Most of us are born with healthy, supple skin. However, as we age our skin loses its glow and becomes less able to cope with everyday wear and tear. The great news is that although good skin is partly due to your genes, there is lots we can do to make our skin look glowing and youthful.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and provides a protective barrier between the outside environment and the internal tissues and organs of the body from pathogens, chemicals, and environmental exposures. The skin is made of three layers- epidermis, dermis and subcutis . The epidermis is the upper outer layer of the skin which is responsible for the barrier functions while the dermis is the inner layer of soft tissue situated below the epidermis that forms the structural and nutritive support network of the skin. The inner most layer is the subcutis which contains a layer of adipose tissue that helps keep the body warm and also protect the vital organs of the body. The epidermis layer is constantly in a state of repair and regeneration as we shed dead skin cells and regenerate new ones daily. As a result, it is quick to show any internal imbalances or deficiencies. Since our skin plays such a vital role, it is important to take care of it. There are a number of factors that can affect our skin health. Some of them include:

  • Lack of Sleep: During sleep or body restores and repairs itself. Lack sleep and too much of stress can cause the skin to look older and tired. So make sure you take time out to relax and sleep.
  • Alcohol Consumption: Drinking too much of alcohol can cause the skin to become dehydrated. Dehydrated skin loses its elasticity and is more likely to develop wrinkles.
  • Smoking: There is strong evidence linking smoking and premature skin ageing. Smoking constricts the blood vessels in the skin thereby reducing the supply of oxygen to the skin. The toxins in cigarettes also breaking down collagen, a protein that supports skin strength leading to the development of wrinkles
  • Hygiene: Keeping the skin clean helps prevent breakouts and infections.

There is a saying which says “Beauty is Skin Deep”. This is very true as what we eat reflects itself on our skin. While are there are no special foods that have to be eaten for a healthy glow, certain nutrients- protein, essential fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin E, zinc and selenium have an important role to play in maintaining the health of the skin. Now take a look at the functions and food sources of these nutrients.

Protein: The skin is made up of protein and getting adequate amount of dietary protein will help maintain the health of the skin. Good sources of protein include pulses, sprouts, nuts, fish, low fat milk and milk products, egg, meat and poultry.

Essential Fatty acids (EFAs): Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids. Some of these fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body and have to be obtained from food. These fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids and help repair and moisturize the skin thereby protecting the skin from dryness. Nuts and oilseeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, fish and fish liver oils are the best dietary sources of essential fatty acids.

Vitamin A: Besides having a critical function in maintaining normal vision, vitamin A has a role in maintaining and repairing the cells of the skin. In foods it is present in two forms: Pre-formed Vitamin A and Pro-vitamin A. Retinol or Pre-formed vitamin A is the active form of vitamin A and is a colourless compound that is found naturally only in foods of animal origin like milk and milk products, butter, ghee, egg yolk, liver and fish liver oils.

Dark green leafy vegetables and yellow orange coloured fruits and vegetables papaya, mango, muskmelon (kharbuja), apricot, red sweet potato (shakarkhand), red pumpkin (bhopla or kaddu) and carrot are rich sources of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that gets converted into vitamin A within the body. Beta-carotene has an antioxidant function in the body and help prevent premature ageing as it helps to reduce environmental damage.

Vitamin E: has an important role in protecting the body against damage. Together with the mineral selenium, vitamin E acts as an Antioxidant that helps prevent certain diseases and may also help retard the process of ageing.   Foods that are rich sources of vitamin E include whole grain cereals and flours such as whole wheat flour (atta), wheat germ oil, cold pressed oils, nuts, peanut butter, fish and sprouts particularly sprouted wheat.

Zinc: The skin contains about 20% of the body’s zinc. Zinc is a mineral that is very important for maintaining healthy skin, especially for people suffering from acne. Foods rich in zinc include whole grains, fish and sea foods and eggs.

Selenium is another mineral that has an antioxidant function in the body and also helps maintain the elasticity and firmness of the skin. Dietary sources of selenium include seafoods, meats, whole grains, wheat germ, Brazil nuts and eggs.

Water: Besides the nutrients, drinking adequate amount of water is very important. Water moisturizes the skin cells, flushes out impurities and improves blood circulation, thereby making the skin clear and glowing.

Processed Foods: White bread, sugary foods and fizzy drinks all cause insulin spikes, leading to inflammation throughout the body causing breakdown of skin proteins collagen and elastin break down leading to premature ageing. Sugar also attaches itself to collagen in a process called glycation, which can aggravate acne related conditions. Foods high in salt and sodium can cause puffiness around the face — especially under the eyes. This is because salt causes your body to retain water.

Be active: Being physical active and exercising regularly helps improve the blood flow to the skin thereby giving the skin a rosy glow.

In a nutshell, a healthy and glowing skin begins from deep within. So, start preventing wrinkles and get your healthy glow by eating balanced diet, avoiding smoking and alcohol and staying active.

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