Glowing From Inside Out- A Nutritional Guide to Skin health

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Few of us actually look at our diet and lifestyle before resorting to expensive skin treatments, like Botox, chemical peels and even plastic surgery. A healthy diet should really form the basis of your skin health regime because when it comes to visible ageing, the real damage starts within and works its way out to the surface. Outlined here is a nutritional guide to skin health that will help you glow from the inside, out.


Skin Ageing explained


There are three major reasons why our skin’s age and all three have dietary implications:


Free radical damage. These villains are produced in our body from stress, excessive sun, smoking, pollution and bad diet. Free radicals attack our collagen and elastin, which give skin its structure and keep it firm and plump. A diet rich in plant foods helps supply necessary antioxidants, which are the body’s artillery against free radicals.

Inflammation. Ageing and bad diet can lead the way for inflammation to form. It has now been proven that low levels inflammation in the body can accelerate the ageing process and therefore damage the skin. On the diet side, its bad fats, fried foods, sugars and simple carbohydrates that trigger these inflammatory responses. Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids (or the essential fatty acids from fish and seed oils) on the other hand, tend to inhibit this inflammatory response.

Blood sugar alterations. Glycation, or glycosylation, is a fancy word for the damage caused by excess sugar. A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, results in higher blood glucose levels. Glucose, in turn, can directly damage collagen and elastin rendering them stiffer and less resilient.



Each or a combination of these factors affects skin health and underpins all major theories into why we age, and thankfully they are things we can actually control. The obvious things like genetics, stress and sun aside, what we eat can increase our susceptibility to these forces, or protect against them.



Skin Savers


Salmon. Oily fish, like salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that help keep skin moist and prevent inflammation. Instead of or in addition to salmon try other oily fish like mackerel, trout or tuna. Salmon is best though, as it contains high amounts of a powerful antioxidant known as DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol) known for its affects in keeping skin firm. Fish is also a good source of protein, which helps repair and reconstruct skin cells. Lean protein sources like skinless chicken, eggs and whey protein powders are also acceptable. Look out for omega-3 fatty acid enriched eggs on the shelves.


Raw vegetables oils. Flaxseed oil is a great source of anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids. Other raw oils, like those found in olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, nuts and seeds are rich in Vitamin E, a natural skin antioxidant. Having enough fat in the diet also ensures that the skin is lubricated and smooth.


Berries. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries and in particular, blueberries are excellent sources of antioxidants, and are particularly useful for preventing skin ageing due to pollution and free radical damage.


Low Glycemic Index (GI) foods. Fruit is a preferred source of carbohydrate for healthy skin. Apples, pears, peaches, citrus fruits and kiwi fruit are all low GI, which means they release sugar slowly into the blood. Berries also fall into the low GI category. Low GI carbohydrates include rolled oats, low GI mueslis and cereals that are labelled as such, low GI breads, sourdough rye breads, quinoa, brown, basmati and wild rice, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, legumes and wholewheat pasta.


Yellow and orange vegetables. These are great sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps reverse damage to the skin caused by excessive exposure to sunlight. Good sources include paw-paw, mangoes, carrots, butternut, sweet potato and pumpkin.


Green vegetables. Green veggies like broccoli and spinach are a rich source of antioxidants and other anti-ageing phytochemicals.


Water. Eight to ten glasses of good quality water each day helps prevent dehydration, which can make the skin look dry, dull and lined.


Exercise. Regular exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect on the cells. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week.


Skin Killers


Coffee. A high intake of caffeine can raise levels of the hormones cortisol and insulin, which in turn accelerates ageing. Use non-caffeinated herbal teas instead.


Alcohol. Alcohol can lead to free radical damage, a sluggish liver and dehydration and should be avoided.


Salt. Salt and sodium rich foods tend to dehydrate the skin, making it look dull and dry. Rather use fresh herbs, lemon juice or grated ginger for flavour in foods.


Sugar and refined carbohydrates. White sugar and refined carbohydrates, like bread, pasta and white rice should be avoided as these cause an unfavourable rise in blood sugar.


Fried foods. Foods that have been fried in oil generate a huge amount of free radicals and destroy valuable vitamin E.


Smoking. Cigarette smoke comes into direct contact with the skin, causing blockage of the pores and exposing it to free radicals.


Stress. Chronic stress not only generates free radicals, but also increases levels of cortisol- the stress hormone that has been linked to accelerated ageing.


Sun exposure. UVA and UVB rays have long been

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notorious for their damaging effects on the skin. To minimize the damage, apply a sun block with a high SPF every day, even when it’s overcast.



General Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Skin


  • Eat fatty fish at least 3 times per week.
  • Lean red meats, skinless chicken breasts or eggs are acceptable sources of protein
  • Eat yellow/orange and green vegetables daily
  • Use nuts and seeds and seed oils daily
  • Drink 8-10 glasses spring or distilled water throughout the day. Caffeine free herbal teas are also a good choice.
  • Include low GI fruits daily.
  • Avoid salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates and fried foods


Example of a Typical Day


Cooked oatmeal (made from rolled oats) + Tbs. crushed flaxseeds

Snack: Yogurt and mixed fresh berries

Lunch: Sashimi salad (salmon sashimi on a bed of romaine lettuce with sliced red, green and yellow peppers, carrots, onions, corn and cucumber with a flaxseed oil, low sodium soya sauce and fresh lemon juice dressing)

Snack: Stewed apple with cinnamon

Dinner: Grilled chicken breast served with steamed bok choy or spinach and brown rice


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