How to eat your way to healthier skin

Your skin is often a reflection of what you eat. These are the best foods to supply it with the nutrients it needs to stay youthful looking longer.

Skin is our largest organ, and makes up about 15 per cent of total body weight.

Over time, sun and age can take a toll on our skin’s appearance but we can help it stay healthy and youthful looking by paying attention to what we eat.

Foods high in fat and sugar upset the gut microbiome, which impacts our immune system, and this can then lead to skin becoming inflamed and irritated.

On the other hand, nutrients in certain foods can keep skin hydrated, encourage cell renewal and help retain natural elasticity.

“People often think that skin conditions are due to bad luck or genetics but gut health, hormonal health and where you are in your life stage also matters,” The Australian Healthy Skin Diet author and dietitian Geraldine Georgeou says.

“As we age, collagen production slows and the fat layer just under our skin can shrink. But what you eat can help skin hold water and keep it plump and looking more youthful,” Geraldine says.

So, what foods can keep your skin in the best condition, and what foods may be less helpful?

Best foods for your skin

Oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds: “These contain omega-3 fatty acids that help keep skin hydrated and fight ageing,” Geraldine says.

Studies have found a lack of these fatty acids can lead to skin becoming dry and scaly. Omega-3 fatty acids may also protect against the ageing effects of the sun.

Oranges, capsicum, blackcurrants: These are a source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, that help protect skin from the effects of UV rays.

Studies show that applying vitamin C directly to skin may also be protective.

“Pollutants can attack and contribute to DNA damage,” Baylor College of Medicine medical aesthetician Kim Chang says.

“Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps fight against that.”

Avocado, sunflower seeds, peanuts: “These foods contain vitamin E, another antioxidant, that helps produce sebum in the skin,” Geraldine says.

“This is a natural oil, and a higher concentration of oil as we get older is anti-ageing.”

Dark leafy greens and dark chocolate: Copper is a mineral that helps stimulate collagen, a protein that gives skin structure and helps retain plumpness and elasticity.

Strawberries, mango and green beans: Silica is often called the building block of skin, hair and nails. It helps skin heal and helps retain its firmness by boosting collagen production,” Geraldine says.

What to avoid for healthier skin

Alcohol: Excess alcohol dehydrates skin and can aggravate flushing and rosacea as it contains acetaldehyde which stimulates the release of histamine that can cause redness.

Alcohol also contributes to enlarged and broken blood vessels.

Sugar: Too much sugar causes dull skin due to glycation, where sugar in the bloodstream combines with proteins to form advanced glycation end products or AGEs.

AGEs damage collagen and elastin in skin so it becomes dry, dull and wrinkled.

Sugar also causes spikes in blood sugar and an insulin response that triggers inflammation and causes our body to make more sebum or oil in the skin, which can cause acne.

Written by Sarah Marinos.