According to a new study led by UC Davis Health, the secret to healthier skin may reside in our guts. Researchers found that a diet high in sugar and fat leads to an imbalance in the gut’s microbial culture and may contribute to inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis.
The best way to improve gut health is by eating a balanced diet, containing a good diversity of plant foods, plenty of fibre and minimising added sugars and saturated fat. Once your gut is firing on all cylinders, you can give your complexion an even bigger boost with these easy eating tips for better skin.
1. Get fruity
Ever wondered why the Dutch look so good? A recent study of 2753 elderly people in Rotterdam revealed that eating more fruit – in particular citrus fruit – was associated with fewer wrinkles. This was especially true of the female participants.
To get a citrus hit early in the day, try making this delicious fruit salad for breakfast. Place the juice of an orange, some finely-grated ginger, a teaspoon of honey and two star anise in a lidded jar and shake well. Cut a selection of fruit (e.g. grapefruit, apricots, nectarines, peaches, melon, mango) into bite-sized pieces and arrange in a bowl. Pour over the dressing and sprinkle grated lime zest on top.
2. Hydration hacks
It’s no surprise that to maintain healthy, youthful looking skin we need to keep plenty of water pumping through our systems. However, despite NHS guidelines advising an intake of 6-8 glasses of fluids a day, a recent poll found that most of us only drink five, and 23 per cent only manage one to two.
But it doesn’t have to be plain old water. The biggest bang for your buck as far as skin health goes is green tea. Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which boost blood flow to the skin. This ensures the cells are kept topped up with oxygen and nutrients, to maintain a healthy glow.
The most potent form of green tea is matcha. This bright green powder is made by drying and grinding up whole leaves of the plant and as such is a highly concentrated source of the antioxidants. To make one serving of matcha, mix one teaspoon of powder with 100ml of hot – but not boiling – water. Use a whisk to create a vibrant green froth on top. Note that green tea does contain caffeine, so it’s best not to drink it later in the day as it can affect sleep.
If green tea isn’t your thing, and it is somewhat of an acquired taste, there are plenty of foods that have a high water content and can help you stay hydrated. Not surprisingly watermelon is right up there, along with strawberries, peaches, cucumber, lettuce, courgettes, celery, tomatoes, red peppers, cauliflower and cabbage. Try making a simple hydrating soup by simmering chopped courgettes, celery and cauliflower for 20 minutes in some vegetable stock, season well and blend.
3. Focus on fat
While eating too much saturated fat is a bad idea for skin health, many studies have shown healthy fats to be skin saviours.
Cold-water fatty fish, such as herring, sardines and salmon, are excellent sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which have been shown to inhibit sun damage and hyperpigmentation and improve dry skin. Fatty fish also contains vitamin E, an antioxidant which protects the skin from inflammation.
Similarly, avocados contain plenty of healthy fats and vitamin E as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These are usually associated with eye health but can also protect skin from sun damage, and may help improve skin tone and slow down ageing.
Nuts provide many of the same benefits as fatty fish, making them a great addition to the diet, especially for vegans and vegetarians. Walnuts are especially rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids – chopped and toasted, they are excellent sprinkled over a salad or added to a cereal bowl.
Many seeds are also sources of antioxidants and healthy fats which promote good skin. Flax seeds contain the fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which you often see as an ingredient in skin creams. Grinding up flax seeds and adding to a smoothie is a simple way to add more omega-3 fats to your diet and keep skin looking radiant.
The big daddy of healthy fats is olive oil. Studies have shown that olive oil reduces the effects of facial photoaging thanks to the monounsaturated fatty acids it contains, as well as other compounds, such as squalene, which protects against dryness and damage from free radicals. And it’s not just consuming olive oil that is beneficial for the skin – it doubles up as an extremely effective makeup remover and face oil.
The Midlife Method: How To Lose Weight and Feel Great After 40 by Sam Rice (Hachette). Buy now for £12.99 at books.telegraph.co.uk or call 0844 871 1514