The healthier our skin is on the inside, the better it looks on the outside.
When our skin doesn’t get the nutrition it needs, its ability to withstand damage from the environment and other elements gets compromised. Pollution, the sun’s UV rays and other harmful factors create free-radicals that can damage our skin’s structure and create issues like skin pigmentation, and make it age prematurely.1,2
Over time, this also leads to dullness, wrinkles and loose skin.
The good news is that we can take steps to protect our skin from this damage, while simultaneously repairing the damage.
Here’s how to give our skin all that it needs, to be its healthiest best –
Fish gives us two nutrients that go a long way in helping our skin.
First, it’s a rich source of collagen, a protein that forms most of our skin’s structure. More collagen in the skin would amount to a firmer, smoother structure with an increased ability to hold water and stay hydrated.3
Second, fish like tuna and salmon are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats reduce skin inflammation, which can otherwise lead to several skin problems like oily skin, acne and more. Omega-3 fatty acids also keep our cells healthy, which allows them to support the structure of the skin, and help seal in the skin’s water, keeping it hydrated.
Omega-3 fatty acids can even be found in avocados, which also happen to be high in vitamin E and vitamin C. Both these vitamins even work together, to give our skin better and longer-lasting protection from free radical damage.4 Vitamin C is also required by our body, to build new collagen.
3] Red and Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Carotenoids are a group of red, orange and yellow pigments present in plants. These have great antioxidant properties, and can neutralise free-radicals thus preventing their damage. A study also reported that people who had higher levels of carotenoids in their skin were considered healthier and more attractive than others!
The orange colour of carrots comes from beta-carotene, a nutrient that our body converts to vitamin A, which is required for the maintenance and growth of skin cells and oil glands.5
Similarly, lycopene, the red pigment from tomatoes and watermelons, gives our skin excellent protection from the sun by lining up against the skin’s uppermost layer and neutralising free radicals right there, leaving other antioxidants like beta-carotene free to provide the skin with their other benefits!6,7
Apart from collagen, our skin also has a sticky protein called hyaluronic acid (let’s call it “HA”), which also contributes to the elasticity of the skin and its ability to hold water.
It’s been proven that getting HA and collagen from our diet moisturises our skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.8,9
Although these proteins are naturally present in animals, they are mainly found in the organs, skin, bone and cartilage – not so much in the muscle meats we eat today (like chicken breasts, pork chops, ground beef, etc.).
That said, eating organ meats and slow-cooked meat curries can still be a great way to consume collagen and HA. Just be careful not to eat too much, though, because organ meat has a high-fat content. It’s also worth mentioning that collagen, when consumed from food, is also likely to get broken down by the body and used for purposes other than helping build collagen.
5] Leafy greens
Cruciferous vegetables have plant nutrients called glucosinolates, which fight harmful bacteria and help heal wounds. In addition, the calcium from these nutrients helps regulate the salt content in our skin’s water, keeping it from getting dehydrated.
Dark green vegetables also have magnesium, which is needed by our skin cells – it makes HA, which, as we’ve discussed, also keeps our skin moisturised and smooth. To top it all off, many green vegetables like spinach and asparagus are excellent sources of vitamin E.
6] Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C, which (as we know) helps build collagen.10,11
Grapefruit, oranges and even tomatoes additionally have a specific type of flavonoid called naringenin, which helps prevent the breakdown of HA in the body, thereby protecting our skin.12
7] Legumes and root vegetables
A tiny Japanese village called Yuzurihara is known for the longevity of its residents, who have youthful skin, eyes and joints. This has been widely attributed to their diet, which largely features magnesium-rich root vegetables.13
Legumes are another great source of magnesium. Other sources include fruits and vegetables like bananas, figs, chard and spinach.
Eggs are high in essential amino acids – they’re termed ‘essential’ because the body cannot make these; we have to get them from our diet. These amino acids help the skin generate new proteins, amongst their other purposes.
A single egg can provide nearly 6% of our daily vitamin A requirement, with some vitamin D, too. Both these vitamins are used by our body to produce new skin cells, and grow new tissue needed for wound healing. Vitamin D also cools our skin during extreme heat by regulating our sweat glands.14,15
Yoghurt is considered a ‘probiotic’ because it’s made by adding live bacteria to milk. While buying yogurt from a store, it’s important to make sure that it has “live cultures” in it – it’s these good bacteria that keep our gut healthy, and research suggests a strong link between an unhealthy gut and skin problems. It’s believed that if the numbers of good bacteria are low, certain toxins can then escape into our bloodstream, making their way to our skin and playing a role in breakouts.16
With all the bustle of modern life, our skin’s age can be significantly older than our own actual age. Luckily, our skin constantly repairs and remodels itself from the inside to the out. That makes it all the more important to give it the nutrients it needs in order to be its healthiest, smoothest and glowing best!
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2. Papakonstantinou E, et al. Dermato-endocrinology 2012, 4(3): 253-258.
3. Sikorski ZE, et al. C R C Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 1984, 20(4): 301-343.
4. Quevedo WC, Jr., et al. Pigment Cell Res 2000, 13(2): 89-98.
5. Litwack G. Vitamin A; Vitamins and Hormones, vol. 75. Elsevier: London, UK, 2007.
6. Ribaya-Mercado JD, et al. J Nutr 1995, 125(7): 1854-1859.
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8. Sato T, et al. Aesthetic Dermatology 2002, 12: 109-120.
9. Proksch E, et al. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014, 27(3): 113-119.
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11. Liu X, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1997, 94(5): 1852-1856.
12. Moon S-H, et al. Food Science and Biotechnology 2009, 18(1): 267-270.
13. McCoy L. Traditional wisdom from Yuzurihara – the Village of Long Life. The Epoch Times. 2011 April 6-12, 2011.
14. Koike N, Stumpf WE. Exp Dermatol 2007, 16(2): 94-97.
15. Dowd J, Stafford D. The Vitamin D Cure, Revised. Wiley, 2012.
16. Bowe WP, Logan AC. Gut Pathogens 2011, 3: 1-1.