FOODS TO MAKE YOU LOOK YOUNGER
Everyone wants to have clear, smooth, unwrinkled, beautiful looking skin. Some people seem to have great skin no matter what they do; while others struggle and use countless products just to keep it looking good. Healthy foods can make you look younger by providing nutrients to the skin, lowering inflammation and increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the tissues.
What most people fail to realise is that beautiful skin is achieved through more than just throwing skincare products at it. We have to start from within – this means changing what we eat and drink as well as taking care of things externally.
I had suffered with very bad acne from the age of 14 until I was 20. Like many teenagers, I struggled to keep it under control by using creams, antibiotics, face washes to unplug pores; and I also exfoliated to clean the skin of dead skin cells that had built up. And while these worked to a degree, the problem kept returning; feeling as if I would never overcome this stubborn problem, I stumbled upon the cure.
The crucial turning point for me came when I began to clean up my diet for other reasons than to help my skin. I remember that doctors told me there was no connection between diet and acne. I now know this not to be true. Slowly I began to remove processed food and sugar from my diet. I replaced them with whole foods; primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. My breakouts had almost ceased entirely within a month. I had many people giving me positive comments about my skin; something that I hadn’t heard in a very long time. As you can imagine, I felt absolutely elated with this unexpected benefit. Clearly my diet was not only helping me cure my allergies, giving me more energy, and making me feel generally better — it was clearing up this chronic problem that I had suffered with for many years. Now that I had no active breakouts, I was still left with a significant amount of hyperpigmentation that resulted from the inflammatory process. Every time there is an insult to the skin, the area becomes inflamed, and white blood cells rush to to the area to kill bacteria and remove debris. Melanocytes become active, and after the spot has healed, there is a pigmented mark left behind. These red marks can take years to fade depending on the severity and how deep they are. After you deal with the acne, you have to be patient, and allow your skin to regenerate. But there are things you can do to speed this process up considerably.
Whatever skin condition you have, your situation can be improved if you do the right things. The way we look is a reflection of our diet and lifestyle. Below I’ll share with you foods that will help give you healthy, glowing skin.
Sweet potatoes are commonly consumed in some parts of the world such as Asia. They are especially popular in Okinawa. In the west, white potatoes are usually a staple of the diet; unfortunately white potatoes have a high glycemic index and a poor nutritional profile. Adding sweet potatoes to your diet would give you significant benefits and boost up the nutritional content of your diet considerably. Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which is converted by the body to retinal (vitamin A). Beta-carotene also acts as a powerful antioxidant against the singlet reactive oxygen species which can provoke cellular damage to proteins and lipids in the body. Plants produce these carotenoids to neutralize the production of ROS from ultraviolet light. Consuming sweet potatoes will give you enough beta-carotene so that it immediately gets to work in quenching free radicals and will be stored within fat cells in your skin – so to give you some protection against ultraviolet light damage (1). 100 grams of sweet potato will give you approximately 9444 μg of beta-carotene is one of the richest sources of this Vitamin A precursor. Kale and Carrots are two other vegetables that offer significant amounts of beta-carotene.
The sweet potato is also high in Vitamins B5, B6, and Vitamin C. Eating sweet potatoes may cause the skin to change colour if your body becomes saturated. This is completely harmless and is nothing to worry about. It is known as carotenemia and will go away once consumption is reduced. Moderate consumption of carotenoid-rich foods will give you a healthier looking complexion – and protect you from the harmful effects of the sun.
Tomatoes are the world’s most popular fruit and is used in many dishes. Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked – they are delicious either way. Tomatoes also happen to be very good for our health because of a compound known as lycopene that is found in their skin. Lycopene belongs to the carotenoid family – but unlike beta carotene, it cannot be converted to vitamin A. Once lycopene has been absorbed it is then transported by lipoproteins and accumulates in various organs where it can offer protection from oxidative stress. Lycopene is stored in fat cells and can quench twice as many singlet oxygen molecules than beta-carotene. Lycopene is also transported to the skin – giving you increased protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
In one study researchers recruited 20 people and looked at the effect of giving 50 g of tomato paste with 10g of olive oil to participants and compared them with a group who had just received olive oil. In the study, participants were exposed to UV light and th researchers looked at the protection gained from tomato paste consumption. It turned out that those who were fed the tomato paste had a 33% increase in protection against sunburn (2). They also saw an increase in skin procollagen, which is a precursor to collagen. In a separate study the concentration of lycopene in the skin was also correlated with skin smoothness (3).
Lycopene is more bioavailable when tomatoes have been cooked or processed – therefore I recommend cooking them or using tomato based products such as: ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and salsa. It’s also very important that they are consumed with some type of fat. Olive oil would be fine, but you can also use avocado to enhance absorption significantly. By adding a fruit such as avocado you will also increase the carotenoid content of your meal as avocado itself is rich in alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, among others (4). Apart from tomatoes being an excellent source of lycopene, they are also high in beta-carotene, Vitamins C and K. They also contain a high amount of potassium.
Avocados are relatively high in calories because of their very high fat content. In fact, 75% of the calories in avocado is from fat; primarily healthy fats like oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. Avocados are pact full of nutrients and contain many beneficial compounds beneficial to the skin like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein. Just one avocado contains approximately 160 mg of alpha-linolenic acid, which is beneficial in reducing inflammation. By consuming alpha-linolenic acid (or applying directly to the skin) you can change the fatty acid composition of the skin. This has been shown to increase the turnover of the stratum corneum, and thus speed up the removal of sun-induced hyperpigmenation of the skin by suppressing further melanin production and because of an enhanced removal of melanin pigment from the epidermis (4). Higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids have also been linked to less photoaging (6).
Avocados can be added to salads, smoothies, spread onto wholemeal bread, or even eaten on their own. They are high in Folate, B5, B6, Vitamin C, K, and also contain a respectable amount of potassium. They also supply you with almost 40% of your recommended daily fiber intake. Make sure you consider adding this fruit as one of your dietary staples.
Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world and comes in many different varieties. Green tea is certainly one of the most researched because of the reported health benefits from epidemiological studies – which suggested green tea was associated with lower risk of various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even some cancers. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the main catechin that is thought to be responsible for these health benefits. Animal and human studies show that green tea can reduce UV-related damage to the skin and immunosuppression (7). In a small pilot study that lasted 8 weeks, volunteers were given sunscreen, 10% GTE Cream, and 300 mg (twice a day) Green Tea extract and then histological effects were reported. They noted that elastin content in the control group had decreased during the period of the study, whilst in the green tea group elastin was increased (figure 1). Due to the short period of the study, no clinical changes in the skins appearance were observed (8).
In a study published in 2009 researchers recruited 56 women aged 25 to 75, and randomized the groups. One group received 250 mg Green Tea Polyphenols (GTP) and the control group took a placebo – both groups were instructed to take these twice a day. They had an assessment at various points in the study, and the GTP group had significant improvements in the overall solar damage by 6 months and also they had improved in erythema and telangiectasias at 12 months. The placebo group did not experience these improvements at any point in the study.. At 24 months into the study the researchers were unable to note any significant differences between the GTP and control groups due to the high dropout rate in the study.
A separate study that was reported in the journal of nutrition showed many clear benefits of green tea when they looked at 60 females aged 40–65 that were randomized into the intervention or control group. The intervention group received 1402 mg of total catechins per day in the form of a beverage, and the placebo group received a similar beverage that did not contain any catechins. During the study, the researchers measured the level of Flavanols in the blood. They also looked at skin photoprotection, skin structure, and skin function. Measurements were taken at week 0, week 6, and week 12. Looking at measurements of flavinols in the blood, they were able to see if the groups were adhering to drinking the GT beverage. By 12 weeks were significant differences in blood concentrations of the main catechin (EGCG): GTE 345 ± 191** vs 33 ± 60* nmol/L for the controls indicating compliance (10).
In the GT group the mean Δa-values decreased 16 and 25% from baseline by 6 and 12 weeks. This indicates increased photoprotection in the intervention group. No changes observed in the control group. Biological elasticity increased by 3.9% after 12 weeks in the GT group. Skin density significantly increased by 7.7% after 12 weeks, whilst skin thickness remained the same. The GT group also had reductions in skin roughness (−16%), volume (−20%), and scaling (−25%). Skin hydration also was increased by 9% in week 6 and 17% after 12 weeks. Transepidermal water loss had decreased by 12% compared with baseline which may indicate increased barrier protection of the skin in the GT group. Furthermore, dermal blood flow increased 40% by week 6 and 29% by week 12, compared with baseline values. Oxygen saturation increased from ~30% at baseline to 40% by week 12. Blood flow and oxygen saturation remained the same for the control group.
In contrast with previous studies, this study of shorter duration was able to find significant improvements after just 12 weeks. This could indicate greater compliance or that consumption of green tea should be spread out throughout the day to observe the greatest benefit. Participants of future studies involving green tea extract or beverages should be instructed to not consume milk or any products that contain casein as it is able to block some of the benefits by green tea (11). There is some evidence that polyphenols have a high binding afﬁnity for proteins such as caseins. For maximum benefits to be observed, a much longer study would need to be performed in order to see visible differences between groups. I suggest that people drink upto 5 – 10 cups of green tea per day to get the most benefit. One animal study had shown that by adding piperine to green tea, the bioavailability of GT catechins was increased significantly (12).
Soy milk is made from and is a complete protein. It contains all the essential amino acids needed by the human body to be healthy. In several studies consumption of soy foods or soy extracts have been associated with improved skin in postmenopausal women. It’s believed the reason for this is because soy contains phytoestrogen compounds known as genistein and daidzein which are able to act on estrogen receptors in the body. However, these plant estrogen-like compounds are much weaker than estradiol. Gut flora are also able to convert daidezein into a isoflavandiol named equol which also has benefits to health, but only some people are able to do this conversion. The average annual consumption of soybeans in Japan is much higher and is thought to be one of the reasons why they have less breast, colon and prostate cancers (13).
In a pilot study conducted in 2009, researchers had shown that posmenopausal women taking 100mg/day concentrated soy extract for 6 months exhibited significant improvements in skin health. In the treatment group there was an increase in epidermal skin thickness by 9.46% and the amount of collagen was increased in 86.2% of the women. 75% of of them also saw an increase in elastic fibers. The number of blood vessels also had significantly increased (14).
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to look at the effects of isolfavones on skin of middle-aged women. The intervention and placebo group were both assessed at various points in the study and measurements were taken on various skin parameters. The test group showed a significant improvement in fine wrinkles by week 12 and increased elasticity by week 8 (15).
Chocolate, who doesn’t love it? Well, here is some good news! Cocoa is linked with improvement of skin health. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that women who consumed cocoa powder for 12 weeks had an improvement in skin photoprotection, increased skin thickness, increase blood flow to cutaneous and subcuaneous tissues; likely through the ability of cocoa to induce nitric oxide vasodilation (16-17). They also saw an increase in skin density, skin hydration, and a decrease in transepidermal water loss in the high flavonol group indicating improved skin barrier function. Both groups had received cocoa powder, but these benefits were only see in the high flavnol group. Look for a product that has more than 70% cocoa solids.
Kale is a green leafy vege
table and is part of the cruciferous family. It boasts an outstanding nutritional profile; and is probably of the most nutritious foods you can eat. It is very high in beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Kale is an excellent source for bioavailable calcium – just 1 cup will supply with almost 10% of your calcium needs. You will also get a significant amount of lutein (26.5 mg/ cup), which is very beneficial to the skin. It’s very easy to regularly consume this amount if you were to put it in a green smoothie. A study in 2007 showed that oral supplementation of lutein improved photoprotection by 2.5 times. They also saw a 56% increase in skin elasticity; and a 60% increase in skin hydration after 12 weeks. Skin lipid levels were increased by 46% and lipid peroxidation was decreased by over 60% in the oral supplementation group (18). Regular consumption of Kale will give you enough luten see see the reported benefits. If you include Kale in your diet, make sure that you eat it with some fat as this increases absorption.
Red Onion belongs to the Allium family and is an excellent source of quercetin. Quercetin is yellow pigmented compound called a flavonoid. It has a long half life in the body and has strong anti-inflammatory properties as well as acting as a good antioxidant, and antihistamine. Most quercetin in red onions can be found in the outermost skin layers. Apples also have a significant amount of quercetin content and have been found to be associated with less skin wrinkling (19). To get the most benefit from red onions it is best to eat them raw.
Olive oil is high in Oleic acid, which is a monounasaturated fat. Olive oil contains numerous polyphenols, anthocyanidins, flavonols, flavonoids, and other compounds that are thought to be beneficial to health. Some of them have strong anti-inflammatory effects by blocking various proinflammatory molecules such TNF-a, IL1-b, and IL-6. Olive oil also inhibits two important enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, which are involved in the process of inflammation. Olive oil consumption has been linked a decreased severity of photo aging among men and women according to a study that was published in 2012 which found high olive oil intake was associated with lower risk of severe photoaging. Women had 31% lower risk and men had 42% lower risk (20). In the study they also looked at the association between skin aging and diary, meat, and processed meat. They found that there was no protective effect gained from monounsaturated fat derived from these sources. This most likely indicates that the beneficial effects of olive oil are due to the polyphenols it contains. When choosing olive oil, I recommend going for extra virgin olive oil. And remember, you get what you pay for. So it’s worth investing in a product of good quality.
Calorie Restriction and Dietary Restriction(s) are also rather important when it comes to skin health and skin aging. You see, it’s not just about what you eat — what you don’t eat is very important also. Most people can improve their health simply by removing all the junk from their diet. This means removing cakes, biscuits, white bread, sweets, milk chocolate, fried foods, processed meats, soda, alcohol etc.
For people prone to acne, removing milk from the diet helps reduce IGF-1 and can improve the condition. Removing foods that are high in sugar – which cause spikes in insulin and glucose – could also be beneficial in preventing breakouts (22). You have to tip the balance in the body so that it is functioning in a more optimal way. This means eating mostly whole foods and limiting junk foods. If you do this, over time your body has the chance to rejuvenate and repair some of the damage that your previous lifestyle had caused you. The process can take months or even years; and the earlier you make a change, the better your results will be. So don’t wait around until it is too late.
Calorie restriction is able to modulate skin aging in rodents and possibly rhesus monkeys. Although there is no real evidence in humans currently, it is likely that this effect would be observed is us also. A study published in JAMA looked at the effects of calorie restriction on fischer 344 rats and the effect of calorie restriction on skin aging. In the study they found that calorie restriction prevents the increase in age-related skin thickness in the dermis and epidermis. They also saw an increase in nuclear density, a trend towards an increase in collagen, elastin, and capillaries in the skin of CR rats. In a separate study in rats, researchers found that calorie restriction reduces glycation of blood and tissue proteins and also reduces the accumulation of glycoxidation products in the skin (23). Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are what causes stiffening of blood vessels, macular degeneration, and loss of suppleness and elasticity of the skin.
The more work you put into your new diet and well-being, the better you will look and feel. If you stick with this in the long term, you will start to see the benefits of living this way/ If you mess up one day, just carry on the next day. Eventually things will become easy once you are settled into your new lifestyle. You have to work through any cravings that you have. Learn to experiment with food, and try to make delicious food that you will enjoy. There is no reason why living a healthy life cannot be satisfying if you try. Living healthily will be rewarding in many ways.
Other tips for good skin:
- Always use sunblock – no amount of sun is good for your skin
- Exfoliate – removes dead skin
- Apply a moisturiser – helps prevent dryness and wrinkles
- Use products that contain ascorbic acid (make sure it’s not oxidized) – boosts collagen synthesis
- Take up exercise to increase blood circulation
- Sleep well – one of the most important factors for looking good
- Stress less – stress will age you
- Don’t smoke
- Do enjoy your life and strive to be happy
I hope all these tips I’ve included here will be helpful to you. Until next time, take care!
See my 6 anti-aging foods and drinks in my previous posts:
1. Heinrich U, Gärtner C, Wiebusch M, Eichler O, Sies H, Tronnier H, Stahl W. Supplementation with beta-carotene or a similar amount of mixed carotenoids protects humans from UV-induced erythema. J Nutr. 2003 Jan;133(1):98-101. PMID: 12514275
2. Stahl W, Sies H. Carotenoids and protection against solar UV radiation. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol. 2002 Sep-Oct;15(5):291-6. PMID: 12239422
3. Darvin M, Patzelt A, Gehse S, Schanzer S, Benderoth C, Sterry W, Lademann J. Cutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates significantly with the roughness of the skin. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2008 Aug;69(3):943-7. PMID: 18411044
4. Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):431-6. PMID: 15735074
5. Ando H, Ryu A, Hashimoto A, Oka M, Ichihashi M. Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid lightens ultraviolet-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin. Arch Dermatol Res. 1998 Jul;290(7):375-81. PMID: 9749992
6. Latreille J, Kesse-Guyot E, Malvy D, Andreeva V, Galan P, Tschachler E, Hercberg S, Guinot C, Ezzedine K. Association between dietary intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and severity of skin photoaging in a middle-aged Caucasian population. J Dermatol Sci. 2013 Jul 23. pii: S0923-1811(13)00250-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.07.006. PMID: 23938188
7. Li YH, Wu Y, Wei HC, et al. Protective effects of green tea extracts on photoaging and photommunosuppression. Skin Res Technol 2009;15:338–345.
8. Chiu AE, Chan JL, Kern DG, et al. Double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of green tea extracts in the clinical and histologic appearance of photoaging skin Dermatol Surg 2005;31(7[pt2]):855–860.
9. Janjua R, Munoz C, Gorell E, Rehmus W, Egbert B, Kern D, Chang AL. A Two-Year, Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Oral Green Tea Polyphenols on the Long-Term Clinical and Histologic Appearance of Photoaging Skin. Dermatol Surg. 2009 Jul;35(7):1057-65 PMID: 19469799
10. Heinrich U, Moore CE, De Spirt S, et al. Green tea polyphenols provide photoprotection, increase microcirculation, and modulate skin properties of women. J Nutr 2011;141:1202–1208.
11. Pfeuffer M, Schrezenmeir J. Addition of milk prevents vascular protective effects of tea Eur Heart J. 2007 May;28(10):1265-6; author reply 1266-7. Epub 2007 Apr 28. PMID: 17468508
12. Lambert JD, Hong J, Kim DH, Mishin VM, Yang CS. Piperine enhances the bioavailability of the tea polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate in mice. Lambert JD, Hong J, Kim DH, Mishin VM, Yang CS. J Nutr. 2004 Aug;134(8):1948-52. PMID: 15284381
13. Fukutake M, Takahashi M, Ishida K, Kawamura H, Sugimura T, Wakabayashi K. Quantification of genistein and genistin in soybeans and soybean products Food Chem Toxicol. 1996 May;34(5):457-61.
14. Accorsi-Neto A, Haidar M, Simões R, Simões M, Soares-Jr J, Baracat E. Effects of isoflavones on the skin of postmenopausal women: a pilot study. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2009;64(6):505-10. PMID: 19578653
15. Izumi T, Saito M, Obata A, Arii M, Yamaguchi H, Matsuyama A Oral intake of soy isoflavone aglycone improves the aged skin of adult women. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2007 Feb;53(1):57-62. PMID: 17484381
16. Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Stahl W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J-Nutr. 2006 Jun;136(6):1565-9. PMID: 16702322
17. Fisher ND, Hughes M, Gerhard-Herman M, Hollenberg NK. Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans. J Hypertens. 2003;21:2281–6
18. Palombo P, Fabrizi G, Ruocco V, Ruocco E, Fluhr J, Roberts R, Morganti P Beneficial long-term effects of combined oral/topical antioxidant treatment with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on human skin: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(4):199-210. Epub 2007 Apr 19. PMID: 17446716
19. Purba MB, Kouris-Blazos A, Wattanapenpaiboon N, Lukito W, Rothenberg EM, Steen BC, Wahlqvist ML. Skin wrinkling: can food make a difference? J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Feb;20(1):71-80.
20. Latreille J, Kesse-Guyot E, Malvy D, Andreeva V, Galan P, Tschachler E, Hercberg S, Guinot C, Ezzedine K.. Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids intake and risk of skin photoaging. PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44490. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044490. Epub 2012 Sep 6 PMID: 22970231
21. Melnik BC, Schmitz G. Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Exp Dermatol. 2009 Oct;18(10):833-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2009.00924.x. Epub 2009 Aug 25. PMID: 19709092
22. Bhattacharyya TK, Merz M, Thomas JR. Modulation of cutaneous aging with calorie restriction in Fischer 344 rats: a histological study. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2005 Jan-Feb;7(1):12-6.
23. Cefalu WT, Bell-Farrow AD, Wang ZQ, Sonntag WE, Fu MX, Baynes JW, Thorpe SR.
Caloric restriction decreases age-dependent accumulation of the glycoxidation products, N epsilon-(carboxymethyl)lysine and pentosidine, in rat skin collagen. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1995 Nov;50(6):B337-41. PMID: 7583789