You are what you eat, so the adage goes. It's a mantra that Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon from the Australasian College of Dermatologists believes in. She says that while sun protection is "by far the best thing you can do for your skin", a healthy diet is important for optimal skin condition. "Foods such as vegetables, olive oil and fish have been shown to be associated with decreased skin wrinkling," she says. "It is likely that antioxidants in these foods are responsible for their beneficial effects."
Janet Hayward, author of Lemons Are a Girl's Best Friend and founder of natural skin oil company Ipsum Skin, agrees. Hayward's book collates the best foods to eat for skin health, as well as – for those not averse to a little DIY – ways of using food to create natural beauty remedies.
Jessica Gomes pictured. “The best foods to eat to maintain a glow should be fresh and contain a good supply of omega fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals,” says Janet Hayward.Credit:David Mandelberg
"The best foods to eat to maintain a glow should be fresh and contain a good supply of omega fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals," Hayward says. "Salads, generally speaking, are always a great option because they offer a range of different coloured vegetables and fruits, which have different health and beauty benefits."
Hayward is a lifelong avocado fan: "It contains the 'good' fats that are responsible for keeping skin well-moisturised, with a healthy texture and tone." But, she adds, fruit and vegetables such as cherries and cucumbers are lesser known beauty-boosters.
Cherries are rich in anthocyanins, which have an anti-inflammatory effect and help to keep skin healthy, as well as vitamins, which can assist in collagen production. Cucumber, while being 96 per cent water, contains various minerals to ensure healthy capillaries. It also works as a natural diuretic to beat water retention and dark circles under the eyes.
Nutritional health coach Lee Holmes, the author of Eat Yourself Beautiful, started taking an interest in nutrition after she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
She is passionate about using food as a wellbeing and beauty booster. "I believe that beauty – ageless, radiant, ethereal beauty – is more about what we feed into our bodies and how we actually feel inside than our external appearance, and what you eat can make an enormous difference to how fast you age and the condition of your skin, body and internal organs."
With that in mind, here are some ways to eat yourself beautiful.
Research has found that many fruits and vegetables can tint the skin because they contain carotenoids, one of three pigments which affect skin colour. An accumulation of carotenoids can equate to a healthy glow. Apricots, rockmelon, tomatoes, sweet potato, broccoli and leafy greens are great sources.
Keep skin plump by including fatty fish in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids keep skin moisturised and can help reduce inflammation. Fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel, also have vitamin E. Walnuts are another good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Zinc, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, can help soothe redness and irritation caused by spots, and reduce acne scars. Find it in flaxseeds, red meat and, more excitingly, in oysters.
Get some bounce back into lifeless locks by adding folic acid – found in asparagus, broccoli, avocado, chickpeas and lentils – and vitamin B12, found in chicken, eggs and fish. Meanwhile, protein and iron from red meat and dark poultry meat can help with hair thickness.
Really dark chocolate – at least 70 per cent cocoa – can help combat stress and collagen breakdown in the skin. Chocolate can contain antioxidants called flavanols; these can help to increase blood flow and improve skin thickness.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale March 24.
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