By Zoë Palmer-Wright
I have over 15 years of clinical experience of working with people to help them get clear, radiant skin and tackle skin issues, including acne.
Experience has shown me that although skin problems may seem superficial, and just “skin deep”, they are actually mostly caused by underlying issues and imbalances, and that the food we eat is a huge factor in our skin health, or lack thereof.
Our food choices impact the functioning of body organs and systems that directly affect our skin and the three body systems that have the biggest impact on our skin are:
• The Digestive System
• The Endocrine System – our hormones
• The Nervous System
It is usually imbalances in one or more of these systems which are the root cause of many skin problems. This is one of the reasons that I created my revolutionary She Code online group programme, which helps women with menstrual cycle hormone imbalances and acne tackle the root causes of their issues, naturally and effectively. She Code tackles the underlying problems with the hormones, digestive system and the unmanaged stress – the key factors that are really driving the acne outbreaks.
However, there is some diet advice I would give to anyone just wanting to achieve healthier, clearer, more glowing skin in general… The first part of this is that certain foods and drinks can cause inflammation in the skin and breakouts, so are best avoided (or at least minimised), if you want clear, healthy skin. The worst offenders are dairy products, sugar and refined grains, hydrogenated oils (found in fried foods like french fries, margarine, packaged snacks and some baked goods), alcohol, caffeine and ultra-processed foods. A diet that helps clear the skin and delay ageing is also packed with super nutrients which help repair and regenerate our skin. The first foundation of this diet is to eat more plant foods, particularly fresh vegetables. Vegetables are packed with antioxidants which repair skin, help prevent free radicals damaging skin cells and promote collagen and hyaluronic acid production, a major part of sustaining and promoting youthful skin. Key antioxidant nutrients are Vitamins A,C,E, minerals zinc and selenium and many phytochemicals found in a wide spectrum of different coloured plant foods (which is one of the many reasons I recommend people eat a rainbow of different coloured fresh vegetables and fruit daily).
Vitamin A is an antioxidant which stimulates collagen production and accelerates skin cell renewal and repair. Sources include sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale (leafy greens, chard etc), peppers, mangos, dried apricots, broccoli, eggs, cod liver oil and salmon.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and collagen-booster . Found in papaya, berries, cabbage, citrus fruits, pineapple, kiwi, red peppers, broccoli, parsley, citrus fruits, cranberries, red currants (and other berries), acerola (west Indian cherry). Foga’s delicious, plant shakes are a great source of vitamin C and an easy way to up your daily intake of this crucial skin-healing nutrient that helps diminish the look of fine lines, dullness and uneven skin tone.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant which protects fats that line the outside of our skin cells from free radical damage and is found in sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, chard, kale (and other leafy greens) as well as avocado. Each serving of leafy greens contains 15-25% of your daily requirement of vitamin E, olives and avocado provide 10-15%. Chilli peppers also contain a lot of vitamin E. Pure vitamin oil applied topically onto the skin is a super potent skin healer so you can apply it directly to fresh scars and watch them fade fast!
Zinc (6% of total body zinc is found in the skin) promotes speedy skin renewal and protects skin cell membranes. Food sources of zinc include salmon, chicken, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, chickpeas, crab, lobster, other seafood, mushrooms, flaxseeds and whole grains. Oysters are a brilliant source. If you find that your wounds and spots take ages to heal and fade, zinc deficiency is a strong possibility!
Selenium forms part of antioxidant enzymes which protect the skin and selenium is found in seafood and brazil nuts.
Increase your intake of flavonoids (a type of phytochemical) such as the polyphenols found in green tea , increase dermal microcirculation and increased cutaneous blood flow contributes to enhanced delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin.
Eat plenty of foods rich in “good” fats to help maintain skin structure, moisture and to provide the skin with some UV protection. Omega 3 fats in particular are very nourishing for the skin and can help tackle acne. Food sources of anti-inflammatory, skin-nourishing omega-3 essential fatty acids include; organic egg yolk (or eggs from chickens that have been fed an omega-3 rich diet), avocado, anchovies, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax-seeds, wild salmon, herring, mackerel, lake trout, spirulina and seaweed.
Eat probiotic lacto-fermented foods which support digestive and skin health: miso, tempeh, natto, kombucha, non-dairy kefir, raw apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Eat foods that increase collagen production : eggs, fish, flaxseeds, nuts, fermented soya products, garlic, homemade bone broth/stock.
Eat foods rich in hyaluronic acid: root vegetables, greens, chicken broth and other meat broths and beans. And last but not least, if you want better skin, you need to be mindful of your water intake so remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!