Skin Foods (Part 1/2)
Skincare is so much more than cosmetic products. Taking care of your skin externally is only part of the picture. Diet and lifestyle play as big, if not the biggest role in achieving glowing, beautiful skin. In this post I want to focus on the “yummy” side of things and create an easy summary of all the skin foods and nutritional guidelines for healthy complexion. Saying that, I realise that it might be too much to digest at once, so I will split this topic into two posts. This is the first part of the two.
Vitamin C & Vitamin E
I’ll start with vitamin C and E. Why do I talk about them together? It’s because these two vitamins are highly synergistic and mutually enhance their effects. So it’s good to remember to try to consume them together.
The main skin benefit of vitamin C is that it stabilises collagen. Collagen is responsible for making our skin strong, elastic and hydrated, therefore reducing the appearance of wrinkles. People with vitamin C deficiencies often show impaired collagen synthesis.
Vitamin C cannot be produced or stored in our bodies, therefore its regular intake is crucial. Vitamin C is also very unstable and can degrade quickly upon contact with the environment e.g. with oxygen, therefore fresh, raw food is the best source of this vitamin. Many cosmetic products claim to use more stable forms of vitamin C, which, however, do not necessarily convert to the only active vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid – therefore not providing any of its skin benefits.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, it protects the cell membranes against environmental damage caused, e.g. by UV radiation. Vitamin E (also known as tocopherol) is therefore photoprotective. But there’s a catch. Vitamin E’s protection is much weaker, if vitamin C isn’t present. When these two vitamins are ingested together they effectively fight against UVB-induced skin damage and skin aging.
Highest sources of vitamin C:
Highest sources of vitamin E:
Foods combining high quantities of vitamin C & E:
All plants have two main problems, they are exposed to damaging UV radiation and they produce a waste product – oxygen – a free radical, which can destroy their cells. Carotenoids are a group of compounds, which give plants their yellow, orange and dark green colour. They are also powerful antioxidants and they help the plant to protect itself against UV damage. OK, but what does this have to do with you?
The awesome thing is that, by eating plants rich in carotenoids, you can basically get the same benefits from them, as the plant does. Carotenoids have been shown to relieve the oxidative stress in the skin. They also reduce the UV-induced inflammatory response in the skin, better known as the good old sunburn. And we all know what these two mean – carotenoids have a high potential to slow down skin aging!
Added bonus: some carotenoids are transformed by our bodies into the Holy Grail of skincare – retinol (or vitamin A to me and you). The best known such carotenoid is β-carotene, which can not only help reduce them wrinkles, but can also improve your skin tone.
Below are the five plants highest in the most potent carotenoids: lycopene, β-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin:
These carotenoids are fat soluble, which means that, to be best absorbed by our bodies, they should be consumed in the presence of fat. They do not degrade when heated, so you can go ahead and fry, mash and bake (using high quality extra virgin olive oil) carotenoid-rich foods and it will make them even healthier.
Being fat soluble, carotenoids are also stored in our livers, so be very careful when supplementing them or vitamin A, especially in higher doses, as this can lead to organ toxicity. You should be able to get all carotenoids you need from a healthy diet and should not have to resolve to supplementation.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and are excited about cooking your next dinner. Remember to look out for part two of this Skin Food series, in which I will not only finish telling you about skin beneficial foods, but I will also provide you with a downloadable summary of all the food groups, which you will be able to print out and hang in your kitchen.
If you have any questions or comments, as always let me know below!
1. R. Katta, S. P. Desai. (2014) Diet and Dermatology. The Role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease. 7(7): 46–51. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.
2. S. Schagen, V. Zampeli, E. Makrantonaki, C. Zouboulis. (2012) Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. 4(3): 298–307. Dermato-Endocrinology.