Skin is the largest organ we have, so it's not surprising to think that what we eat can affect it's health!
I recently wrote about the current evidence behind collagen supplementation, and using it to improve skin health is one of the main reasons I'm asked about it. So, I thought discussing other ways to support our health would be of benefit too- and may explain why we can see changes with some supplements marketed for skin health (which are essentially multi-vitamins).
Nutrients for skin
Vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis, and collagen is one of the key structural proteins that make up our skin. We lose collagen age we age, so supporting our skin health by ensuring there is enough of the nutrients required to form collagen is an easy way to support your skin.
Sources: Kiwi fruit, strawberries, capsicum, broccoli, oranges and spinach.
Vitamin A, or Beta-carotene which our body converts to vitamin A supports cell growth and is needed for the recovery and repair of our skin.
Sources: Sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin and spinach.
Vitamin E supports our skin by reducing the damage from free radicals, reducing the impact of UV rays and in some studies has been shown to improve the healing of wounds.
Sources: Avocado, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and olive oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of the structure of our skin, helping to maintain a natural oily barrier and so, hydrating our skin. These good fats are also anti-inflammatory supporting and soothing our skin. This may help reduce redness and irritation for those with acne, or dry skin.
Sources: Fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and algae supplements.
Zinc is incredibly important for the health of our skin. It's used in generating new skin cells and in the healing and repair of our skin. Zinc has been found to be helpful in preventing and managing acne.
Sources: Whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, oysters and red meat.
Selenium is another antioxidant which helps to maintain the elasticity and firmness of our skin, it's also thought to reduce damage from the sun- really protecting our skin.
Sources: Brazil nuts, tomatoes, eggs, salmon, red meat.
This is one mineral you don't hear much about, and we only need it in trace amounts, though it's a co-factor for elastin. Elastin is an important protein in the structure of our skin.
Sources: Nuts and seeds, whole grains, seafood and organ meats.
Magnesium, like copper, supports our production of elastin and collagen.
Sources: nuts and seeds, legumes, brown rice and spinach.
Polyphenols and flavonoids
Polyphenols, such as those in green tea, berries, soybeans, chocolate, coffee and nuts, help to protect us from free radicals, keeping our skin healthy and reducing damage. For green tea specifically, there is some small evidence showing that it may help to protect our skin from sun damage, and improve the texture and moisture of our skin.
Walnuts and flaxseeds
Walnuts provide us with good fat omega-3s, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and protein- all great things for our skin. If you're finding your skin is dull and flaky, adding in some of these to your salads, yoghurt or smoothies can be an easy way to try increase the hydration of and soothe your skin.
Spinach (and other dark leafy greens) are a great way to increase our intake of vitamins C and A, supporting our formation of collagen and growth of new cells.
Berries are not only great sources of vitamin C, but they also contain phytochemicals like polyphenols, anthocyanins and tannins which give them their bright colours. Adding in some berries during your day can help to support your formation of collagen, and protect your skin from free radical damage.
Avocado gets a special mention as it is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E AND there's some evidence that specific compounds in avocado may also protect our skin from UV damage.
Pepitas or pumpkin seeds
Pepitas are a wonderful source of healthy fats, magnesium and zinc. These nutrients collectively contribute to skin cell renewal, repair and the formation of elastin and collagen. They're super easy to include in your day- sprinkle them over your cereal, have them in your yoghurt or bake with them! They also make a delicious snack if your roast them.
Don't forget about water!
Our bodies are more than 65% water, so it should be of little surprise that our largest organ requires water to function optimally and stay healthy. Staying hydrated helps to flush out any bits we don't need floating around our body, preventing clogged pores or acne.
Foods that may worsen your skin health
Now, when it comes to breakouts, there's no definitive way to say eating one food will cause your pimple the next day. However, some of these foods may increase our oil production, inflammation or skin irritation. They are:
High GI and refined carbohydrates
Foods high in trans fats like takeaway, greasy foods
It's also important to remember that there are many factors that influence the health of our skin including: stress, smoking, hormones, sleep, weather and skin care products!