Prevent premature ageing with these skin saving tipsCredit: iStock
Eating a good, wholesome, nutrient-rich diet is paramount to promoting good health and radiant, youthful-looking skin. Unfortunately, not all of us eat well and a lot of people, especially those who follow a typical Western diet, don’t get the recommended daily intake of important nutrients needed to maintain healthy skin and prevent premature ageing.
Here are some of the best skin-nourishing nutrients around, for beautiful, healthy skin.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 offers exceptional protection against oxidation and inflammation, two major causes of skin ageing. CoQ10 is essential for energy production inside cells and is a highly effective antioxidant.
CoQ10 is also important as it helps recycle other antioxidants in the body, such as vitamins C and E. Premature ageing is one of the main consequences of having too little CoQ10.
Supplementing with ubiquinol (the active form of CoQ10) along with eating foods containing CoQ10, such as wild fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna), organic lamb and beef, is recommended.
Silica is a trace mineral that is vital for healthy skin. Silica can boost collagen production and increase skin hydration. Collagen is one of the main structural proteins in our bodies; it gives skin structure and strength.
If your diet is lacking silica, your skin will lack elasticity and be more prone to wrinkles and slow wound-healing.
Having muesli or porridge for breakfast regularly is a great way to increase your silica intake, as oats are one of the best sources of this important skin nutrient. Add some banana, too, for an extra silica boost.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the health of skin. Zinc is needed for the proper structure of skin proteins and cell membranes. It promotes healthy wound healing and has an anti-inflammatory effect, beneficial for treating eczema.
Zinc is beneficial for acne sufferers, too, as it helps control the production of oil in the skin along with helping to balance out hormones responsible for breakouts.
Supplementing with around 50mg of elemental zinc daily is recommended for optimal skin health, especially for anyone deficient in this important mineral, together with increasing zinc-rich foods like grass-fed meat, seafood, chicken, eggs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and tahini.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, found in oily fish, are highly nourishing fats that are vital for keeping skin soft and healthy. Increasing omega-3s in the diet will help keep the skin properly hydrated and promote smoother, more youthful-looking skin. Due to their ability to inhibit inflammation, omega-3 fats are extremely beneficial for treating inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea.
Your skin is one of the first places to show signs of an omega-3 deficiency. Some of the most common signs are dry, rough skin and dandruff.
Oily fish are the best source of these beneficial fats. Salmon, trout, mackerel, cod, sardines and anchovies are all excellent choices. Taking a good-quality fish oil supplement daily is also recommended to help maintain optimal omega-3 levels and beautiful healthy skin. Vegetarian sources of omega-3s include nuts and seeds, particularly walnuts, chia and flax seeds and their oils.
Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant found in the skin. Sebum contains vitamin E, which forms an oily protective layer on the skin. Vitamin E plays an integral role in the skin’s antioxidant defences and provides protection against UV radiation, pollution and free radicals that damage skin cells, which cause the breakdown of collagen, resulting in wrinkles and premature ageing.
Topical applications of vitamin E have been shown to be absorbed into the epidermis and dermis where it helps soothe dry and rough skin, and can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E is also commonly used to help prevent scarring and stretch marks.
Eating more vitamin E-rich foods like avocado, cold-pressed olive oil, walnuts and almonds will help keep the skin moist and supple, as it has a moisturising effect that improves the skin’s ability to retain water.
Selenium is a trace mineral that plays an important role in your skin’s cellular antioxidant defences. Selenium is a component of glutathione, one of your body’s most important antioxidants, which protects the skin from inflammation and premature ageing. Including selenium-rich foods in the diet may also offer protection from skin cancer.
Brazil nuts are a particularly good source of selenium. Having just two Brazil nuts a day can supply you with your daily recommended intake. Other good sources include seafood, red meat, wheatgerm, eggs, garlic and brown rice.
Vitamin A & beta-carotene
Vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) are essential skin-nourishing nutrients. Vitamin A promotes healthy skin cell turnover, is essential for repair and maintenance of the skin and offers antioxidant protection.
If you are low in vitamin A, your skin will become dry, rough and scaly, and you may notice raised bumps on the back of your arms (hyperkeratosis pilaris).
Good sources of vitamin A include liver, organic butter, preferably from grass-fed cows, and cod liver oil. Beta-carotene can be found in high levels in orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, mango, pumpkin, sweet potato, apricots and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant, plays an important role in regulating collagen production and encourages healthy wound healing, as well as preventing bacterial infections associated with acne. Vitamin C can also help prevent and treat UV-induced skin damage. Rich sources of vitamin C include papaya, guava, strawberries, kiwifruit, citrus fruits, broccoli, capsicum (peppers), mango, parsley, kale and other dark-green leafy vegetables. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, so eating these foods raw or lightly cooked will help maximise their vitamin C content.
Sulfur is found in all cells in the body, especially in hair, skin and nails. Sulfur is an extremely important mineral required for healthy, youthful-looking skin.
It’s important that we get adequate amounts of sulfur in the diet to maintain collagen production. Poor collagen production is one of the main contributors to wrinkles and ageing skin.
Sulfur is also required to make glutathione, one of your body’s most valuable antioxidants that fights free radicals and dampens inflammatory skin conditions.
Sulfur is most abundant in egg yolks, poultry, grass-fed meat, fish, garlic, onion, and brassica vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage). Fermented brassica vegetables like sauerkraut are particularly valuable sources of this important mineral. The fermentation process makes the sulfur content more bioavailable.
Superfoods for radiant skin
These complexion-boosting power foods will help keep your skin soft, supple and more youthful.
Salmon is one of the best sources of healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are beneficial fats needed to keep the skin soft and supple. Salmon also provides plenty of amino acids, which are also important for building collagen and elastin, both major proteins in the skin.
Salmon is also an excellent source of the super-carotenoid, astaxanthin, which is responsible for giving salmon their characteristic reddish-pink colour. Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants with exceptional ability to fight skin-damaging free radicals and prevent premature skin ageing. This super antioxidant is also naturally found in krill, trout and marine algae.
Berries are jam-packed with skin-loving nutrients, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are brilliant for boosting collagen production. They are also rich sources of powerful antioxidants called anthocynanins, which help protect the skin against free radical damage caused by overexposure to the sun.
Berries are a low-fructose fruit, so they won’t cause sharp spikes in blood sugar levels, which is linked to an increase in sebum production and breakouts. Berries also pack an anti-inflammatory punch, helping to decrease inflammation in the body and slow down visible signs of ageing.
Consuming wheatgrass often will help promote clear, healthy skin and reduce the likelihood of breakouts. Wheatgrass is a superior source of chlorophyll that is a fantastic natural detoxifier. This superfood also contains skin-nourishing vitamins A, C and E, which are potent antioxidant nutrients with collagen-protective effects.
Wheatgrass is a super-oxide dismutase (SOD) boosting food. SOD is one of the most powerful antioxidants made by the body that helps slow down cellular ageing. If you don’t have enough SOD, cells in the body, including skin cells, will start to age faster and die. As you get older, SOD production is reduced.
The best way to have wheatgrass is organic and freshly squeezed at home or from your local healthfood shop or green grocer. Wheatgrass powder is another convenient, easy way to include more wheatgrass in your diet. Add a teaspoon to green smoothies or vegie juices, or make a morning shot with a little freshly squeezed orange juice.
Wheatgrass also has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities that can help improve skin healing. Applied topically, wheatgrass can help fight bacteria that can promote breakouts. Wheatgrass is also very soothing on the skin and can help ease inflamed areas and sunburn. For a quick and easy revitalising facial at home, simply apply some fresh wheatgrass juice to your face and allow it to dry for around 20 minutes, then rinse. Your skin will look and feel radiant.
Eating raw chocolate or cacao, which is chocolate in its natural unprocessed form, is actually extremely beneficial for the skin and the rest of the body. It’s the high levels of sugar added to processed chocolate that causes skin problems and should be limited.
Raw cacao contains high levels of polyphenols, namely flavanoids and resveratrol, which have superb antioxidant action. These polyphenols can prevent oxidative damage by protecting collagen from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
These polyphenols can also help improve blood flow to the skin, which increases the delivery of oxygen and important skin nutrients, resulting in healthy, glowing skin.
The best way to eat raw cacao is by adding the powder to smoothies, porridge, healthy desserts, baked goods and protein balls, or by sprinkling the nibs in muesli and trail mixes. When you buy chocolate, make sure the raw cacao content is at least 70 per cent to reap its full health benefits.
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, namely catechins and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which are powerful antioxidants that can reduce premature skin ageing and offer protection against many types of cancers. EGCG slows down collagen breakdown and can help regenerate ageing surface skin cells. Aim to drink three cups of organic green tea daily to fully reap all its wonderful skin benefits.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, and complexion-boosting vitamin C and antioxidants. Green “leafies” also contain high levels of chlorophyll, which can help improve cell oxygenation. To get the most out of your greens, they are best enjoyed raw in salads, lightly steamed or sautéed (in a little olive or coconut oil), or added to vegie juices or green smoothies.
Supercharge your skin’s health by including more carrots in your diet. Carrots are considered a super skin food as they contain high levels of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene aids in skin repair and regeneration and increases skin cell turnover, giving your skin a healthier, more youthful appearance.
Raw carrot sticks with hummus, grated through salads or added to vegie juices are great ways to enjoy this nutritious vegetable.
Broccoli sprouts are little nutritional powerhouses, full of important complexion-boosting nutrients like vitamins C and A. Broccoli sprouts also contain high levels of sulforaphane, a powerful antioxidant compound that helps fight cancer, reduce inflammation and support healthy liver detoxification.
Broccoli sprouts contain anywhere up to 100 times the level of these anti-cancerous compounds compared to broccoli. Broccoli sprouts are the best SOD (superoxide dismutase) boosters, which help fight damaging superoxide free radicals that lead to cell death and ageing. Adding raw broccoli sprouts to meals is an easy way to give your skin a big nutritional boost. They can also be easily and cheaply grown at home, or you can buy broccoli sprout powder to add to smoothies and fresh juices.
Avocado used topically is a popular natural beauty treatment, however eating avocadoes is even better. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein are free-radical-fighting antioxidants found in avocadoes that protect skin from the damaging effects of the sun and other environmental stressors.
Avocadoes are also a great source of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), needed to support healthy skin growth and regeneration, and vitamin E, which can reduce the damaging effects of pollution and UV radiation from sun exposure.
It’s the oleic acid content of avocados, however, that benefits skin the most. This beneficial mono-unsaturated fatty acid has a moisturising effect on the skin, helping it retain moisture to keep it soft, supple and well hydrated.
Chia seeds are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are important for keeping the skin soft and healthy and well hydrated. Chia seeds also provide amino acids vital for boosting skin renewal and repair, and zinc to improve skin healing. Try adding a tablespoon of chia seeds to your breakfast cereal or smoothie.
Including pomegranate in your diet regularly can help regenerate skin cells and boost collagen production to help keep skin smooth and well toned. This beautiful red fruit is abundant in the polyphenols, anthocycanins and ellagic acid, and vitamins A and C, which are potent antioxidants that help protect skin cells from oxidative damage caused by sun exposure, which is a major skin age accelerator.
Pomegranates also contain punicalagin, a super-antioxidant nutrient that helps preserve collagen in the skin, giving your skin a smoother, firmer appearance.
Pomegranates are delicious eaten on their own, sprinkled through salads, added to breakfast cereals or yoghurt, or consumed as a juice.
Making probiotic-rich fermented foods (such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, miso and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut) staples in your daily diet is one of the best ways to boost your friendly bacteria and promote good gut and skin health. These foods are commonplace in the diets of many cultures around the world but are, unfortunately, missing from the common Western diet.
Fermented foods are also high in vitamin K2. This important vitamin is produced by not only bacteria in fermented foods but also by beneficial bacteria in your gut. Vitamin K2 helps prevent wrinkles and premature skin ageing by inhibiting calcification and hardening of elastin, which is one of the proteins that make our skin flexible and smooth.
Supporting a healthy balance of gut bacteria with fermented foods can enhance innate immunity in the skin, helping prevent pathogenic bacteria residing on the skin’s surface and reducing inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis.
Wrinkles are a natural part of getting older. We all eventually get them, but some of us seem to get them at a younger age than others. Overindulging in sugary foods can also make your skin age faster due to a process called glycation. This is when sugar in your bloodstream binds to proteins in the body, particularly collagen in the skin, to form tissue-destroying new molecules called AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, resulting in rigid, dry, brittle and wrinkle-prone skin.
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