Standfirst: Rather than just popping supplements, a well-balanced diet that has enough protein, healthy fat, vegetables and fruit can keep skin healthy
EXPENSIVE face creams may moisturise from the outside but did you know that your kitchen may be your best beauty counter yet?
Our skin goes beyond just looks and vanity. It is our body’s largest organ. It plays a crucial role in regulating body temperature. It is also a defence barrier, fending off bacterial infections. Plus, it produces vitamin D with the help of sunshine.
Good nutrition is one of the important building blocks for skin health and vitality.
Rather than just popping supplements, a well-balanced diet that has enough protein, healthy fat, vegetables and fruit contribute natural compounds that help protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage that results in wrinkles, brown age spots and skin damage.
Eat well and add some of these everyday foods to your grocery list to revitalise your complexion with the natural compounds that will nourish your skin deliciously from the inside out.
Soya beans contain an isoflavone called aglycone, which helps to improve skin firmness and improve the appearance of fine wrinkles.
Foods made with soya beans are aplenty such as tempeh, edamame beans, tauhu, fucuk, tau fu fah and soya bean milk, just to name a few.
The Malaysian Dietary Guideline 2010 recommends one serving of beans as part of your protein intake for the day.
Eggs are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to nourish and protect skin from the effects of UV damage from the sun that causes brown spots.
Lutein and zeaxanthin also protects the retina from light damage, reducing your risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Walnuts contain an Omega-3 fat component known as alpha-linolenic acid. This healthy fat contributes natural emollients to your skin to keep it supple and moist.
A 40g serving of walnuts (approximately ¼ cup) is enough to give you 100 per cent of your recommended requirement of alpha-linolenic acid.
Walnuts make a great snack, especially when mixed with dry fruit like raisins, cranberries and apricots.
I always keep a small container of walnuts and dried fruit in my handbag for a quick pick-me-up.
VITAMIN C-RICH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts collagen production in your skin, which adds firmness.
Firm skin is what keeps the wrinkles at bay as it makes the surface appear much smoother. But sadly, many are not getting their recommended five servings of vegetables and fruit per day. Always remember to fill up half your plate with vegetables and make fresh fruit your snack of choice in-between meals.
RED-COLOURED FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Red-coloured fruit and vegetables contain lycopene, a potent antioxidant that boosts collagen production, and helps skin rejuvenate against the effects of sunburn.
When time is short, here’s what I do to add servings of lycopene and vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables into my meals.
I slice up some fresh tomatoes and cucumber as a side dish. It’s a nice refreshing vegetable dish to a cooked meal. Or add sliced tomato and cucumber to your sandwiches.
The added health benefit of having sufficient lycopene is that it helps to protect your heart from heart disease.
ONIONS AND APPLES
One of my favourite aromatics is the onion. I add it liberally to my cooking and also enjoy it raw in my salads! My favourite breath refresher after a meal is to munch on an apple.
Both of these foods are rich in quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to protect the skin from UVB rays that pose a risk for skin cancer.
Be sure to eat the apples with the peel as most of the concentration of quercetin is found there.
Like lycopene in red-coloured fruit and vegetables, quercetin is also protective of your heart. All the more reasons to add apples and onions to your grocery list, wouldn’t you say?
Vitamin A is a nutrient that plays a role in the cell turnover of healthy skin.
This natural turnover helps skin stay revitalised and supple. A serving of six leaves of romaine lettuce meets your vitamin A requirements for the day.
Plus romaine lettuce is a good source of potassium which helps in regulating fluid balance in our body. As romaine lettuce leaves are long and big, I use them as “popiah” skin to wrap shredded vegetables and/or cooked minced meat to make a spring roll. It’s a favourite light lunch for me.
Essential fatty acids are part of the building blocks of cell membranes in our skin.
One of their roles is to hold in moisture for healthy, emollient skin. Our body cannot make essential fatty acids, hence we need to get them from our diet.
Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids are cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, cod, etc, avocadoes, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, oils made from nuts and seeds, olives and whole grains.
Instead of getting too much of the unhealthy fat from greasy, processed food, add these naturally wholesome choices to your daily diet.
You’ll glow with not just pretty skin but good health too.
* Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org