It is important to eat a balanced, nutrition filled diet in order to have healthy skin. Go for a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that leaves you feeling satisfied. Read on to find out about what ingredients you should seek out in your food and what to avoid.
Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, some fats actually have great health benefits. Your body needs plenty of oils and essential fatty acids to maintain a soft, supple complexion, as fatty acids nourish and replenish skin. Without enough fat in your diet, skin can dry out, crack, and become more prone to rashes.
We all need a certain amount of fat to thrive, but you will feel better and look better if you avoid the types of fat that clog arteries and use instead the types of fat that provide your body with the nutrition it needs to function properly. In fact, the total amount of fat you eat doesn’t seem to matter if you are eating healthy fats and are not habitually overeating.
Stay away from:
- Saturated fat. This fat is found in animal products such as beef, pork, chicken, milk, ice cream, butter, and cheese.
- Trans fat. This is manufactured fat used in the production of chips, crackers, cookies, granola bars, and pastries.
- Omega 6 fatty acids. Eat in moderation. Found in most animal products, this fat increases inflammation and can exacerbate many skin conditions.
All three types of fat raise your risk of heart disease by clogging your arteries and boosting cholesterol production.
Instead, focus on incorporating unsaturated fat into your diet. Unsaturated fat is found in plant foods like avocados, olives, olive oil, flaxseed oil, salmon and other fatty fish, nuts, and natural nut butters. These fats even help protect against heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels. Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly good for you—they help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, prostate cancer, and more. They are found in fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, as well as in walnuts and flaxseeds. You can also benefit from alpha-linolenic acid, which is particularly effective at preventing dryness and irritation in the skin. Alpha-linolenic acid can be found in soybeans, tofu, flaxseeds, olive oil, and walnuts.
It doesn’t take a lot of fat to meet your dietary needs, just a little here and there. For example, you can top your salad with sliced almonds or avocado, dip your apple in a little bit of almond butter, or toss some pecans into your breakfast cereal.
As with fats, carbohydrates (carbs) are necessary for survival—they are your body’s main source of fuel. The key to a healthy diet is not to avoid carbs entirely, but to choose your carbs carefully.
Eat healthy whole grains such as wild rice, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, oats and quinoa.
Whole grains are high in fiber and are digested and absorbed more slowly than refined grains. They keep you fuller longer than the refined sugar and flour in cookies, crackers, and sodas. They also keep your blood-sugar levels down.
Produce is an excellent source of carbohydrates. Try to eat a full spectrum (rainbow of colors) of produce every day:
- Red: peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, apples
- Orange: carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, squash
- Yellow: squash, peaches, corn, peppers
- Green: cucumbers, celery, lettuce, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, peppers
- Blue and purple: blueberries, eggplant, cabbage, grape
These will help ensure that your diet is full of antioxidants, which help to protect against the production of free radicals in the body—this keeps skin from being damaged, makes you look younger for longer, and helps prevent cancer. To this end, particularly look for foods with:
- Vitamin C. Found in oranges, kiwi, strawberries, kale, Brussels sprouts, red peppers and broccoli.
- Beta-carotene. Found in orange vegetables and leafy greens such as kale, carrots, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and spinach.
- Vitamin E. Found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, avocados and eggs.
- Flavonoids. Found in berries, green and white tea and onions.
- Lycopene. Found in red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, red peppers, and watermelon.
You should also avoid high levels of processed sugar in your diet; seek out sweet treats with natural, less processed sweeteners, such as stevia (natural herb sweetener), fruits, and honey. Even so, try to limit the amount of sugar that you intake. Sugar dehydrates the body and depletes you of Vitamin B, which results in dry, dull, acne prone skin.
Many fruits have excess sugar, as well, and so should only be eaten if paired with protein or healthy fats.
Avoid excess gluten, as well. Gluten free grains include quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and wild rice.
“Multi-grain,” “100% wheat,” “wheat,” can still have processed flours in them; it is always preferred to choose options that specifically state “whole grain” or “whole wheat.” Refined grains don’t power you to the same extent that whole grains do; in fact, they are mostly transported to your fat cells for storage.
Of course, avoid excess sugars, for all the reasons discussed above. Watching your sugar intake might be more difficult than you think, however. Read food labels carefully: many breakfast cereals and flavored yogurts are loaded with sugar. Even many pasta sauces and other savory items have a lot more sugar than you would expect. Sugar can be labeled as corn syrup, maltodextrin, sucrose, and other words that end in “ose.”
Protein is crucial to build and repair your muscles, red blood cells, enzymes, and other tissues. Furthermore, protein helps to stimulate collagen production, which in turn keeps your skin looking young for longer.
Ideally this protein should come from plant foods, like beans, nuts, and veggies, rather than from animal foods. A small amount of nuts (1 handful a day) can serve as an excellent protein source, as these are rich in vitamins B and E, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and copper, as well.
Excellent sources of protein include:
- Goji Berries
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, green cabbage, arugula, Swiss chard etc.)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Barley, Millet or Quinoa
- Black beans, black-eyes peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, natto , navy beans or peas
- Brown rice
- Flax seeds
- Sweet potatoes
Try to minimize or avoid animal-based protein such as meats and whole dairy products; these are loaded with fats that clog the arteries. Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, are rich in fiber and as a result do double duty when it comes to meeting your dietary needs.
This is not to say that you should avoid dairy entirely, as it is important to find natural sources of calcium—especially for women. Fat free and low fat dairy products are a better choice. You might want to avoid dairy, however, if you have persistent acne. Try almond, soy, and other milks, instead. You can also get calcium from collard greens, kale, spinach, okra, broccoli, almonds, figs, mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, bok choy, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.