Did you know a healthy diet can lead to healthier-looking skin?
Your complexion is one of the first things people notice about you, and the health of your skin says a lot about the way you eat. The condition of your skin really reflects what you put in your body, and a healthy diet is really an “inside-out” approach to healthy skin. The healthier you are on the inside, the more it shows on the outside.
Pimples and acne are more common in adolescents, largely due to hormonal changes. But adults can suffer from breakouts, too. In the past, it was thought that certain foods caused pimples, especially those favored by adolescents, like chocolate, pizza or French fries.
A diet that consistently delivers a high load of refined carbohydrates into your system, day after day, can promote mild, chronic inflammation throughout your body. This chronic inflammation is a kind of slow, simmering fire that has been linked to various health issues, including skin problems like pimples and acne.
The texture and elasticity of your skin is determined, in large part, to the proteins, collagen and elastin that lie just under the surface of your skin. Anything that causes damage to these proteins can promote fine lines and wrinkles, which can make you look older than you actually are.
One reason it’s so important to protect your skin from sun exposure is because ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun promote the formation of highly reactive molecules called free radicals, which can do some serious damage to collagen and elastin.
Antioxidants—compounds that are abundant in colorful fruits and vegetables—help to fight free radical formation. And there is a clear connection between the levels of antioxidants found in the skin and the texture of the skin itself. People who have low levels of antioxidants in the skin tend to have a rougher skin texture. Those with higher levels of antioxidants in the skin have a smoother textured skin.1
Fish is an excellent source of protein, which your body uses to build collagen and elastin. Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which promote skin health by working to reduce inflammation. These healthy fats are found in abundance in fatty fish like salmon and trout. But all fish contain omega-3s, so aim for several fish meals per week.
Try to clear out the refined ‘white’ carbohydrates and sugars from your diet as much as possible. Replace them with the ‘good’ carbs—veggies, fruits, beans and whole grains. When you choose these healthy carbohydrates, you’ll be consuming foods with a lower glycemic index, which will reduce the overall carbohydrate load in your diet.
Many deeply colored fruits and vegetables get much of their color from compounds called carotenoids. Some of these can be converted into vitamin A, which is needed to help your skin cells reproduce. This is a vitally important function, when you consider that your body sheds 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells every single day. Many fruits and vegetables are also good sources of vitamin C, which your body needs in order to manufacture collagen. Carotenoids and vitamin C also act as antioxidants and help fight the formation of damaging free radicals.
Tree nuts like almonds and walnuts, and seeds like flax and chia, provide healthy omega-3 fats. And certain nuts (Brazil nuts in particular) are excellent sources of selenium, a mineral that also acts as an antioxidant.
In order for nutrients to move in and waste to move out, your skin cells (and all cells in your body) rely on fluid. Water is great, and so is green tea since it provides not only fluid but antioxidants. Be sure to stay well hydrated when the weather is hot. When you sweat, your body relies on fluids to help remove waste products from your skin.
For a healthy skin blend, add to your protein shake some flax or chia seeds for omega-3, mango chunks for vitamin C and some baby spinach leaves for carotenoids. What do you like to eat to keep your skin healthy and your complexion clear?
1 Lademann J, et al. Exp Dermatol. 2011 20(5):377-82.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.