You definitely don’t need to be informed that eating healthily benefits your general health. It’s drilled into us from a young age that getting your 5-a-day is the way to feel great but another benefit that probably should have been touted is that it can make you better-looking!
My favourite analogy to get people on board with eating nutritionally-dense food for their skin is the sunflower analogy. Your skin is a sunflower. You would never feed just the petals of a sunflower and expect them to be beautiful and healthy. You have to feed it at the roots. Food, as in vitamin, essential fatty acid, and antioxidant-rich food, is your way of feeding your skin at the roots!
Another thing to take note of is that topical skincare can only reach your epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin, not the dermis, the layer of our skin that ensures the layers above it are well-nourished. Now, this is not me advising you to start drinking your serums, but feeding your skin from within with the right types of food means your dermis is getting that skin-helpful deliciousness.
There are some particular skin nutrients that we advise hoomans to load up on where they can…
Vitamin A greatly contributes to the normal, healthy functioning of our skin, and UV exposure can cause a deficiency. You’d think that here on our often grey isles this wouldn’t affect us but we are exposed to UVA rays every day, with UVB rays getting to us in the Summer months too. When our skin is deficient in vitamin A, our skin’s creation of new cells may be sluggish, meaning dullness and dryness.
Sources of vitamin A
We tend not to find some of the most abundant sources of direct vitamin A, such as liver and eel, in our diets these days. If you’re not about to head down to your butchers for a big hunk of liver, you can get beta-carotene, which converts to direct vitamin A in our body, through sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, squash, kale or apricot.
You probably already aim to get plenty of the big, beautiful C into your diet, but did you know that our body needs it to stimulate the production of collagen, the protein that gives our skin and blood vessels density? With healthy collagen production and strong blood vessels, you may be able to help to slow down the formation of lines and wrinkles and reduce the appearance of redness in your skin. On top of that, vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant… What can’t it do?
Sources of vitamin C
Nerdie fact: oranges actually aren’t the only fruit when it comes to vitamin C. Strawberries and mango are a great source of it, as is red pepper, kale, dark leafy greens and cauliflower.
Vitamin E is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and so it is great at reducing UV-related skin damage. We want plenty of anti-inflammatory nutrients within us to help to tackle inflammation which is the root of many skin concerns, from rosacea to acne through to ageing.
Sources of vitamin E
Get your E in through sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, kale, avocado, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs)
Your essential fatty acids are really just that: essential. There are two fats that the body needs that it actually does not make itself: linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). All of your cells, including your skin cells, need these to function.
Sources of EFAs
Fish is known for being high in omegas specifically, with salmon and mackerel being the types to opt for. However, nuts, leafy vegetables, grains, edamame, avocado and flaxseed are also high in EFAs.
Antioxidants are of the utmost importance when it comes to the fight against free radical damage, the damage that can occur to our skin and our bodies due to, for example, UV exposure and pollution. Antioxidants prevent the effects of those pesky free radicals, thus helping to protect our cellular DNA, proteins within our body and other elements.
Sources of antioxidants:
Although vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E are in themselves antioxidants, other antioxidant superheroes are tomatoes, turmeric, thyme, ginger, cranberries, kidney beans, blueberries, pecans and dark chocolate.
At risk of sounding cliche, it is about balance. Keep sugar, caffeine, and processed foods to a minimum, as sugar can actually make you look older faster, caffeine dehydrates the skin and processed foods don’t necessarily do anything bad, but they certainly don’t do anything good. Don’t neglect to eat enough protein or carbs, and a treat is okay so long as it is a treat.
We find supplementation to be very helpful for those who struggle to get enough of specific nutrients into their diets, especially vitamin A, vitamin C and omega supplements.
So there you have it, the nerdie guide to eating your skin bea-u-tiful!
Get all of Jennifer Rock's top skincare tips and watch her exclusive RTÉ Lifestyle series here.