Natural Health Tips

Nutrients and Superfoods for Healthy Skin

Good nutrition is essential for a healthy body, and the skin is a visible sign that our body is healthy from the inside. Good food choices can help to combat ageing skin and transform a dull complexion, making you feel healthier and more energetic, inside and out.

Here are some essential nutrients for youthful and healthy-looking skin; these nutrients form the key building blocks to all superfoods.

antioxidants

Antioxidants help repair the damage to our body cells. They are found naturally occurring in plant foods, like fruit and vegetables.

They are called antioxidants because they prevent oxidation. This is a chemical reaction that occurs by free radicals joining together and damaging our body cells and tissues. We are constantly being bombarded with free radicals from polluted air, water and food, and our bodies produce them when we get stressed.

The best antioxidants for healthy skin are:

Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for reproduction and maintenance of tissue in skin. It is fat soluble, so it can be stored in the body.

Vitamin A comes in two forms: retinol (an 'animal' form found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy), and Beta-carotene (found in yellow, orange and red fruit and vegetables).

Beta-carotene is a natural pigment (carotenoid), and it neutralizes free radicals, therefore protects the skin's cell structure, and can slow down the effects of ageing. It is great at boosting the immune system and protecting against damaging and ageing illnesses.

Good sources of Beta-carotene include carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, pumpkin.

lycopene is another carotenoid that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. It is a red pigment useful for protecting the skin against degenerating, keeping the mind alert and the body functioning.

Good food sources are tomatoes (cooked tomatoes have more lycopene than uncooked), watermelons, pink grapefruit, guava and red peppers.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed for collagen and bone formation, and development of connective tissue. It also helps speed up production of new cells, keeps blood vessels healthy and boosts the immune system. This vitamin is water-soluble so it can't be stored for long in the body and therefore needs replenishing daily. It is also easily destroyed by cooking and food processing.

Good sources are asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, blackberries, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, peppers, melon and many other fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin E

This is one of the most effective antioxidants; it attacks free radicals to prevent tissue and bone damage, and thereby protects skin. It also helps the body to use oxygen properly, and maintains healthy muscles and nerves. Some Vitamin E is stored in the liver, and in fat and muscle tissues, but it does need to be replenished regularly.

Good food sources are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, avocados.

Resveratol

This is a natural chemical, or flavanoid, found in fruits. It protects the body against inflammation and boosts the immune system. It has shown to decrease the ageing of the DNA in the mitochondria, the energy plant of the cells.

Blueberries contain four times the amount of resveratol found in other fruits, and usually the darker the skin of the fruit, the more resveratol in contains.

Other good food sources include cranberries and grape skins.

protein

Protein is the second major component of our body, after water. We need protein for our skin to create collagen (the main structural protein of the skin), muscles, hormones, antibodies, enzymes and nerves.

Proteins are built from a combination of 22 amino acids, and eight essential amino acids must be present in the body for protein manufacture to take place. Therefore the quality of the protein is essential, not the quantity.

High-quality protein sources include fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, soya, nuts, seeds, whole grains.

A lack of protein in the diet could result in rough skin, brittle nails, thinning hair, poor muscle tone and wrinkles.

Essential fatty acids

These are the fatty acids omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. They are important for healthy skin and bodies, as they are used to build cells walls and have an anti-ageing effect on skin.

Our bodies can't manufacture omega-3 and omega-6, so we need to get them from food.

Good food sources of omega-3 are flax seed (oil and nuts), hemp seeds, fish, walnuts, brazil nuts, avocados and dark green leafy vegetables.

Food sources of omega-6 include olives and olive oil, chicken, seeds nuts, fruits, grains, pumpkin.

Omega-9 is technically not an essential fatty acid, as our bodies can manufacture a certain amount, as long as enough omega-3 and omega-6 are present. It contains oleic acid, and an excellent food source is extra virgin olive oil, which contains 75 percent oleic acid.

minerals

Minerals are essential for pretty much every body process, and they help to regulate and balance our body chemistry.

Selenium

This is a trace mineral so only small amounts are needed daily. It is a great antioxidant and boosts energy levels. Organic food has found to have higher selenium levels than other kinds.

Good food sources include sesame seeds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tuna and garlic.

silica

Silica is present in our skin, hair and nails. It is essential for the formation of white blood cells. Clinical trials have shown that silica can help thicken the dermis (an inner layer of skin), increase skin elasticity and repair brittle and cracked nails. It also helps the skin to store moisture, plumping and smoothing it.

zinc

This is another trace element, and is essential for insulin production, the production of new collagen, and for protecting and repairing DNA. A zinc deficiency could result in brittle, cracked nails, damages hair, slow healing of wounds and acne.

Good food source include oysters, sardines, pumpkin seeds, eggs and liver.