Most of us have at least a basic idea of what would make a healthy food choice. We're aware that fast food probably isn't the best option for our overall well-being, and that brownies pack a lot more calories than, say, a carrot stick.
But, have you ever stopped to consider how your skin is affected by what you eat? I mean, other than having some vague concept that perhaps fried foods and chocolate may cause breakouts, do you even stop to think about how what you're eating will make your skin look? Well, you should, because, cliché or not, we most definitely are what we eat ⎯ especially when it comes to our skin!
Now, that doesn't mean that you have to do a crazy juice cleanse or anything drastic in order to have the healthy skin you want; it just means that having a little knowledge of how skin reacts to the various things we eat can make a big difference in the way your skin behaves.
Baked goods, candy, and soda
Simple carbohydrates like the refined sugar found in most cakes, cookies, candy, and non-diet soft drinks cause insulin levels to spike and create a wave of inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation leads to a breakdown in collagen and elastin, the fibers that give skin its elasticity and strength. Sugar also attaches itself to proteins in the body and produces a harmful byproduct called "advanced glycation end product" which results in sagging skin, breakouts and a washed out appearance. There's also research that links sugar to acne ⎯ those spikes in insulin levels can also increase sebum production.
A recent study reveals that people who eat a low-glycemic diet had fewer breakouts. Seek out foods that contain zinc, to help reduce inflammation and bacteria production. Cashews, avocados, blackberries, and raspberries all qualify. Fresh fruit is always a satisfying and healthy sweet treat, but if you have to eat sugar, try to eat dark chocolate. It also contains zinc and has antioxidants that help fight sun damage.
If a low-glycemic diet is something you're interested in trying, incorporate more whole grains, veggies, and beans while cutting way back on white pasta, rice, bread, and, of course, sugar.
Too much fatty protein (think: pigs in a blanket, cheese cubes, mini pizzas and, of course, red meat) results in dull, puffy skin and dark under eye circles. Choose lean proteins like chicken or fish (pssst salmon and sardines fight acne inflammation) and plant-based hors d'oeuvres like fresh veggie sticks (yes, you can dip 'em) and a handful of nuts as much better options for your skin.
Caffeine Caffeine amps up production of a stress hormone called cortisol. Raised cortisol levels often lead to acne breakouts. If you really want coffee, make it decaf, and, if you have a soda, opt for a clear one like Sprite, which doesn't have caffeine. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, the cortisol climb won’t be as high. Remember though, if you really want to give your skin a gift, drink water.
The salt found in chips, popcorn, and pretzels make your skin retain water, which makes you puffy and bloated. Iodized salt, especially in high doses, can also aggravate breakouts. (Hint: just because you don't sprinkle salt onto your foods doesn't mean they're not loaded with it ⎯ check labels on anything packaged and the sodium content might shock you.) Also, most processed foods ("junk" foods) contain countless chemicals and additives that generate free radicals which cause inflammation and premature aging.
Craving salt? Opt for nuts! Most contain selenium, vitamin E, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium and iron, which are all essential for healthy skin. If you’re craving a crunch, choose raw vegetables in a variety of colours so you get essential vitamins and minerals. Carrots, for example, are rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, which improve skin health. Dairy Whether it's in sweet (ice cream) or savory (sour cream, cheese) form, dairy promotes increased blood levels of androgen, which leads to excess oil production and increased potential for breakouts. You don't need to avoid dairy altogether, but moderation is certainly key. Also, reach for dairy alternatives, such as almond milk and fruit sorbets.