Eating a balanced diet can not only keep us fit and healthy on the inside, what we eat can also help our skin look younger and help us age gracefully.
Here are seven foods that are not only great for health in general, but are also important for healthy, younger-looking skin.
These are the superfood for healthy skin, and for slowing down the ageing process. Blueberries are packed with cell-protecting antioxidants - more than any other fruit or vegetables.
They are also full of Vitamin C and E, fiber, potassium, folic acid and calcium. They contain dark pigments called anthocyanins, which are important flavonoids that help protect and strengthen the walls of small blood vessels, preventing thread veins.
Blueberries have extremely high levels of resveratol (a natural chemical that protects against inflammation and slows down ageing), as well as many other health benefits we have mentioned in previous articles.
This is a super drink rather than food, but water is essential for a healthy body and skin. It makes up about 70 per cent of our body mass and is involved in practically every body process.
Cellular hydration comes from the water we drink, not from the moisturizer you put on your face. So water literally hydrates the skin, flushing out harmful toxins, eliminating fine lines and reducing puffiness.
- Make sure the water isn't too cold, as your body will have to waste energy having to heat it up, and you absorb it much quicker when it's not ice cold.
- Avoid flavored water- this is full of sugar or artificial sweeteners
- Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink water because as you age, your thirst mechanism fails to function as well as it should.
- Drink water regularly for a week and you'll soon start to see the difference to your skin (inshaa'Allaah). Although it is commonly stated that you need 8 glasses a day, there is no solid evidence for this recommendation, as people's water requirements vary greatly based on age, size, physical activity and so on. Further, water intake comes from many foods too, including fruits and milk. A minimum of two glasses a day is a reasonable baseline amount after consideration of water intake from other sources.
- Raw fruits and vegetables (like carrots, watermelon, tomatoes, lettuce, apples, cucumber) are also good sources of water.
Prunes are the dried fruit of the plum tree, and they have extremely high levels of antioxidants.
According to research from the US, prunes can protect against premature skin ageing because they mop up more free radicals (cells that attack and damage other cells), than any other fruit. [Prior RL, et al. Can Foods Forestall aging? USDA-ARS Human nutrition Research Center on aging at Tufts University. Agricultural Research. February 1999]
Prunes are also rich in potassium (good for high blood pressure), fiber, iron and vitamins A and B6. They are easily digested and help maintain bowel regularity.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains a useful antioxidant called sulphoraphane. This antioxidant detoxifies and eliminates harmful free radicals. When combined with selenium (a mineral found in oily fish, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, onions and garlic), it is 13 times more effective at fighting the free radicals that cause ageing.
Broccoli has a high protein content which is good for maintaining healthy cells. It is also high in Vitamin C, folic acid and Beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A, and can keep the skin looking clear and healthy, especially if you've got acne.
- Don't just eat the florets; use the leaves as well because they contain more carotenoids than the florets.
- Lightly steaming the broccoli is an effective way of cooking it as it retains most of its nutrients this way.
Bean and Pulses
Eating beans and pulses stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid. This is a substance that occurs naturally in the skin and it retains water in skin cells, therefore acting as a moisturizer, keeping the skin smooth and wrinkle-free. Hyaluronic acid decreases as the skin ages, so it needs to be replenished regularly.
Beans are digested by our bodies slowly, so they provide a gradual increase in blood sugar levels, rather than sharp highs and lows. This means that less insulin is produced, and too much insulin can have an ageing effect on the body.
Beans and pulses are also a great source of fiber. Pulses contain high levels of protein which is necessary for healthy collagen production (this is found in skin, bones and tendons and literally holds the skin together), as well as for new cell development.
If you soak beans in water before cooking them, they become more easily digestible. Remember to change the water before using them.
Pomegranate juice has more antioxidants in it than green tea. It also contains high levels of ellagic acid, an antioxidant which boosts the skin's natural defenses against the sun.
Pomegranates are packed with Vitamin C and potassium, and they are a good source of fiber, so they aid digestion and eliminate toxins.
The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim in his Prophetic medicine also mentioned that pomegranates provided "excellent nourishment" for the body, and had many health benefits.
Avocados contain the omega-9 essential fatty acid oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil. This is a great antioxidant that protects against diseases like cancer and strokes.
Avocados are a great source of vitamins A and E, which are antioxidants that can help reduce wrinkles. They also contain mannoheptulose, a special kind of sugar which, unlike ordinary sugar, does not stimulate insulin production.
If you eat an avocado with another vegetable or salad, it will take in four times more lutein, eight times more alpha-carotene, and thirteen times more Beta-carotene, which are all great for eyesight.