You can’t stop the aging process, but you can control how you do it. The good news is that if you’re committed to eating healthier, you can help give your skin a boost. Registered dietitian, Nicole Hopsecger, RD, discusses how certain nutrients and eating habits can contribute to glowing, healthy skin.
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Factors that affect your skin
As we age, it’s normal to see changes in our skin, but why? Hopsecger offers a few reasons.
Oxidative stress: Oxidative stress has a role in skin aging; it’s a process that happens when free radicals cause damage to your cells. Free radicals are natural products of human metabolism, sun exposure and lifestyle factors like a highly processed diet, alcohol intake and smoking.
Inflammation: Increased inflammation in your body can have a negative impact on your skin. A diet filled with processed foods may increase total body inflammation.
Dryness: Skin dryness happens when your cells are poorly hydrated. This causes skin cells to get smaller. Dry weather, certain soaps and excessive sun exposure can also cause dryness.
Lifestyle changes that help your skin
Hopsecger strongly suggests visiting a dermatologist first to talk about any skin concerns you may have. But she says that there are other things you can do to help your complexion.
“Wear sunscreen, reduce alcohol, quit smoking and stay hydrated,” advises Hopsecger. Drinking less alcohol leads to fewer free radicals being produced and less cell damage. If your skin is dehydrated, she says that drinking eight glasses of water daily can help.
Hopsecger also says that a diet full of fried foods, fast foods and sugar can impact your skin’s health in a negative way.
“Eating too many processed or refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index (dairy, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats) can actually cause skin inflammation, irritation and breakouts, and possibly promote aging,” she says. So, eat these foods in moderation and remember: supplements aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet.
By eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fatty fish and legumes, you can help nourish your skin from the inside out.
Nutrients that benefit your skin
Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s help your cells stay hydrated. In addition, omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in your body. Antioxidants and phytonutrients can help protect your cells by reducing free radicals in your body. So, which foods are good sources of omega-3s, antioxidants and phytonutrients? Here are Hopsecger’s picks.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids improve cholesterol and battle inflammation. They also help preserve collagen in your skin and keep it firmer.
“The top source of omega-3s is fish,” says Hopsecger. These are the best candidates for the job:
- Tuna (bluefin and albacore)
If you don’t eat fish, here are some plant-based options for an omega-3 boost:
- Flaxseeds — Look for ground flaxseed. Your body doesn’t get as much of the nutrients from whole flaxseed. Mix ground flaxseed into smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal.
- Chia seeds — Try making chia seed pudding, add some to a smoothie or make homemade granola bars.
- Walnuts or almonds — Reach for them instead of your other go-to snacking nuts, or try almond butter with a banana.
- Edamame — Toss these into a salad or stir fry.
- Canola or soybean oil — Canola oil can be used in baking, oven cooking or stir-frying.
Tomatoes for lycopene
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can help keep your skin smoother. Plus, they’re easy to work into anything — like salads, side dishes, sandwiches and sauces.
Foods that are rich in vitamin C
Some fruits and vegetables not only contain antioxidants, but also contain healthy amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C can help fight wrinkles. Some of the best foods for skin that are packed with vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruit — Oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.
- Bell peppers — Green, orange, red or yellow — take your pick.
- Broccoli — Steam or roast (yes, roast!) for an easy, healthy side.
- Strawberries — Snack on them fresh or put some in a simple smoothie.
- Kiwi — Add some to your favorite fruit salad or make veggie kebabs for a fun twist.
Foods that are good sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage. Some of the best foods for your skin that contain vitamin E include:
- Almonds — Add them to your snack arsenal or make your own trail mix with them.
- Sunflower seeds — If you’re not a fan of the shells, buy sunflower kernels. Toss them on salads or add to baked goods.
Not familiar with polyphenols? They’re powerful antioxidants that can be found in a variety of foods. Some of the highest sources of polyphenols include:
- Tea and coffee — One study showed that polyphenols in coffee and green tea could help prevent photoaging and hyperpigmentation. Just be mindful of how much caffeine your system can handle, or choose decaf when you can.
- Grapes — Grape seeds, grape skin and grape juice contain polyphenols like resveratrol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins and flavonoids.
- Chocolate — Beside antioxidants and vitamins, chocolate (especially dark chocolate) contains flavanols, or a type of polyphenol. They reduce rough texture in your skin and protect against sun damage. So, rejoice in knowing that you can have a few ounces of chocolate a day! Just make sure it contains 60% to 70% cocoa.
“Overall, the best way to nurture your skin is by eating a diet filled with plant-based foods and reducing the amount of processed foods and alcohol. If you eat these recommended foods regularly, you may feel better — and your skin will reflect that as well,” says Hopsecger.