Inner beauty: what to eat for healthy skin

G Magazine

With so many cosmetics on the market promising eternal youth, it's easy to get lost in the beauty jungle. Follow a clear path and eat your way to beautiful, radiant skin. Your health will thank you, too!

food and beauty

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Next time you want to ask someone with glowing skin, "What cream are you using?", you may want to try, "What have you been eating?" instead.

According to skincare researcher and nutritionist Alison Cassar, the healthier the foods you eat, the more sumptuous your skin will look.

"Eating the right foods supports the body to eliminate toxins, rejuvenate skin cells, strengthen organs and tissues and protects the skin from environmental damage," she says - all processes that promote healthy, radiant skin.

Garry Egger, epidemiologist and co-author of Skin Fitness, advises aiming for a good balance of nutrients from all the food groups. Eating certain foods together, he says, proves to be a beauty bonus.

"Essential fatty acids found in salmon improve the health of skin cells, however, the body requires cleansing foods such as beetroot to help your liver process them."

This may explain why avocado and tomato tastes so good together.

A study from the Department of Internal Medicine at Ohio State University showed that certain protective plant nutrients found in foods such as tomato become more available for the body to use when eaten with foods rich in good oils such as avocado. Together they make an anti-ageing formula to be reckoned with.

Eating healthy foods can also make you feel happier, adding to one's inner glow, says Cassar.

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon help lift moods, as does L-tryptophan, an amino acid found in cashew nuts that helps increase levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

What you do and what you don't

Egger stresses that good skin health is equally about what you don't eat.

Foods with a high glycaemic index, he cautions, particularly refined foods including sugar, flour, pastries and biscuits, promote acne and also inflammation in the body that can lead to premature ageing.

Research at Harvard University showed that women who ate foods with the highest glycaemic load had nearly twice as much inflammation in their bodies.

He adds, "Sustained high sugar blood levels also promote a process called glycation where sugar molecules stick to protein collagen [the supporting mattress of the skin], and destroy it". He recommends a "low human intervention" diet, citing refined oils (margarine included) as being just as bad as other refined foods. "Stick to foods that are more natural and unprocessed".

So is the jury out on the skincare benefits of naughty favourites such as red wine and chocolate?

Egger says with some foods it's all about quantity. Both red wine and dark chocolate are rich in skin-protective antioxidants, but they're also high in sugar and energy, so consume in moderation.

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