Honestly, I am the last person who preaches about what you should eat. How could I when I mainline chocolate like a junkie and was last seen snacking on pom pom bears whilst making friends with a bottle of Whispering Angel? But, *groan*, I’m not an idiot. Well, not a ginormous idiot and I do know that healthy foods and super-supplements can make a real difference to how you look and how you feel. In what has become this summer’s bid to make my skin look better, I’ve done some in-depth research (i.e. asked someone else) into the best foods and supplements to take to make your skin look plumper, healthier and younger than ever. Thankfully, that person is the fab Nutritional Therapist Jo Saunders, part of the brilliant Cooking Them Healthy team who knows all there is to know about super-charged eating….
Jo: Everyone is looking for perfect (ok, if not perfect then certainly better) skin, particularly during these summer months to show off a bronzed summer glow. Equally the warmer weather generally requires us to expose more flesh. However, do you cringe at unsightly ‘chicken skin’ or dry bumps on your upper arms? Do you find your legs resembling a lizard by the end of the day? Or perhaps you are unable to go make-up free despite tanned skin due to irritating breakouts or dry patches? If any of the above sounds familiar, help is at hand in the form of my top skin nourishing foods, as well as my pick of supplements to help achieve that ever-desirable glow.
My Top 5 foods for glowing skin:
It is well known that Omega 3 fatty acids are important for our health, and they are a essential nutrient for supporting skin. If you suffer from ‘chicken skin’ for example, those dry bumps usually found on the upper arms, it can be a sign that you may benefit from more Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies (preferably responsibly sourced) are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids so ideally aim to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week.
Dark green leafy vegetables
When I was studying at college, if anyone was in doubt of an answer to an exam question, the answer was inevitably ‘dark, green leafy vegetables’, and with good reason. Dark green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts & pak choi are rich in the mineral sulphur. Sulphur is important for the proper development of connective tissue and helps skin maintain its structural integrity, i.e. healthy glowing skin.
Dark green leafy vegetables are also a valuable source of both Vitamin C and Vitamin K, all key nutrients for healthy skin. Aim to eat as many as possible, ideally 3-5 servings each day. Adding them to smoothies, salads and to your breakfast (finely shredded in omelettes or as a bed for poached eggs are helpful ways to boost your intake).
Eggs are the ultimate fast food, and are packed with skin nourishing biotin as well as sulphur. Eggs make a brilliant breakfast food, as well as for lunch on the go and they are so incredibly versatile – try omelettes (savoury or sweet), frittata, poached, scrambled or fried, however you fancy them.
Berries, in all their jewel coloured glory, are packed with skin boosting Vitamin C and antioxidants. They are the perfect summer fruit, so it’s well worth keeping a bag of frozen mixed berries in the freezer for adding to smoothies, making a simple compote as a topping for yogurt (adding honey to sweeten if necessary) or why not making chia jam (further boosting your levels of Omega 3!).
Flax seeds (also known as linseeds) are rich in Omega 3, and are a good vegetarian alternative to oily fish. Try sprinkling them ground on cereal, yogurt or porridge or in smoothies. I would recommend combining flax seeds with other seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds etc), blitz them in a coffee grinder or food blender and keep them in a glass jar in the fridge. This provides a zinc-rich addition to your diet, another key skin boosting nutrient. Add a tablespoon of the seed mix daily to smoothies, sprinkled on yogurt or on cereal for breakfast for a skin friendly boost.
My Top 5 Skin Boosting supplements:
Collagen is a major structural protein in skin and is required to give skin its plump, smooth appearance – and that glow we all so desire. Adding a tablespoon (start smaller and increase gradually over a week or so) to your morning cuppa, coffee, tea, or lemon water – brownie points for that one – can really help to keep those dreaded wrinkles at bay. It adds shine to your hair, and keeps joints supple so an all round winner. It also provides a protein hit first thing helping to stabilise energy levels throughout the day. The green version dissolves tastelessly in liquid, whereas the red version can be used to make jellies at home.
If your diet has been less than perfect recently due to a busy/stressful/tiring time, panic not, help is on hand with the brilliantly designed Wild Nutrition Skin, Hair & Nails Formula. It is packed with all the key nutrients to help support healthy skin such as biotin, sulphur, Vitamins E & C as well as beta-carotene in handy capsule form. All Wild Nutrition supplements use food-state nutrients of a high quality which are easily assimilated by the body.
If you are not a fan of eating fish, or are aware you are not eating enough, supplementing with a good quality fish oil can be a valuable insurance policy for healthy skin. I rate Nordic Oil, a premium quality omega 3 fish oil, derived from carefully selected fish sources from deep and clear waters, including cold-water anchovies, herring and sardines. It is available in oil (the taste is very neutral and not fishy at all) or in gel capsule form. I recommend keeping this in the fridge to prevent oxidation.
It really is worth taking care what you apply to your skin, particularly regards parabens and phthalates. There is an increasing bank of evidence suggesting the negative impact of these chemicals on our health. Some believe you shouldn’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat – in which case coconut oil is the perfect handy beauty secret. Coconut Oil is often my oil of choice for cooking, but this highly versatile product can be used on the skin too, as a moisturiser, face or hair mask or even eye make up remover. The clever people at Lucy Bee have just released a Beauty book packed with brilliant ideas. Keep a jar in your kitchen and one in the bathroom and you’ve got all your beauty needs covered! And don’t worry, the scent is very mild so you don’t need to fear walking around smelling like a pina colada.
We are learning more and more about what is known as the ‘skin-gut axis’, and the role probiotics (beneficial bacteria) play in skin health. Our gut microbiota, the different species of bacteria found in our gut, can have implications for conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. If you suffer from any skin complaint, digestive discomfort and/or take antibiotics or any medication, over the counter or prescription, I would definitely recommend a course of probiotics. It’s worth being aware that not all probiotics are created equal so choose a company, such as OptiBac, that uses strains studied for their specific health benefit.
For plenty of nutritious family friendly recipes with plenty of Skin Boosting benefits (and much more), head to Cooking Them Healthy.
Images: Conde Nast