When it comes to eating, we all have at least a basic understanding of what constitutes a healthy eating option. We’re aware that the Big Mac we’re currently munching on probably isn’t the best of choices when it comes to watching our blood pressure or trying to lose weight, and that cookies have a higher calorie count that, say, cucumber and tzatziki.
One thing we tend to overlook, however, is how our skin is affected by our eating habits. Aside from the vague notion that fried foods and potentially chocolate and sweets may cause breakouts, most of us have no idea as to the full extent of the impact of diet on skin condition.
It’s an area we should all brush up on; as cliché as it sounds, we are what we eat, especially when dealing with our skin. This doesn’t mean that we all need to go through a juice cleanse or some such similar fad detox; it just means that having a little extra knowledge of how the skin reacts to various foods can have a big impact on how we manage our skin condition.
Sugar – Cakes, Bakes, and Sugary Delights
Simple carbohydrates – like the refined sugar found in most cakes, cookies, sweets, and non-diet soft drinks (look at your diet Irn Bru) cause insulin levels to spoke and create a wave of inflammation through the body. This in turn can lead to a breakdown in collagen and elastin, the bio-fibers that give skin it’s elasticity and strength.
Sugar also has another nasty habit – it attaches itself to proteins in the body and produces a harmful byproduct called “advanced glycation end product” which also results in breakouts, sagging skin, and a worn out appearance.
There’s also convincing research that sugar intake can lead to acne, as the previously mentioned insulin spikes also increase sebum production. Studies show that people who maintain a low-glycemic diet had fewer acne breakouts.
To help reduce inflammation, look for foods that contain zinc. Zinc also inhibits bacteria production; foods that contain zinc include cashews, avacados, blackberries, and raspberries. Fresh fruit is essentially natures sweets and tastes delicious, but if you absolutely must eat sugar, go for dark chocolate. It has a decent zinc content level and contains antioxidants. If a low-glycemic diet sounds like something you would be interested in, look at incorporating more whole grains, veggies, and beans while cutting back on white pasta, rice, bread, and, obviously, sugar.
This one may be a harder fix, even that the sweet temptations of sugar. Caffeine gets many of us through the day – in particular the working day – but can have serious effects on our skin.
Caffeine ramps up the production of a hormone called cortisol. Raised cortisol levels are what often cause acne breakouts. If your need for caffeine is strong, make it decaf, and if you want to drink fizzy drinks, opt for any clear one (such as 7UP) as they won’t contain caffeine. If you’re a regular coffee drink, however, the cortisol spike may not be as high.
The ideal solution when it comes to what to drink, in terms of skin condition, is and always will be water. Keeping your skin, just as with the rest of your body, hydrated will have a serious, positive impact on it’s appearance.
It doesn’t matter whether you eat dairy in sweet (cream) or savoury (cheese) form, it promotes increased levels of androgen, which in turn leads to excess oil production and a high risk of breakouts.
As with most of these things, you don’t need to avoid dairy altogether. Moderation is key. Where possible though, look for dairy alternatives, such as soy milk or fruit sorbets.
Again, this may be a difficult one for many of us. Salt is used widely throughout cooking and food in general to enhance flavour. It also makes out skin retain water, leaving us looking puffy and bloated. Check labels for salt contents and try to cut back on the amount of additional salt you add to your meals.