Healthy Skin – Beauty Inside Out
Have you ever noticed how the condition of your skin, hair and nails suffers when you are feeling under par?
The reason is that your body is putting so many of its resources into fighting stress and illness, that your appearance – which is bottom of its priority list – takes the brunt of how you feel.
Fortunately, you can boost the nutrient content of your diet to equip your body with the essentials it needs both to stay well and to look terrific.
Eat Your Greens
The most important things you can do to help yourself look your best are to avoid smoking, and eat a varied and balanced diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables. These contain antioxidants which can protect against heart disease, cancer and wrinkles. Research also suggests that carotenoids, including beta-carotene, found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as carrots, peppers and mangoes, can help protect the skin from sun damage.
Experts recommend that we eat at least five varied portions of fruit and vegetables daily. Ideally these should be organic, and therefore pesticide-free, but if this isn’t possible then wash everything first.
Plain water is a great beauty essential because of its cleansing and moisturizing properties. Although claims that large quantities of water are needed to detoxify the body are false (a healthy body is efficient at removing toxins regardless of how much we drink), there’s no doubting that water acts as an effective internal moisturizer. It plumps up the skin cells and helps ease dry skin problems. External moisturizers are, of course, useful too, but only by retaining the moisture that is already in the skin.
To look and feel our best, some experts say we should drink at least one-and-a-half liters a day – i.e. six to eight glasses. The exact amount depends on your body size, how much exercise you do and how hot the weather is. Other experts say that if you eat a healthy diet you may need less to drink than if your diet is poor. A good test of whether you are drinking enough is the color of your urine – it should be pale yellow or clear.
Get Your Essential Fats
To look their best, skin, hair and nails also need certain polyunsaturated fatty acids (often referred to as essential fats). We require two main families of essential fats: the omega 6 family, found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, and the omega 3 family which are particularly concentrated in oily fish, including salmon, mackerel and trout.
Essential fats are important because they make up the structure of cell membranes, including skin cells. As well as maintaining A structure, they also lock in moisture and provide a waterproof protection for the skin. To improve the skin’s smoothness, aim to eat oily fish once or twice a week and a tablespoon of sunflower, sesame, flax or pumpkin seeds each day.
Cut Down On Chemicals
As well as increasing the amount of beauty foods you eat, it’s important to cut down on chemicals and stimulants that can be detrimental to your complexion, so avoid too many processed foods. You should also try not to drink more than three cups of tea, coffee or cola daily, as the caffeine they contain could affect the absorption of vitamin and minerals, and adversely affect your skin. People who drink a lot of these beverages are more likely to have tired-looking, greasy or spotty skin.
Similarly, too much alcohol can cause beauty problems, particularly thread veins and flushing. It’s important to stick to the maximum safe intake, which is equivalent to no more than two to three glasses of wine per day for women.
Sometimes your body may need a little extra help with your beauty needs, particularly if you are feeling stressed or run down. A multivitamin and mineral supplement supplying 100% of the RDA of each nutrient will usually perk up tired skin or hair, but more specific supplements may help particular problems.
For eczema or dermatitis, try 2g evening primrose oil and increase the zinc to 15mg. For spots and acne, take a total of 15mg zinc and 800mcg vitamin A (but avoid extra vitamin A in pregnancy). For brittle nails, as well as a daily supplement, eat more protein (in lean meat, fish, eggs and pulses) and take 2g evening primrose oil. For lifeless hair, as well as a daily supplement, take B complex with biotin, folic acid and pantothenic acid.
Where To Get Your Vitamins And Minerals?
- Vitamin A – helps prevent dry skin, spots and skin infections. Get them from liver, eggs, carrots, spinach and broccoli.
- Vitamin C – vital for collagen formation, which gives the skin its strength and structure. Get them from peppers, oranges, strawberries and blackcurrants.
- Zinc – essential for repair and renewal of skin cells and for healing skin problems. Get them from shellfish, sardines, red meat, root veg, nuts and seeds.
- Iron – helps prevent the pale skin and loss of hair associated with anemia. Get them from liver, lean red meat, dried fruit, dark green veg and pulses.
- B Complex – helps promote healthy hair and skin. Get them from meat, fish, milk, wholemeal bread and cereals.
Recipes For Healthy Skin
For a clear, healthy skin opt for plenty of fresh ingredients and a variety of foods to give your body all the nutrients it needs. Fresh is best, so keep highly processed foods to a minimum.
Try these healthy recipes:
- Salmon With A Crumb Crust
- Spinach And Lemon Risotto
- Chicken Kebabs With Avocado Salsa
For a fruit salad with a difference, peel a thickly slice 2 bananas, 1 large mango and half a pineapple. Place the fruit on a large square of foil. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp demerara sugar and dot with 1 tsp butter. Draw the foil together into a parcel. Bake at 200°C/400°F for 15 minutes. Serve with Greek yogurt.
You can also try Dried Fruit Compote for dessert or breakfast. Roughly chop 300 g ready to eat dried fruits. Place in a heatproof bowl with a cinnamon stick. Pour over 200 ml boiling water and 200 ml orange juice and soak for at least 3 hours. Serve with ice cream or Greek yogurt.
To add extra zest to desserts, whip up a Raspberry Sauce. Blend 225 g fresh or defrosted, frozen raspberries with 4 tbsp orange juice in a food processor. Sieve ans sweeten with icing sugar.