No cigarettes, lots of water, sun-shielding SPF and tons of moisturiser. There are many things we do, and don’t do, to keep our skin healthy and glowing. But you might overlook the impact your diet has. Here’s how choosing the right nutrients can help you care for your skin from the inside out.
If there’s one thing we all want, it’s beautiful and healthy-looking skin. And while we try to take care of our skin as best as we can, we tend to overlook the importance of healthy food choices. You can definitely give your skin a healthy boost with a nourishing skincare routine using the right products, but keep in mind that good skincare isn’t just about what you apply—it’s about what you eat, too.
Healthy gut, healthy skin
In recent years, research has made it clear that our gut is our body’s inner ecosystem. It harbours an incredible variety of microbes, which help regulate our immune system, provide nutrients for our cells, and fight off harmful bacteria and viruses. Those tiny gut microbes that make up your gut flora are incredibly important for the body’s largest organ—the skin. While a healthy gut helps protect against skin inflammation, an unhealthy gut can disrupt the flora in your skin and cause skin conditions like eczema and acne. The best way to keep your inner ecosystem healthy is by eating the right foods, which, in turn, will make your skin glow with health and vitality.
To help you on your way, here’s a brief guide to the best and worst foods for your skin.
What to eat for healthy skin
The ingredients you want to put on your skin, such as vitamin C and other antioxidants, are the same ingredients you should want to put on your menu.
1. Fruits & veggies of all colours
Antioxidants often give colour to fruits and vegetables, so a colourful diet means a variety of antioxidants. For example, yellow fruit is packed with vitamin C, which boosts your body’s collagen production, and munching on orange carrots is a good way to get your dose of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Tomatoes and other reds are rich sources of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant with lots of health benefits. Purple or blue veggies and fruits, such as blueberries, are high in antioxidants that protect cells from damage and help fight inflammation. A rainbow diet will ensure you get the benefits of all those different antioxidants.
2. Fermented foods
When food goes through a process of fermentation, it produces good bacteria that improve your gut health and your digestive system, which also helps your skin. In ancient cultures, fermented foods and beverages were often part of every meal. But modern-day Western dinner tables rarely include fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. For a super healthy microbiome and beautiful skin, try adding some of these fantastic fermented foods to your diet.
3. Leafy greens
The colour green should definitely be part of your rainbow diet. Greens like kale, broccoli and spinach are rich in sulphur, which has a detoxifying effect on the skin.
4. Fatty fish and plant-based oil
It’s long been known that fat is not always a villain. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, for example, are essential for a healthy body and a healthy skin. Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel. Vegetarians can get their dose of omega-3 from linseed, walnuts or hempseed. Omega-6 fats are found in plant-based oils such as sunflower oil, evening primrose oil and hempseed oil. Because these two essential fatty acids hydrate the skin from the inside out and protect against inflammation, they protect against dry skin and collagen decline.
5. Bone broth
Bone broth has been part of many culinary traditions for centuries. Recently, it has been rediscovered as a nutrition powerhouse, with some nutritionists even hailing it as mother nature’s alternative to Botox. Bone broth—prepared with bones, herbs, vegetables, water and lots of boiling time—is packed with nutrients that are great for your skin. It’s a rich source of anti-aging minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, and it contains high levels of skin-strengthening collagen and detoxifying glycine. Plus, bone broth is very tasty and surprisingly easy to make at home.
What to avoid
Some foods have a negative effect on your skin. For healthy and radiant skin, here’s what you need to cut from your shopping list.
They may say that no great story ever started with a salad, but for your overall health and your skin it’s incredibly important to mind your alcohol consumption. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of alcohol you consume per week, as well as the damage it does to your skin. Alcohol causes skin inflammation, which can result in redness, dryness and wrinkles. Lay off the booze for a month and see for yourself just how spectacularly this will improve your complexion.
Wrinkles are unavoidable. As you age, lines will naturally and inevitably occur around your eyes and mouth. However, it is possible to slow down the aging process a little bit by choosing healthy foods and by avoiding foods with added sugar as much as you can. Sugar breaks down collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles and sagging skin. To maintain a healthy, glowing skin at any age, say no to sugary foods and beverages.
Eliminating dairy from your diet might improve skin conditions such as eczema or acne. For many people, the fats and sugars found in dairy are difficult to digest. Dairy can also increase the production of sebum in your skin, which can cause skin problems. The good news is that there are lots of wonderful dairy substitutes available nowadays—almost every coffee shop offers the possibility to go for the almond milk option instead of your regular latte with cow’s milk. In addition to plant-based milk, you can also give goat’s milk a try, since goat’s milk is easier for your body to digest than cow’s milk.
Hear it from an expert
You can find some wonderful skin-nourishing recipes on the Real Food Fed, a website and blog run by American nutrition expert Pia Beck. We asked her to share some of her insights & tips on how to eat your way to healthy and beautiful skin.
Why does nutrition have such a big influence on our skin?
“Our skin is our largest organ and is significantly impacted by our gut health. Things like intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and dysbiosis (imbalance of gut bacteria) have been linked to skin conditions like eczema. While there are many lifestyle factors that can disturb our gut like toxin exposure and lack of quantity or quality of sleep, eating a nutritious diet plays a huge role in gut health.”
Which foods should we eat for better skin?
“Because skin health starts in the gut, I like to focus on gut healing foods: bone broth, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, and grass-fed, pasture raised, organic animal fats and proteins.”
Which foods can be harmful for our skin?
“Processed or highly refined foods, sugar and unhealthy fats are detrimental to all our body systems, including our skin. My number one recommendation for health is to eat real food. This means fruits and vegetables, high quality animal products and nuts, seeds, legumes and some grains. A rule I eat by is: If I look at the ingredients on a food label and don’t know what something is or can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it!
Certain food sensitivities can also impact skin health. Dairy and gluten intolerances are most common, so if you’re struggling with skin health, I’d suggest eliminating those two things for at least 30 days if not indefinitely.”
What about beverages? What should we be drinking to improve our skin?
“Water! Staying hydrated makes such a big difference for my skin. I’d suggest consuming at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day — more if you’re active! My recommendation would be to stay away from sugary drinks like soda.”
Do you have any secret tips?
“There are two things that have helped my skin so much! Daily consumption of collagen peptides, and non-toxic personal care products. Collagen is an amino acid that’s critical for skin, hair and nail growth, among other things. Most people aren’t able to make enough collagen to serve all the needs we have for it in our body, so supplementing can be really beneficial. I add Vital Proteins to my coffee every morning! Exposure to toxins is another factor that can cause skin issues either directly through contact or indirectly by influencing our gut bacteria. A few years ago, I swapped out all my household cleaning and personal care products for natural, non-toxic alternatives. Everything from surface cleaner to toothpaste! I also started using all-natural products for my skincare routine, and I’ve seen a huge difference.”