In an earlier blog post I wrote about the importance of a balanced, complete diet in maintaining beautiful skin. No single nutrient or antioxidant can give everything your body needs to create, repair and replace skin cells or build the skin’s protective barrier. Today I’ll look at some popular diet programs and how they can affect your skin.
This is a low-carb, low-fat and high-protein diet developed by Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1970s. He was the one of the first to make the public aware of the dangers of too much carbohydrates, saying that it raised sugar levels, which were in turn stored in tissues as fat. Atkins encouraged his followers to eat unlimited protein (meat, eggs, cheese, fish and shellfish) and eliminating carbs to force the body to burn the fat.
Atkins was right about the dangers of carbs, but there are dangers in a diet that has too much protein especially over a long period of time. Excessive protein can cause calcium levels to drop, which can affect the bone density in the face. Acidity in meat-based diets can also affect our skin’s PH levels. Most importantly, the diet does not put enough emphasis on fruits and vegetables, which provide skin-boosting vitamins and minerals and help fight free radicals that cause early aging and skin cancer.
The South Beach Diet
This diet made a distinction between “healthy carbs” from whole grains and “bad carbs” from sugar and starch. I do agree that a low-glycemic diet can help the skin, since high sugar foods have been linked to acne breakouts and lower collagen and elastin levels.
However, the South Beach Diet is characterized by phases, with the first completely removing all sugar including all fruits and vegetables like carrots, beets and corn. These are excellent sources of Vitamin C, betacarotene, and antioxidants.
The Mediterranean Diet
This diet – rich in fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins – was first promoted to help with heart disease, but it does deliver many skin benefits as well. It’s rich in antioxidants and omega and fatty acids, and olive oil keeps the skin barrier healthy and hydrated.
The Mediterranean diet allows whole grains, which is good news for people who do love their rice and noodles! I see this as an example of how we can enjoy what we love but balance it with healthier, more nutrient-rich ways of cooking. One thick, crunchy slice of bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a much better way to fix a carb craving than a bag of potato chips.
The Vegan Diet
I do love a diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables, and I know many vegetarians who have beautiful skin. The most important thing to consider is to get good protein sources. Our body needs protein to produce, repair and rejuvenate our skin and our hair. Otherwise, our skin will lose elasticity and look very dry and dull.
If you do choose a vegetarian lifestyle – either for diet or personal or religious beliefs – be sure to include protein-rich food such as tofu, beans, nuts like chickpeas, and peanut butter. Nuts and healthy oils (such as flaxseed oil and olive oil) can also provide essential fatty acids to keep your skin properly hydrated.
Since meat is often the go-to source of Vitamin B, be conscious of getting this from other sources or taking a supplement with Vitamin B, selenium and zinc.
The Paleo Diet
This diet program advocates removing processed foods and getting nutrients from natural sources, claiming these are the foods we are genetically predisposed to. In many ways, it is one of the most nutritionally balanced. It advocates lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from seeds, nuts, olive oil and fish oils, and avocados.
The Paleo diet’s holistic approach to eating can’t really hurt your skin. We’re still getting vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats, but simply choosing where to get them. For example, vegetables are organic, and meat is taken from grass-fed cows that are leaner and have not eaten any feeds.
Supporters have reported smooth and clearer skin just by eliminating processed sugars from their diet. Some people who have eczema and rosacea also say that they’ve suffered less (or less severe) episodes. The Paleo diet is relatively new so no long-term studies have been made, so I can’t verify if this diet is “good for the skin”, but I don’t see any harm in selecting good ingredients for our meals!
Eat well, look good … and enjoy life!
I believe that our diet not only affects our skin, but our energy levels and our mood. There is no need to cut out food groups or even the food that makes us happy! This list shows there are many approaches to nutrition, and the most successful ones are those that are based on balance, moderation, and finding healthy sources.
Furthermore, never go on a diet just because the celebrities are talking about it, or stay on it because you are losing massive amounts of pounds at the cost of your energy or mood. The best diets make you look good and feel good, and your skin (and smile!) will show it.
Mei Hui - Managing Director/Pharmacist