Glowing clear skin is something that many people desire, but which a good number struggle with. There is nothing comforting about waking up to a bulbous pimple located smirk in the middle of your forehead, and neither is there anything appealing about an acne breakout on the face.
It is even more disconcerting to know that pimples are not the preserve of those troublesome teen years since according to research; about 1 in 5 women will be affected by acne in their post-teen years. The causative agent of these breakouts can be anything, from genetic predisposition to stressful events and even hormonal fluctuations.
Medication is available for those who suffer from these breakouts, including over-the-counter treatment options. But are you aware that the type of food you eat plays a key role in the health of your skin? Diet has been shown to be one of the contributing factors for both healthy skin and skin that is more prone to breakouts. This is very important because more often than not, the focus is on what is applied on the skin rather that what is ingested.
The impact of the foods that you eat affects your complexion, and so with this knowledge, how can you eat your way to clearer skin? Listed below are the top 10 foods that are beneficial for your skin, and which you must find ways of incorporating in your regular diet.
1. Foods that Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Examples: walnuts, wild salmon, mackerel and fortified eggs.
Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for clearer glowing skin for one simple reason: the presence of anti-inflammatory compounds.
The acids help to lower the rate of inflammation in the body. This is an important part of skin care because inflammation is known to produce free radicals.
Free radicals typically attack collagen, one of the most important proteins in the skin. When this happens, the result is wrinkling skin that is dry and flaky.
Additional benefits of increasing the intake of foods rich in omega-3 include its benefits for the brain as well as the cardiovascular system.
As a general guide, aim for at least two servings of fish each week. Take an ounce of the nuts and at least two fortified eggs each week.
2. Whole Grain Foods:
Examples: Cereals and pastries that are made from whole grain.
Research conducted over the years shows that low-glycemic foods are beneficial for the skin because they reduce the likelihood of acne breakouts and the flare-up of other skin conditions.
Glycemic index (GI), by definition, refers to the ranking provided to grade carbohydrate in foods relative to how they impact glucose concentration in the blood, Foods with a low GI value, usually 55 and below, are digested slowly and therefore cause a steady increase in blood glucose.
The result is a comparable slow increase in insulin levels. The reverse is true for foods with a high GI value. Such foods are digested and metabolized very quickly, leading to spikes in the blood glucose and insulin levels.
If you would like to have clearer skin, steer clear of high-glycemic foods, usually those that have high amounts of sugar and those made from refined carbohydrates.
Spikes in the insulin levels increase the production of androgens. These are male hormones which, in high concentrations, predispose the skin to flare-ups.
Cut out the refined carbs and instead opt for whole grain foods that are nutrient-rich to maintain glowing and clear skin.
Examples: Spinach, kale, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and broccoli among others.
Dark leafy vegetables are perhaps best known for their high amounts of fiber, but did you know these are great foods you must eat for clearer skin? That is because they are laden with beta-carotene.
This is a type of pigment that gives vegetables their characteristic orange and red colour – think squash and carrots. Beta-carotene has excellent antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals and prevent the skin from aging.
In addition to this, the body is able to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A. This is an important part of eating your way to clearer skin as Vitamin A has been shown to regulate skin cell production.
By controlling the rate at which old skin cells are eliminated and replaced by new cells, Vitamin A helps maintain smooth skin.
Beta-carotene works in the same way as lycopene, a type of carotenoid found in tomatoes and watermelon. Aim for at least three servings of the different vegetables daily to maintain healthy glowing skin.
4. Foods Rich in Vitamin E:
Examples: almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds and wheat germ
Vitamin E plays an important role in protecting the skin from damage, especially that which results from the sun’s UV rays. This is why many sunscreen products are packed with Vitamin E.
It also explains why the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin, has high levels of Vitamin E to guard the skin cells and keep them healthy.
Studies show that Vitamin E is a key component of the skin cells’ outer membranes, a factor which comes in handy because it helps to keep the skin well moisturized.
That is why foods rich in Vitamin E are recommended for healthy glowing skin. Aim for at least two tablespoons of the sunflower seeds and wheat germ, an avocado and a handful of almonds on a daily basis.
5. Foods Rich in Vitamin C:
Examples: citrus fruits, red pepper and strawberries.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is important for skin health due to its role in the production of collagen, a type of skin protein.
Research indicates that Vitamin C is used in just about every step of collagen formation. Collagen is a protein that helps maintain the skin’s integrity and elasticity so that the skin remains firm without sagging.
Simply put, the collagen provides a strong supportive network below the skin, which in turn smooths out the skin’s top layer.
Vitamin C is found in abundance in the citrus fruit family that includes oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes. Aim for at least two servings of the fruits and 1 cup of either red pepper or broccoli daily.
6. Herbal Tea:
Examples: Green tea, peppermint tea and nettle tea among others.
Herbal tea has long been recommended for healthier clearer skin. This is because this type of tea is rich in antioxidants whose benefits include fighting off free radicals.
When the skin is exposed to high levels of free radicals, it loses its firmness and starts to become wrinkled. Free radicals do this by attacking the basic structure of the skin.
To counter this, make sure you take lots of herbal tea. Peppermint tea is particularly helpful for those who suffer from skin breakouts as it has a calming effect that helps provide stress relief.
Stress, as mentioned above, is one of the main triggers for acne flare-ups. Nettle tea on the other hand, helps calm the skin and reduce the severity of inflammation.
Nettle’s high antioxidant levels also go a long way in countering the production of free radicals. Stock up on these teas and take at least one cup daily to enjoy healthy skin.
Examples: Almonds, Brazil nuts, groundnuts and pumpkin seeds.
Sometimes, mineral deficiencies aggravate different conditions that affect the skin, making it important to address these deficiencies.
When the body lacks selenium and zinc, it becomes predisposed to acne breakouts in some people. This is why nuts come in handy for anyone who would like to reduce the severity and intensity of these flare-ups while maintaining clear healthy skin.
Nuts are rich in two key minerals: selenium and zinc. Selenium strengthens the body’s ability to fight off infections and free radicals while zinc is essential for overall skin health. Aim for at least a handful of the nuts each day to get healthy skin.
8. Oat Milk:
Oat milk is an ideal substitute for dairy and dairy products which have been shown to aggravate skin conditions, and especially make affected people more prone to breakouts.
There are two explanations why milk should be avoided if you have to deal with acne. The first is that milk contains androgens which have been linked to excessively oily skin and acne flare up.
The second is that milk increases the levels of insulin in the body, in addition to containing growth factors that behave like the insulin hormone.
To reduce the breakouts and give your skin the chance to remain pimple-free, cut on dairy intake and instead replace this with oat milk.
Oat milk is recommended for its high concentration of vitamin E whose benefits for the skin have been mentioned above.
This milk is also rich in fibre which ‘gets things moving in the gut’ – an important process because it ensures detoxification, which in turn allows the skin to develop healthily.
Other benefits of oat milk that make it an alternative to dairy milk is the high concentration of folic acid that is great for healthy glowing skin.
9. Foods Rich in Protein:
Examples: Tofu, lean meat, liver, eggs, soya beans.
It goes without saying that foods rich in protein play a fundamental role in healthy clear skin.
This is for the simple reason that proteins are the building blocks of the skin, and in their absence, the structure of the skin suffers leading to dry, flaky and haggard-looking skin.
The protein not only allows for the synthesis of skin cells, it also ensures that damaged skin heals quickly.
Liver and lean meat are excellent examples of protein sources. For vegetarians, soya beans and tofu are ideal sources of rich protein. Aim for at least three servings to accompany each meal daily.
10. Drinking Water:
Drinking water may not qualify for a ‘food’, but it is one of the most important additions to your daily diet. Skin cells are made up almost entirely of water, and so dehydration not only strips the cells of water, it results in dry scaly skin.
To counter this, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take adequate drinking water. Do not wait until you are thirsty as this is often an indicator that the body is dehydrated.
Instead, make it a habit to constantly sip on water consistently throughout the day. If you have not made this a habit, consider starting with 4 cups of water daily and work your way upwards.
You may add fresh cucumber slices, mint leaves or lemon wedges for a refreshing twist to your drinking water. Other fluids that will help you remain hydrated include herbal teas, soups and broths. Succulent fruits such as watermelon and oranges are also great additions.
In addition to the top 10 foods listed above, there are certain food groups that you must steer clear of simply because they sabotage the process to getting clear skin.
Start by cutting down on sugar and sugary foods as they cause sharp spikes in blood glucose levels. This interferes with the synthesis of new skin cells, resulting in sagging skin.
For those with sensitive skin, consider staying away from spicy foods. Spicy foods typically cause redness and blotchiness on the skin, which may only worsen irritation. Remember, these foods are not a quick fix for poor skin care routines.
On the contrary, the foods are to be used alongside proper skin care routines using appropriate products for your skin type. If you have any concerns, consult your dermatologist.