Dietary changes we can make to improve the overall quality of our skin.
What are the best foods for skin health?
1. Anti-inflammatory foods
The quality of our diet can definitely help with reducing acne, inflammation, dry, flaky or dull skin. Acne is a skin issue that is largely related to inflammation. Therefore, regularly incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna and sardines OR even nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts, can contribute to reduced inflammation of our skin. It is these anti-inflammatory omega-3s, along with other key nutrients like protein, zinc, vitamin E and Selenium, that calms our skin and enhances moisture retention. Avocadoes are also rich in monounsaturated fats together with Vitamin C & E, which are also super important for our skin.
2. Low GI carbohydrates
Our diet can also contribute to hormonal fluctuations. Spikes and dips in our blood sugar levels can be prevented by regularly incorporating low GI carbohydrates, like sweet potato, lentils and beans. It is when our blood sugar levels spike and dip like this that a hormone known as insulin is released, which can then contribute to increased oil production in our oil glands and therefore acne severity. We can therefore prevent this by choosing low GI carbohydrate sources rather than high GI carbohydrate sources.
3. Vitamin C rich foods
Vitamin C is very important when it comes to skin health because it acts as an antioxidant to fight off free radicals that can damage our skin fibres. Foods rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, mangoes and berries. In terms of berries, it is actually their vibrant colour and antioxidant content that promotes a clear complexion.
4. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, rocket, kale, cucumber, bok choy, lettuce, broccoli and celery are also full of vitamins and minerals essential for healthy skin.
5. Pumpkin and pepita seeds
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are rich in protein, magnesium, iron, zinc and Vitamin E, which all contribute to skin regeneration, along with the pumpkin itself, which contains antioxidants to help with skin health.
6. Hydration levels
Ensuring that we’re adequately hydrated on a day to day basis can prevent flaky, dull looking skin. Aiming for around 2 litres per day, give or take depending on your specific requirements, is a good rule of thumb to begin with.
What are the worst foods for skin health?
1. High GI carbohydrates
In terms of poor skin health, blood sugar fluctuations can again trigger insulin release and oil production, so it’s best to prevent this by minimising our intake of high GI carbohydrates. Swapping out high GI, refined carbohydrates like white bread, for lower GI, multigrain alternatives, can help with stabilising our blood sugar levels.
Alcohol has inflammatory effects, contributes to dehydration and impacts our bodies ability to absorb the nutrients essential for good skin health, so it’s best to monitor and minimise our intake of these products.
3. Foods high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats
Consuming foods high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, such as fast food and confectionary, can actually directly disrupt our gut bacteria, and thus our overall skin health.
4. Medically diagnosed food allergies or intolerances
If you have any medically diagnosed food allergies or intolerances, keep in mind this can contribute to the quality of our skin as well as changes to our gut microbiome. If you are unsure as to whether you have a food allergy or intolerance, make sure that a professional has medically diagnosed or guided you before eliminating certain foods.
5. Non-dietary factors
It’s also important to remember that other non dietary related factors like stress, sleep quality, the weather, skin care routine and hormonal changes can all have an impact on the quality of our skin. Working on these lifestyle factors, together with dietary strategies, can contribute to better quality skin.
Bronwen Greenfield, Accredited Practising Dietitian