People have become obsessed with preventing skin ageing. I bet most of you have thought about resorting to chemical peels, botox and even plastic surgery as a means of plumping up and ironing out dull, sagging and ageing skin? However, too few of us actually stop to consider a change in dietary habits as a means to a younger, more vibrant skin. The good news is, while ageing is inevitable, the degenerative processes that accompany it are not. New research has revealed that wrinkles and lines are not so much a by-product of getting older but are a condition preventable and treatable by diet. A healthy diet should really form the basis of your skincare regime because when it comes to visible ageing, the real damage starts within and works its way out to the surface.
There are two major reasons why our skins age and therefore three major ways in which the diet works to help prevent skin ageing. First is free radical damage generated through the sun’s rays, stress, smoking, pollution and bad diet. Free radicals attack our collagen and elastin, or the stuff that keeps our skin firm and plump. The best line of defence against these villains is to bombard them with anti-oxidants, the super-nutrients or heavy artillery that prevent free radicals from doing their damage. Antioxidants invariably come from the foods we eat, and in particularly from fruits and vegetables.
The second reason is inflammation. Wrinkles come on partly because the sun, smoking and pollution cause inflammatory changes in the skin, which in turn cause swelling and weaken collagen fibres.
On the diet side, its bad fats, fried foods, sugars and simple carbohydrates that trigger these inflammatory responses. Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids (or the essential fatty acids from fish and seed oils) on the other hand, tend to inhibit this inflammatory response. Nutrition plays a huge role in preventing skin ageing and its as simple as including certain anti-ageing foods in your diet regularly.
Anti-ageing foods include:
Oily fish, like salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that help keep skin moist and prevent inflammation. If you’re not so keen on salmon try other oily fish like mackerel, trout or tuna. Salmon is best though, as it contains high amounts of a powerful antioxidant called DMAE, known for its affects in keeping skin firm. Fish is also a good source of protein, which helps repair and reconstruct skin cells. Lean protein sources like skinless chicken, eggs and whey protein powders are also acceptable. Look out for omega-3 fatty acid enriched eggs on the shelves.
Flaxseed oil is a great source of anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids. Use it over vegetables or as a salad dressing.
All nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E – a skin antioxidant – and essential fatty acids, but its walnuts that come out tops in terms of omega-3 content.
Strawberries, raspberries, cherries and in particular, blueberries are excellent sources of antioxidants, and are particularly useful for preventing skin ageing due to pollution and free radical damage.
Apples, pears, peaches and kiwi fruit
These fruits are all low glycemic index, which means they release sugar slowly into the blood. High glycemic or fast releasing fruits like bananas, mangos and paw-paw should be avoided as the sugar tends to stick to collagen fibres, rendering them weak and inflexible.
Eating porridge oats for breakfast helps keep blood sugar stable by preventing rapid rises in blood glucose. Avoid quick-cook oats, as these tend to be fast releasing. Other slow releasing foods include low glycemic index and 100% rye breads, barley, lentils and other legumes, brown and wild rice.
Yellow and orange vegetables
These are great sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps reverse damage to the skin caused by excessive exposure to sunlight. Good sources include carrots, butternut and pumpkin.
Green veggies like broccoli and spinach are a rich source of antioxidants and other anti-ageing phytochemicals.
Eight to ten glasses of good quality water each day helps prevent dehydration, which can make the skin look dry, dull and lined.
Regular exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect on the cells. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week.