Nutritionist Rick Hay explains the nutrient-rich foods that could help your skin renew itself from the inside out – some could even help protect your skin from the sun’s rays
There are foods and there are superfoods. If you’re looking for a helping hand to all of those skincare creams you’ve been relying on then there are a selection of superfoods that could just do that. Thanks to the ever growing popularity of these exotic foods not only can you find them in your local supermarket but also now in concentrated forms in powdered supplements.
Skin foods: BERRIES
Especially: blueberries, raspberries, macqui berries, strawberries
Blueberries, raspberries, macqui berries and strawberries are filled with polyphenols and anthocyanidins, powerful antioxidants that can help fight free radical damage on the skin’s surface that results from environmental and lifestyle toxins and stressors. One recent Harvard study found that these are best taken from food (and that eating blueberries and raspberries three times a week could also help the heart). They’ve also got good levels of vitamin C which aids collagen cross-linking keeping skin healthy and firm and encouraging it to renew its top layer. These berries also help with immune function and a healthy immune function means healthy skin. Interestingly, a 2009 study found that mice fed diets rich in berries showed increased natural UV protection to their skin too.
Skin health is linked to digestive health, digestive function and regularity
Skin foods: Superfood extracts
Especially: Olive leaf extract and grape seed extract
Extracts are a great way of getting concentrated amounts of superfoods into your diet. Two of my favourites for skin health are grape seed extract and olive leaf extract. Olive leaf extract is antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial. It could also help guard the skin from sun damage. One study published in Nutrition Journal found the active ingredient in olive leaf extract, oleuropein, could help prevent skin damage caused by the sun’s damaging UVB rays.
Grapeseed extract contains antioxidant rich oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes or OPCs, powerful chemicals within the extract that have been shown to be incredible antioxidants. According to a report by University of Maryland Medical Center, as well as being useful in helping high cholesterol and high blood pressure, there is also evidence that grapeseed extract can protect the collagen and elastin in skin and may also help the rate at which swelling and injuries heal, thought to be a result of grapeseed extract’s apparent ability to help blood flow – an effect that could also help increase the glow in your skin.
Skin food: Superberries
Especially: Goji berries and Acai
You’ve probably heard of goji berries, exotic superfoods that are on trend right now (Miranda Kerr is a fan). One small 2010 study on mice published in 2010 in the journal Photochemical, Photobiology and Science found that those that consumed goji berry juice were protected from UV-radiation induced skin damage. They have high levels of vitamin A which is great for skin cell turnover. When you pair goji together with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries you get a cocktail of super nutrients.
Acai berries on the other hand, purple-coloured berries native to central and South America, are rich in antioxidants and have been found to contain 10 to 30 times the amount of anthcyanidins – a type of antioxidant – found in red wine. A 2010 paper published in the Journal Of Drugs and Dermatoloigy named acai berries as being helpful for skin not only because of their antioxidant qualities (this means they can help fight free radical damage from the environment on the skin) but also for their ability to help reduce hyperpigmentation or dark spots in the skin caused by high levels of sun exposure.
Both goji berries and acai have significant levels of fibre and that will help to maintain the digestive system. They also contain vitamin C, which is essential for the formation of healthy collagen and elastin, from which new skin is made.
Skin foods: Bitter-tasting food
Especially: Bitter orange and Bilberry
‘Bitter orange and bilberry have, as the name suggests, a bitter quality. Skin health is linked to digestive health, digestive function and regularity, and the bitter qualities of foods such as these will help promote a healthy liver and gallbladder function, resulting in better fat metabolism and toxin elimination which means the skin won’t need to work as hard because the skin is the second organ of elimination. Bitter foods such as chicory, endive, fennel, spinach and green tea are great for skin health generally.
‘In Ayurvedic medicine practiced in India for centuries, bitter orange is used a protective ingredient for skin ageing. Bilberry meanwhile has been shown to have powerful antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities. It may even help with specific skin conditions as one Japanese studyfound that mice with the itchy skin condition dermatitis who were given bilberry extract significantly reduced their scratching after three weeks.