Skin Superfoods

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Our skin is what we eat. It’s that simple. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want a gorgeous, radiant glowing complexion? Thought not. But because the skin is the last place in the body to receive the nutrients we ingest, many experts counsel that a two-way approach is what pays real dividends. Quite often, the nutrients that boost skin health when we eat or drink them also deliver amazing skin benefits when applied from the outside, too.

We’re well known for taking lots of supplements: can’t live without them. Without Daily Energy, Sibergin, Power of KrillBetterYou DLux 3000 etc. (that’s for our vitamin D levels, more important than ever at this time of year). But we also try to eat well, too, packing our diet with skin-friendly foods. So here’s a run-down of some of the best things to eat, drink – and to slather on – for your best-ever skin…

Pomegranate: The luscious red juice of pomegranate – and the seed-filled fruit itself – are bursting with the super-nutrient ellagic acid, a mega-antioxidant that’s renowned for protecting and repairing skin. Pomegranate has actually been found to turbo-charge the effect of sun protection when added to sun lotions. Increasingly, pomegranate’s turning up in products for face, body, even hair: its antioxidant powers can help repair the damage done by UV light, and help to keep haircolour bright, preventing fading. A glass of pure pomegranate juice is great – but for optimum benefits, eat the seeds, too: they have two vital compounds for skin, including a super-nutrient (known as ‘punic alagin’, if you want the science bit!) to preserve collagen – so helping to keep skin looking younger, smoother and soft.

Green tea: Ideally, drink at least two cups a day. Green tea great for the metabolism. (Anecdotally at least, many women seeking to lose weight swear by it.) But it also contains ‘catechins’, compounds that have been found to help fight the long-term after-effects of sun damage, such as ‘sun spots’ (also, unkindly, known as ‘age spots’, although they’re almost always linked to past sun exposure). Brew yourself a pot of green tea each day, and enjoy – but also look for body products and suncare, in particular that feature green tea.

Hemp seeds: Oils and fats are absolutely essential for good skin. (You may have noticed: women who are phobic about fat in their diet may have slender hips, but they often have papery skin, too. But hey, it’s your call.) Plenty of foods are packed with omega fatty acids, but hemp is a ‘wonder seed’ that features a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats – absolutely vital for keeping skin ‘watertight’, plump and smooth. You can buy pressed hemp seed oils and sloosh it on a salad (ideally, keep in a fridge), or try this simple and delicious vinaigrette: 60 ml hemp seed oil, 30 ml balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of fresh oregano and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. Plus, of course, there’s a wide choice of hemp-seed-based energy bars and even hemp seed nut butter to up the hemp level in your diet. Meanwhile, in cosmetics and skincare products, hemp – with its high levels of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, so readily absorbed by the skin – has an anti-inflammatory effect that’s great for soothing touchy and sensitive complexions (including eczema and psoriasis), balancing dryness and helping to fight inflammation. Great for anti-ageing, too: GLAs (gamma linoleic acids) are essential skin lipids that promote regeneration at cellular level – which of course s-l-o-w-s down as we age – and the lipids in hemp replenish them. Choose hemp-based products or – if you like – just massage on the same stuff you’re sloshing on your salad. (Er, without the balsamic.)

Soya milk: Not everyone loves soya milk – but because skin does, it’s definitely worth trying to get your tastebuds around it. In our experience – and we are soya milk connoisseurs – you have to ‘kiss a few frogs’ in your quest to find your perfect soya milk, but it’s worth it: the super-nutrients known as isoflavones work by mimicking oestrogen, the hormone that’s needed to produce collagen and elastin (which gives skin its bounce-back factor), as well as lubricating oils. Soya doesn’t just come in milk form, of course: check out soya yoghurts, tofu – and boost your isoflavone levels with other foods like lentils, chickpeas and flax seeds. What happens when you apply soya to the skin? Some studies point to a role in skincare improving overall skintone, radiance and texture, reducing blotchiness by evening out the appearance of pigments, under the skin’s surface.

Oats: No wonder we’re always being told to eat our porridge: oats are rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins and protein – a brilliant source of slow-released energy, in fact. What’s more, they’re great for anyone suffering from stress or tiredness, helping you to sleep better. (And it’s not called ‘beauty sleep’ for nothing…) In our experience, oats are one of the few foods that can be eaten within an hour or two of bedtime, and still allow you to waft off to the land of Nod. (Late eating usually keeps the body awake, as digestion kicks in.) A grainy bonus: oats can have a fabulous effect on skin, applied topically; they’re fab for exfoliating. Add a few oats to a face mask and use as a gentle scrub, or mix to a fairly stiff paste with yoghurt and apply that as a mask. (The yoghurt itself offers other skin-brightening benefits, as the lactic acid gently dissolves dead and dull skin cells, without irritation.) Eczema sufferers also swear by oat-powered baths: take a square of muslin (one of those oh-so-fashionable muslin cleansing cloths is perfect), pile a generous handful of oats in the middle, tie the corners and dangle under running water. You can then apply the oat ‘poultice’ to itchy or irritated areas of the body, or just use it for general all-over skin cleansing.

Honey: OK, so maybe honey isn’t up there with the other superfoods listed here – and too much is definitely a bad thing, because honey’s highly calorific. However, honey is a more nutrient-rich alternative to sugar and sugar products (which contribute to all-round ageing, through a process called ‘glycation’, which break down skin cells). Ideally, to eat, choose local unprocessed honey, or New Zealand manuka honey. Applied to the skin, though, honey is fabulous and – surprisingly – it’s antibacterial, too. As long ago as the Roman empire (and long, long before clinical studies!), women discovered that a mixture of milk and honey, in particular, delivered amazing improvements to the health, look and feel of skin; one of the main reasons it’s such a great skincare ingredient is that honey has ‘humectant’ powers, which means that it attracts and holds onto moisture in the skin – making it a natural fit for all sorts of moisturising skin and body treats, as well as shampoos and conditioners. An anti-irritant, it’s ideal for sensitive skin and even for baby products. (And if you dab honey on a spot – we recommend manuka honey – did you know that it can help make it go away…? So long as you don’t lick it off, that is.)

Egg whites: A great source of zinc, these – and zinc is one of the building blocks of great skin. This isn’t necessarily an excuse to OD on meringues: an egg white omelette can be surprisingly tasty, especially if you throw in handfuls of fresh herbs from the garden or windowsill. The fact is, if you’re zinc-deficient, the most expensive skincare in the world won’t deliver healthy, youthful skin – so keep your zinc levels topped up not just with egg whites, but pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, pine nuts, even oysters, if you have a taste for them. (NB We’re not sure anyone’s ever tried applying oysters to the skin, but if you have, we’d like to hear what happened!) As for applying egg white to the skin? Try this: cucumber anti-blemish mask, with a 1-inch chunk of cucumber, 1 drop of rosemary essential oil and one egg white. Whizz the cucumber in a blender until it’s a liquid consistency and then add the drop of rosemary essential oil. (Rosemary is a super-effective antiseptic.) Whisk the egg white until stiff, then fold in the cucumber mixture and smooth over the face. The egg white will tauten on the face; remove after 15 minutes using a clean, damp cloth.

Water: Not a superfood, but the ultimate superdrink. So don’t forget to drink at least eight glasses of still water a day between meals – for brain, digestion, skin, everything…! We’re promising ourselves to, in 2014…

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