HEALTH + BEAUTY

You Really Are What You Eat

healthy woman

We all want amazing skin. We want to glow, have a clear complexion, and look as young as we can.

Though we try to ignore it sometimes (like when we want that juicy burger and french fries), we know that we truly are what we eat. “Everything you eat becomes a part of not only your inner being, but the outer fabric of your body as well. The healthier the foods are that you consume, the better your skin will look,” says NYC Board Certified Dermatologist and Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgeon Dr. Ariel Ostad.

Have you found that after a stint of super-busy days where you’re just grabbing anything to satisfy that hunger that your skin acts up? We definitely have. No fruit and veg and lots of refined sugar means nasty skin for us.

“You could have sallow, dry and older-looking skin. It’s not going to happen overnight, but starve your skin long enough, and it’s going to show,” says Dr. Ostad. What’s more, some health experts believe that when your diet is missing certain foods for healthy skin, other, even more serious skin problems can result. Dr. Ostad points out that, “a number of conditions, such as acne, can cause you to suddenly break out. And some chronic skin conditions, such as eczema, may be linked to diet.”

So what should we be including in our diet?

Berries
Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries pack high amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants help block “free radicals,” such as the sun’s rays, from damaging skin cells. But don’t toss your sunscreen. Eating berries is an extra step you can take to help protect your skin from damage and prevent premature aging. “Free radicals; like the kind formed from sun exposure damage the membrane of skin cells, potentially allowing damage to the DNA of that cell,” says Dr Ostad. The antioxidants and other phytochemicals in these fruits can protect the cell, so there is less chance for damage. “When you help protect the cells from damage and disintegration, you also guard against premature aging. In this respect, these fruits may very well help keep your skin younger looking longer,” says Dr. Ostad.

Sweet Potatoes
Vegetables such as sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene and vitamins A and C — a good formula for beautiful skin. These nutrients can help retain skin moisture and prevent dryness.

Low-Fat Dairy
One the most important components of skin health is vitamin A. One of the best places to get it is low-fat dairy products. In fact, experts say that the health of our skin cells is dependent on dietary vitamin A. “The A in dairy products is true A, so everyone’s skin can use it,” says Dr. Ostad. He adds, “low-fat yogurt is not only high in vitamin A, but also acidophilus, the “live” bacteria that is good for intestinal health. It may also have an impact on the skin. Anything that helps keep digestion normal, any live bacteria or enzymes, is also going to be reflected in healthy-looking skin.”

Salmon, Walnuts, Canola Oil, and Flax Seed
These seemingly unrelated foods all deliver essential fatty acids, and thus are key foods for healthy skin. Essential fatty acids are responsible for healthy cell membranes, which is not only what act as barriers to harmful things but also as the passageway for nutrients to cross in and out and for waste products to get in and out of the cell. Dr. Ostad explains that, “Because it is the cell membrane that also holds water in, the stronger that barrier is the better your cells can hold moisture. And that means plumper, younger looking skin.” The same inflammatory process that can harm our arteries and cause heart disease can harm skin cells. Essential fatty acids can offer protection to both. The best-known essential fatty acids are omega 3 and omega 6, which must be in balance for good health (and good skin). Though we all seem to get enough omega 6, Ostad says many people lack omega 3s. Fish, walnut, and flax seed oil are among the best sources.

Oils
Oils can give your skin much needed moisture. Just make sure you’re using healthy oils, such as olive oil. Adding just 2 tablespoons a day to your diet will help keep your skin properly lubricated and healthy.

Whole Grains
The mineral selenium is an antioxidant found in whole-grain products. Selenium can help control cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. Filling up on whole grains will help you avoid refined white flour and starchy foods that can increase your insulin levels. High insulin levels can induce inflammation and irritate your skin.

Green Tea
This beverage deserves its own category in any article about foods for healthy skin. The skin-health properties in this beneficial drink just can’t be beat. “It has anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s protective to the cell membrane. It may even help prevent or reduce the risk of skin cancer,” says Dr. Ostad. Indeed, a study published recently in the Archives of Dermatology shows that whether taken orally or applied to the skin, green tea can reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet light (such as the burning rays of the sun), and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Water
While the exact amount you should drink each day varies, no one disputes the role good hydration plays in keeping skin looking healthy and even young. When that hydration comes from pure, clean water; not liquids such as soda or even soup, experts say skin cells rejoice. “It is my belief that our skin needs at least eight glasses every day,” says Dr. Ostad. In addition to keeping cells hydrated, water helps cells move nutrients in and toxins out, which Dr. Ostad says automatically leaves skin looking better. He adds that, “when we’re properly hydrated, we also sweat more efficiently.”

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