Your skin is all that stands between you and the outside world. So, what’s protecting it? Skin is the largest organ of the body. It covers more than 2 square metres and functions as a protective barrier, a heat regulator and an organ of elimination. As remarkable as skin is, it’s also fragile: constant exposure to sun, stress, chemicals and poor eating habits all take a toll on skin and manifest in the form of acne, wrinkles and loss of radiance and firmness. Your eyes may be the windows to your soul but your skin reflects your overall health.
To boost your skin’s defenses, a steady supply of antioxidants is in order. Fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids and lycopene (found in tomatoes) provide a degree of internal SPF. Green tea is also known to help defend skin against environmental assault.
Another key contributor to both acne and aging is chronic inflammation. With age, the body makes less collagen, and the elastin in skin breaks down. This contributes to sagging, slack skin. Inflammatory molecules called AGEs cause crosslinking of these vital proteins, further contributing to their breakdown.
A diet high in processed foods and those full of sugar, refined flour and poor-quality fats, fans the flames of inflammation. Stick with a whole-food, plant-based diet to stabilize blood sugars and ease inflammation. Keep grains whole. Refined grains, as opposed to whole grains, don’t only contribute to inflammation, but they are also devoid of skin-loving nutrients such as zinc. With your grains, be sure to pile on the produce—in particular, low-glycemic and nutrient-dense berries and green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
And don’t forget about spices! Fresh turmeric and ginger are potent anti-inflammatory foods that can be added to curries, stews and smoothies.
Being choosy with your oils is also a factor in reducing or preventing inflammation. Cut back on the amount of omega- 6-rich vegetable oils in your diet and stick to extra-virgin olive oil, which is packed with anti-inflammatory oleic acid. Moisturize from the inside out with essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). Consider a daily fish oil or vegan omega-3 supplement and try adding hemp seeds to your daily smoothie or salad for a hefty dose of GLA.
Focusing on digestive health is also important to keep inflammation at bay and encourage proper elimination. Eating probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, yogurt and kombucha contributes to healthy gut flora. High-fibre, whole grains such as barley, sprouted wheat and steel-cut oats aid in elimination and feed healthy bacteria to make them happy. Keep in mind that the effects of probiotics are not limited to your gut; you can also change the mix of bacteria that live on your skin through your diet. Finally, it’s important to support your liver’s ability to eliminate waste. Eat allium vegetables like garlic and onions and enjoy detoxifying, antioxidant-rich berries and pomegranates daily.
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