We all aspire for a fabulous, flawless and fresh looking face!
And why shouldn’t we………..after all a glowing face and a radiant skin are not just the prerogative of models and actors but a privilege which each one of us should be able to enjoy!
Let’s face it, a great skin is closely intertwined with our inner health and is not just a topical affair. Eyes may be the mirror of our soul but our skin is most definitely the reflection of our body chemistry-an aspect which can be optimally balanced through correct dietary choices and appropriate lifestyle modifications.
We may subconsciously wish for miraculous ways to achieve a skin that is soft, fresh and unblemished, but it is highly unlikely that all the expensive cosmetics and skin care products in the world would be able to give us a healthy skin without the help from our diet. The mantra’ You are what you eat’ certainly holds true as what we eat has a tremendous impact on how we look- today and also over the years. With each passing decade, we face new challenges in our quest for a radiant complexion. We encounter acne in teen years, crow’s feet in 40’s, the post menopausal dryness and scaliness in 50’s and the sagging and wrinkles that set in our 60’s.
While ageing is inevitable and no one can possibly reverse the passage of time, we can surely control the extent of the damage and the way we look. Agreed that a good skin is a culmination of many factors such as our genes, levels of hormones and our inherent body constitution-something we have no control over. Diet and lifestyle is however one area where we do have control. We just need time and inclination to exercise our control!
No matter how many vitamin pills we pop in or how much of creams and lotions we apply, our skin care regime is not complete without proper nutrition. So before we head towards the cosmetic counters, let’s watch our diet and lifestyle choices as they rightly say-‘the secret to a glowing and healthy skin is more about what we put on our plates than on our skin.’
Most diseases, including common skin ailments like eczema (itchy rashes), redness, acne, premature wrinkling, age spots, etc are a result of toxic overload. When we overeat denatured refined foods, which are improperly prepared, over fried, over boiled, refried and contain artificial flavors and preservatives, our body gets filled with toxic wastes and all this upsets our digestion, makes our blood acidic and our body prone to skin infections( dermatitis, acne). The texture of our skin becomes dull, dry and lustre less.
If our bodies lack in vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals, anti oxidants, essential amino acids and fatty acids, our skin is definitely going to reflect this. However, when we begin eating healthily, drink vegetable juices, eat freshly prepared home food and snack on nuts, seeds, fruits and juices, we not only develop a healthy immune system, which can add meaningful years to our life and help delay the aging process, we also get blessed with a flawless skin.
Understanding our skin–
Our skin is the largest organ of the body comprising of water, proteins, lipids and different chemicals. Its primary function is to act as a protective barrier against infections and environments and provide sensations for heat, pain, cold, pressure and touch.
- The epidermis or the outermost layer of the skin holds a large amount of water and is responsible for the look and health of the skin. As we age, the capacity of the skin to retain water decreases, making the skin more vulnerable to dehydration and wrinkles
- Keratin is the protein present in the skin, responsible for imparting body and strength to the skin. Elastin and collagen on the other hand impart elasticity and help to ward off the wrinkles and fine lines. Maintaining optimum levels is a must to post pone wrinkles.
- Finally the fat layers, blood vessels and the sweat glands. Having un clogged blood vessels and sweat glands is the secret to a radiant skin.
Here is the list of nutrients that will help to cleanse and nourish our skin from within and also delay the process of ageing-
1. Vitamin A – This fat-soluble vitamin, abundantly found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, spinach, papaya, etc) and low fat milk products is essential for the maintenance and healing of tissues present on the outer most layer of skin.
Researches have shown that as little as 30 milligrams of carotenoids a day (the equivalent of one and a half cups of cooked carrots) can help prevent/reduce the redness and inflammation associated with sunburn within a few days of their intake. Also, when combined with vitamin E, they tend to also reduce our skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and acts as a protective shield.
2. B vitamins are yet another group of vitamins which help to maintain normal skin function (including functioning of the oil-producing glands which keep skin moist and smooth) and lack of these in our diets lead to dry and scaly skin. Best sources include whole grains, sprouted pulses, bananas, potatoes and eggs.
3. Vitamin C –Including this vitamin helps to maintain collagen — the underlying supporting structure of skin and delay signs of ageing. However, excessive exposure to sun or stress can drain vitamin C from the skin, leaving it vulnerable to damage from the environment. Add rich sources like Citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomato, amla and kiwi fruit.
4. Vitamin E – Being a potent antioxidant, vitamin E aids in protecting our skin cells from sun light, pollution, drugs, and other elements that produce cell damaging free radicals. This antioxidant helps to slow the aging of skin cells by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Best sources include fish, eggs, chicken, almonds, leafy vegetables, peanuts, til seeds, supplements like fish oil and evening primrose oil.
5. Selenium and Zinc– While selenium reduces the risk to sun burn, the mineral zinc helps to maintain collagen and elastin ( the cells which impart firmness to skin and prevents sagging and wrinkles). Zinc also has a role in controlling the production of oil in the skin, and hence helps to control some of the hormones that create acne.These skin friendly nutrients can be found in nuts like almonds and walnuts, whole grains like jowar, bajra and ragi, seafood (especially fatty fish like mackeral and salmon), soybeans, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ.
Today, our busy lifestyle leaves less time for pampering our skin and this result in our skin losing its youthful luster. As we age, our skin gradually becomes thinner, the oil-producing (sebaceous) glands grow less active (leaving our skin drier) and the number of blood vessels in our skin decreases. This in turn decreases the flow of blood and with the blood, the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells reduce and we lose our youthful complexion and glow. However, the good news is that we can delay this process of ageing and also keep the common skin problems( eczema, redness, acne, wrinkles and dryness) away by following a few simple dietary guidelines –
a. A good skin diet starts with the replacement of refined carbohydrates ( present in maida and maida products like white breads, pav, burger, and pastas) with complex carbohydrates like whole grains. These whole grain foods provide us with an abundance of fibre and anti aging antioxidants which aids to prevent any cellular damage and keeps our skin youthful and healthy. Have a balanced breakfast (combination of carbs and protein), a high protein lunch( chicken sandwich or sprouts with curd and veggies) and a high carbohydrate (whole wheat breads or chapattis with vegetables ) dinner for ensuring a glowing skin.
b. Switch from bad fats that are saturated (as in red meats and high fat milk products) and trans fat (present in commercially processed foods like wafers, namkeen, cakes, mithais, gathia, papdi, etc) to good Omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids, found in fish, alsi seeds, almonds and olive oil are responsible for healthy cell membranes and prevent the skin from getting dry and flaky.
c. Drink at least 8- 10 glasses of water every day to keep your body hydrated and clean. Water helps in cleansing our body of toxins, improves our digestive functions and also lets our skin breathe properly. The easiest way to do this is to spread out your water intake throughout the day and use bottles that will help you keep track how much you drink. If you aren’t drinking much water currently, try adding one glass every few days until you reach 8 or more per day. Replace the carbonated beverages (colas), coffee and endless cups of tea with cooling buttermilk or cucumber juice, coconut water and anti oxidant rich green tea.
d. Drink a glass of vegetable juice every day. The combinations used can vary as per your imagination; however, the ones best for your skin are made from carrots, beetroots, spinach, dudhi/lauki and tomato. Raw vegetable juice is full of both known and unknown antioxidants, which help reduce the free radical activity and keeps the skin healthy. You can prepare the same by blenderizing the fresh vegetables and then diluting them as per desired consistency. You may add black salt, lime juice, chaat masala, etc to add flavor. Aloe vera juice is yet another beneficial juice, which reduces inflammation and helps in healing.
e.Skin needs sufficient amounts of good quality protein to replace and repair itself. You can achieve the same by including eggs, low fat milk, curd, soybeans, dals and fish but be careful to prepare them using less oil. Have a baked or grilled fish over fried preparations and a plain dal with veggies over a makhani dal.
f. Try to add as many fruits and vegetables as possible in your diet- the more color and variety on the plate, the better array of nutrients and anti oxidants.
g. Cooling herbs like turmeric, neem pulls toxins from the blood and minimizes the body’s need to use the skin as a route of elimination.
h. Indulge in any form of exercise at least thrice a week as healthy skin loves exercise! Walking, jogging, aerobics, swimming, cycling, dancing, whatever you enjoy…it is a great way to beat the stress, flush out toxins and improve blood circulation.
i. Adopt tension tamers like yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, music therapy as stress increases the accumulation of free radicals in the body and also robs our system of vitamins and nutrients. A youthful skin has a lot to do with what’s going on in our mind along with what’s going on in our body. Our attitude towards life shapes up our health and also our looks.
j. Get good sleep– This might sound like stating the obvious but that is the best way to ensure that your body gets adequate rest and is recharged optimally. Studies have shown that a good sleep gives our body tissues time to recover from daily wear and tear and also restores proper skin health.
k. Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake as they might temporally relax or energize you but would also dehydrate you, adversely affecting the circulation of blood to the skin, disturbing the sleeping pattern and adding worry lines on your face .
l. In addition to the above, try to avoid direct exposure to sun for longer duration ( if you can not avoid, then apply a good sunscreen with SPF 15), cleanse your skin gently with cold water, stay away from strong soaps ( which strip oil from skin) and irritating additives and apply a moisturizer regularly as per your age, skin type and specific conditions like acne.
Maintaining a healthy skin is a complex phenomenon, impacted by our eating choices, stresses in our life, genetics, environment, hormones and lifestyle. The first thing we can do to improve our skin would be to stop thinking of our skin as only a covering on the body, that we scrub and wash, burn in the sun, rub with creams, paint with make up and subject to lasers and cosmetic treatments. Healthy skin will happen when we eat nutrient dense foods, have enough exercise, minimize stress and are able to protect our skin from the harsh environment. Fortunately, the foods good for our skin are also excellent for our overall health and maintaining a good diet and lifestyle shall help us look and also feel great. So go ahead and reclaim your beauty through health!Advertisements