What you eat dramatically affects your skin. Your diet affects every part of your body and your skin, your body's largest organ, is no exception. In many ways your skin reflects what's going on inside of your body, which is why healthier people have that natural radiance and youthfulness. Think of the way your skin looks when you are sick (e.g. dull, sallow, puffy, prone to redness) versus when you feel great in order to get a sense of the connection between overall health and skin quality.
Your skin improves when you clean up your diet. Here are five tried-and-true dietary tips for beautiful skin:
- Eat berries. Berries are high in antioxidants, which means that they neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage. In layman's terms, antioxidants reduce signs of aging. Other great sources of antioxidants are leafy green vegetables and green tea.
- Consume probiotics. There is a strong association between the health of your gut and that of your skin. Probiotics are a very important component of good gut health, so it's no surprise that they have been shown to improve skin conditions. To get your daily dose, you can eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir and/or take them in pill form.
- Manage your blood sugar. Avoid blood sugar spikes as they lead to surges in insulin. Elevated insulin levels are involved in the production of acne, though the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood. To stabilize blood sugar, reduce your intake of high glycemic foods like wheat-based products (pasta, bread, traditional baked goods), soda, white rice, candy, and the like.
- Eat omega-3 fats. These essential fatty acids keep skin hydrated and reduce inflammation. By far the best sources are fatty fish like wild salmon, but you can also find them in free-range eggs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, grass-fed beef, avocados, and algae. There is uncertainty over how well the body can convert the form of omega-3 found in plant sources into the usable form found in animal sources so I often recommend that my clients eat fish at least twice a week and consider a high-quality omega-3 supplement.
- Remove cow's milk. A 2009 review of 21 studies found that dairy consumption increased the number of people who got acne as well as the severity of the acne. Cow's milk often exacerbates skin conditions though there is no consensus as to why. I suspect that it's largely an issue of digestive health/intolerance, but regardless, eliminating dairy tends to help skin issues significantly. A caveat is ghee, which is basically just fat - no milk solids or proteins to cause problems. Also, goat's and sheep's milk tend to be pretty well tolerated.
What are some of your own tips for great skin? Let me know in the comments!