the more antioxidants it will contain.
However, if you want to get more specific, these are some of the most beneficial antioxidant-filled foods out there, along with their rough antioxidant count per serving:
- Wild Blueberries – 13,427 antioxidants, or Farmed Blueberries – 9019 antioxidants
- Goji Berries – 25,000 antioxidants
- Black plums – 4873 antioxidants, or Prunes – 7291 antioxidants
- Red grapes – 2016 antioxidants, or Raisins – 2490 antioxidants
- Pecans – 17,000 antioxidants
- Artichokes – 9400 antioxidants
- Kidney Beans – 8400 antioxidants
In addition to consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, you should also be including a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet.
Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which do everything from regulating oil production to hydrating the skin to preventing wrinkles.
Fatty fish is another great source of these fatty acids, and these include varieties such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Fish is also high in protein, and since the building blocks of your skin are made from proteins, quality protein sources are important to maintain skin health.
However, try to limit your intake of fish to two to three meals a week, as too much fish can also have negative health effects, due to the mercury and pollutants found in many of them.
Of course, there is still one extremely important part of your diet that has not yet been mentioned…
This is your fluid intake, because your skin cells, as well as the rest of your cells in your body, depend on water in order to survive and thrive.
Wondering how much water you should be drinking?
The general advice is eight glasses a day, but this could be more or less depending on everything from the climate you live in to the amount of exercise you do to your age and general health.
Need something a bit more flavorful than water?
Here are a few ideas:
- Tea – black tea, as well as herbal teas, are just as hydrating as plain water
- Fruit-infused water – try adding slices of fruit, such as citrus fruits and berries, to your water
- Homemade fruit and vegetables juices – these still do need to be limited, as they can be high in sugar
- Coconut water
While some store-bought fruit juices can be good, the majority of these contain so much sugar. If you do tend to drink quite a lot of these, try diluting them with water, as this will help the juice to better hydrate your body.
How Your Skin Will React to Different Types of Diets
If you are already following a specific type of diet, or are thinking of doing so, it is important to understand how they can affect your skin:
- A Vegetarian/Vegan Diet – Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly common, largely due to the health benefits that they bring. By excluding animal products from the diet, most vegetarians and vegans tend to eat more fresh produce and whole grains, resulting in a higher intake of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.
However, the fat intake of your diet should still be monitored, as your skin needs healthy fats to thrive, so make sure you are including plenty of oils and seeds in your diet.
- High Protein/Low Carb – Many carbs out there, such as white bread and pasta, really damage the skin, so cutting these out of your diet is always a good plan, especially when they are replaced with whole grains and healthier sources of carbs.
However, a high protein diet also tends to include a large amount of meat, and this can lead to an increase in free radicals within the body, accelerating the aging process.
- Low Fat – There are so many people out there who try to limit their fat intake as much as possible, and while consuming less saturated fat is always a good thing, your skin does need good fats in order to thrive.
Good fats help your body to absorb antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, while strengthening your cell membranes. So, while you should continue limiting your intake of animal fats, do not avoid the fats found in nuts and oils, as these will do so much good for your complexion.
- A Raw Diet – As you would imagine, those who follow a raw diet eat foods that have not been cooked, while some do eat cooked foods as long as the temperatures have not risen above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The main diet here would consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, sprouted grains and beans and, in some cases, raw eggs, meat, fish and unpasteurized dairy.
While this diet does contain so many nutrients, since they have not been lost through the cooking process, it can cause a deficiency in vitamin B12, as well as an increased risk of foodborne illnesses due to the raw meats.
How to Eat Healthier
It is easy enough to read about how you should be improving your diet, but actually putting these intentions into action can be much more of a challenge.
To begin with, focus on the things that you should be eating, rather than the foods that you should not be eating. For example, when it comes to leafy greens, try to find some that you really enjoy. If you hate kale and cabbage, give spinach a try.
Begin by adding one extra fruit or vegetable serving into your diet each day, and slowly build this up. While fresh vegetables do often tend to be best, frozen vegetables can sometimes be quite beneficial too, as these are often frozen quickly after being harvested, meaning that they retain a large amount of nutrients.
If you tend to snack a lot throughout the day, try placing some healthy snacks, such as nuts or granola, around your home and office, and even in your car, so that you are less tempted to reach for junk food.
One effective way to cut back on snacking is by eating a breakfast that is high in protein, as this not only helps to keep you feeling full for longer, but will also slowly release energy throughout the day.
If you do not already plan out your meals for each week in advance, then this is something else that could really help you. All you need to do is set aside half an hour a week to plan your meals, before creating a shopping list. If you really wanted to go the extra mile, you could spend some time preparing a few ingredients in advance, such as chopping onions or mincing garlic, so that the hard work is already done when you need to cook a meal at the end of a long day.
For those who eat meat every day, you could consider having one meat-free day a week, as this will help to cut back on the unhealthy animal fats that you consume. Vegetables can make a great main course, and can be cooked in so many exciting ways, so try to spend more time experimenting with this.
It can often be much healthier, and more convenient, to stick to an unhealthy diet, but this will only have negative effects when it comes to your skin, as well as your overall health. If you have noticed that your complexion has been lacking lately, try paying some extra attention to your diet, as this could be an easy way to solve your skin problems.