‘You are what you eat’ is an expression that is part of everyday food lexicon and it has a long history, originating in France. French lawyer and politician, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin had a reputation of being - what we would now call - a foodie. He wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826: "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. Versions of this expression appear across Europe after that; and in 1942 nutritionist Victor Lindlahr published the book You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet.
Eating a great, balanced diet has a huge impact on your life, how you look and feel, and your skin is one your greatest reflectors of a balanced diet – it is after all, the body’s largest organ. Life in a busy city with pollution, juggling a family and work, keeping your skin looking rejuvenated can seem like a tricky task, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
First there are some key things to know. Simply eating is one of the ways to ensure your skin looks great; crash diets, skipping meals because you’re too busy, all this leads to unhealthy skin – your skin needs a lot of vitamins, minerals and amino acids that you get from food.
One of the major components to ageing are free radicals; simply put free radicals are unpaired electrons that cause cell damage to organisms. Antioxidants inhibit the chemical reaction that produces free radicals, which is why one of the key things for a healthy skin are antioxidants (although not the only thing!).
Eat the rainbow!
So, what are antioxidants? They are compounds that appear naturally in foods, and some foods are particularly rich in antioxidants. There are a few different types of antioxidants, which do a variety of things.
It is essential that you eat at least five portion of fruit and veg a day, but also important is to eat a range of colours. The red and orange pigment in veg such as in carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, is beta carotene, which is an antioxidant and your body converts this into vitamin A.
But it isn’t just orange foods that are high in beta carotene, broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus, onions, and even herbs and spices such as oregano, parsley and paprika have it. The more colourful your fruit and veg intake is, the more likely you are to get a substantial hit of excellent antioxidants!
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, it is often found in protein such as fish, eggs and Brazil nuts as well as brown rice and tomatoes. Green soybeans, mushrooms and soy also have selenium in them, and they have phytoestrogen which is great for the skin too!
Phytoestrogen is a plant-derived compound, which stimulates the production of collagen, can help to protect against UV damage, as well has having antioxidant affects and anti-inflammatory properties (amongst other great things!). Food such as tofu, barley, carrots, rice, lentils and even coffee have phytoestrogen in them.
There are a number of foods that have the kind of fats that are incredibly helpful in keeping your skin looking healthy. So, what is it about these fats and which ones should you eat? Avocados have mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which is what makes it a healthy fat, as well as vitamin E and antioxidants! Olive oil is also a good source of these fats, olives in general are also rich sources of vitamin A and E and help with protecting against UV light.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a poly-unsaturated fatty acid, which can help with reducing inflammation on the skin, helps to repair any damages – such as the spot you thought would never go! Oily fish is the best source of omega-3, but also flax and chia seeds, and walnuts.
And there you have it, just a few small changes in your diet can make a big impact on your skin health. What new foods will you be incorporating into your diet from now on? Let us know in the comments!
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