In many ways our dietary instincts are not well suited to the age we live in. Before the dawn of civilization, we were hunter-gatherers, roaming the grasslands in search of tasty roots, vegetable, nuts, and the occasional morsel of meat. Sugars and fats were a rare treat, and necessary to a healthy diet, so our bodies evolved a taste for those foods.
In the modern world, sweet and fatty food is all too common, so we seek to satisfy our evolved cravings and end up indulging to excess in just those foods that are the least good for us.
The skin is our largest organ, and it’s an extremely complex system that can easily be affected by our diet. In many cases, it’s exactly the foods we desire the most that can have a harmful effect on the skin’s health and appearance.
That’s not to say that the foods that are good for our skin are not appetizing. It just takes a bit of knowledge and self-control to find the tasty treats that will both make our skin look great and contribute to a healthy diet overall.
Vitamins A, B, C, and E are particularly good for the skin.
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining a healthy skin. It’s a necessary nutrient for forming the epithelial cells that are found in the skin and other parts of the body. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from harmful the free radicals that contribute to aging.
Vitamin B is actually a collection of related vitamins, many of which are essential to keeping the skin in tip-top condition. Biotin (B7) is an essential vitamin for the production of many of the elements of the skin. B2 helps maintain the skin’s chemical balance. B6 prevents puffiness, and B12 controls cell aging and growth.
Vitamins E and C are also crucial nutrients for proper skin formation and protection against the elements.
A healthy diet contains all of these vitamins. However, so long as a person has a healthy diet and no health problems that lead to vitamin deficiencies, it’s not necessary to take vitamin supplements. Eat well, and your skin will get more than enough of what it needs. In fact, taking too many high-dose vitamin supplements can lead to hypervitaminosis, which can seriously harm your body.
In addition to vitamins, there are various other antioxidants to be found in food. Both polyphenol and lycopene are antioxidants that are readily found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and can reduce the visible signs of aging.
These are the good fats: fats that are a necessary part of the diet and cannot be manufactured by the body (that’s what essential means). They are responsible for keeping skin cells plump and hydrated, helping reduce the incidence of acne breakouts, and may help improve the appearance of cellulite.
Excess sugars are responsible for a process known as glycation, in which they react with the proteins and fats in the body, forming chemicals that can do a great deal of damage and contribute to increased aging of the skin.
Dairy products contain elements that can promote inflammation and aging. Milk contains lots of good nutrients as well, but those can also be found in other foods that don’t have the negative impact that dairy can have.
Dairy foods have also been linked to worsening existing acne issues.
Not all fats are harmful, and some are essential. Cutting fat out of a diet altogether is very unhealthy. In fact, it’s possible to eat a diet of completely lean meats and vegetables, and still starve because of a lack of the necessary monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats coupled with excess protein (known as rabbit starvation).
The fats to avoid are saturated fats and trans fats, which are found in fatty meats, dairy products, and baked goods.
This may come as a welcome surprise, but dark chocolate with high cocoa levels contains lots of antioxidant flavanols, which help combat free radicals. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and white chocolate are not nearly so beneficial.
Tomatoes are full of the anti-aging antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene, can help the skin to remain youthful, fresh, and glowing.
Most leafy vegetable are a great addition to the diet, but spinach is especially good for the skin. It’s full of Vitamins B and C, as well as lutein, which is a great promoter of skin hydration (and helps keep eyes healthy).
Salmon — preferably wild rather than farmed — has a host of nutrients that help maintain the skin in peak condition, including vitamin D, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Like salmon, this inexpensive source of protein is packed with selenium, which helps to keep the skin tight and smooth.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamins A and B.
Green tea contains the antioxidant catechin, which has been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Walnuts, and some other nuts, are an excellent way to increase the amount of fatty acids in a diet. They also contain a lot of Vitamin B, which helps prevent skin disorders
What are your favorite foods for keeping your skin looking good and feeling healthy? Feel free to share with us in the comments.
Image credit: studio.es
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