My skin suffered so much this summer. It was hot and dry here in Johannesburg (it still is). Throw in a few hormones and let’s just say my skin is not dewy and glowing! Many things contribute towards clear, glowing, blemish-free skin, including genetics, the environment and diet. I am a pragmatist, I know I can’t control genetics, or the weather … but I can control what I eat (usually!).
Several nutrients are known to play a role in the proper growth and health of the skin:
- Vitamin A is critical for skin repair and maintenance;
- Zinc controls the production of healthy skin and is needed for proper function of the immune system;
- Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3s) are responsible for skin repair, moisture content and overall flexibility. Omega 3s help keep skin supple and guard against wrinkle formation (essential means the body can’t produce it, so we need to include them in our diets);
- Vitamin C reduces free radical damage to the skin, in particular, damage caused by overexposure to the sun or pollution;
- Vitamin E is one of the key vitamins for skin health. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that helps fight free radicals caused by pollution, smoking, processed foods and sun exposure. Free radicals are a catalyst for premature skin aging, in particular, wrinkles;
- Selenium is a powerful antioxidant trace mineral, responsible for maintaining skin firmness and elasticity. It helps prevent acne, promotes absorption of vitamin E, and enhances the antioxidant function of vitamin E. The end result is glowing skin and less deterioration to the skin’s collagen.
Incorporating some of these nutrients regularly in my diet may make the difference between a fresh, beautiful, glowing complexion and a tired, puffy, dry one. As they say, beauty starts from within!
Here are 5 nutrient-packed foods I am going to feature regularly in my diet, to give my skin that much-needed boost. And the good news is I can find them in everyday foods. Which is lucky … because winter is around the corner, and in Jozi winter is dry!
5 Everyday Foods to Boost Your Skin
Dark Chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
Believe it or not, dark chocolate is good for you! Yay!
It is packed full of nutrients including vitamins A, B1, C, D and E, iron, calcium and zinc. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants who consumed a high flavanol chocolate beverage (think dark chocolate—the higher the cocoa content the higher the health benefits) experienced improved skin texture and hydration, less sensitivity to the sun, and had 25 percent less skin redness in response to UV light exposure. I’m sold!
For a special treat, try raw, dark chocolate from some of SA’s artisan chocolatiers.
Salmon is good for us in so many ways. It’s a great source of Omega-3 (good fatty acids) which help strengthen the skin’s natural oil barrier, preventing dryness and blemishes. It also helps combat inflammation in the body: working inside and out! Definitely need this for the dry Joburg winter.
For some salmon inspo, try these salmon tacos from Jamie Oliver.
Lemons are a fantastic source of vitamin C, which neutralises free radicals and helps us make collagen and elastin (important if you want younger-looking, firm skin).
Lemons are also incredibly alkalising! This is important because our modern diets tend to be very acidic (coffee, alcohol and processed meals anyone?). In some people this can affect the bodies’ pH level (making it too acidic) and in turn skin can become dry and super-sensitive.
This is probably one of the easiest foods to include every day: squeeze over salads, or drink a glass of lukewarm water and lemon before breakfast.
I just love avocados! They are delicious, versatile and packed full of vitamins E, K, B6 and C as well as being high in monounsaturated fat (healthy fat). A wonder-food for skin: they keep skin looking firm and dewy, help regenerate damaged skin cells, and reduce redness and irritation.
Avocados can be used in so many ways, from pizza toppings to chocolate puddings! But my favourite is in a smoothie. Try this easy, skin-boosting Avo-colada!
According to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, pecans contain more antioxidants than any other tree nut. They are also a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals including zinc and selenium. They offer a host of health benefits from protecting your heart to aiding weight loss.
When it comes to skin, they help: eliminate toxins from the body (which cause breakouts, dullness and excess oil); achieve a clear complexion; prevent the occurrence of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Best of all, pecans are versatile – you can combine them with so many foods and meals: tossed on a salad for added crunch, stuffed in peppers with goats cheese, baked in a cake or on their own. The list is endless. Try this granola recipe to get your pecan fix at breakfast.
Unfortunately making these changes won’t have an immediate effect. 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. I’m expecting my glow back in May!