10 ways to eat yourself younger

17 May 2016

Nutritionists, Cassandra Barns and Dr Marilyn Glenville offer 10 additions to your diet which promote health both inside and out.  

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A few subtle changes to your diet in the lead up to your wedding can make significant improvements to your overall health, ensuring you look and feel your best on the big day. Take heed in the words of the experts – nutritionists, Cassandra Barns and Dr Marilyn Glenville – to eat yourself younger.

1. Keep it orange

Vegetables such as carrots, squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes contain particularly high levels of beta carotene and other carotenoids, which give them their lovely orange colour. Beta carotene converts to vitamin A in our body, which is one of the most important nutrients for skin integrity (meaning skin that is firm, resists damage and can heal quickly). Beta carotene itself may also help to prevent free radical damage to our cells that can result in ageing, as it works as an antioxidant. The orange vegetables are delicious as a basis for stews and soups in the winter, or roasted with other vegetables such as peppers, red onions and beetroot.

2. Berry beautiful

Berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are excellent sources of vitamin C. This vitamin is vital for the formation of collagen, which gives our skin structure and elasticity. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, protecting our cells from damage; and berries also contain many other plant nutrients that may work as antioxidants in the body, such as the quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol. Another advantage of berries over most other fruits is that they are lower in sugar (a diet high in sugary foods can speed up skin ageing). Berries are great added to plain yoghurt, with some chopped nuts – an ideal snack or breakfast option.

3. A* skin with avocado

Avocado is a good source of vitamin E, which is thought to have several roles in skin health. Like vitamin C, it works as an antioxidant so may protect the skin cells against damage from free radicals. It is also thought to help protect the skin from UV rays, and have anti-inflammatory activity in the skin (inflammation is involved in skin rashes, blemishes and acne). Although avocado is relatively high in fat, the majority of this is healthy monounsaturated fat like that found in olive oil, and the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid. As we have already seen, omega-6 fats are helpful for preventing moisture loss from the skin; and monounsaturated fats may also have this benefit. On top of this, avocadoes also contain good levels of carotenoids, those same antioxidants that are found in the orange vegetables.

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4. Pumpkin seeds for problem skin

These nutritional gems are excellent sources of zinc, one of the most important minerals for maintaining healthy, happy skin. It is thought that as much as 20% of the body’s zinc is stored in the skin, and it has a major role in growth and healing. Deficiency in this mineral is linked with acne, dry skin, dermatitis and poor wound healing. Pumpkin seeds, like avocadoes, nuts and other seeds, also contain the omega-6 fat linoleic acid. Other seeds and nuts are also good sources of zinc, as well as biotin, a vitamin that is known to contribute to healthy skin and hair.

5. Green juice boost

Juices made with lots of fresh green vegetables are concentrated sources of nutrients, including many that can be beneficial to our skin. They contain minerals like calcium, magnesium and alkaloids which help to alkalise the body, preventing it from becoming too acidic. Our body generally keeps a fairly stable acid-alkaline balance, but a slight over-acidity may be linked to skin eruptions or problems like eczema. Green juices are also rich in vitamin C, beta carotene and other antioxidants including chlorophyll, the substance that produces the green pigment in plants.

6. Oaty goodness

Oats are a particularly rich source of biotin, a vitamin that is well-known for its role in the health of our skin and hair. Oats are also high in gentle fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and bowel function. Healthy digestion is vital for our skin for two main reasons. Firstly, we need to digest foods properly for all those skin-loving nutrients to get into our body; and secondly, if we are not eliminating waste properly then excess toxins can circulate in the blood and may come out through the skin, in the sweat and sebum. The result may be skin rashes and other skin problems.

7. Cabbage patch doll

Cruciferous vegetables are the ‘cabbage-family’ vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, red and green cabbage, chard, watercress and Brussels sprouts. They contain lots of sulphur compounds which can support detoxification in the liver (adequate liver detoxification is just as important as a healthy bowel for getting rid of toxins). They may also be supportive for hormone balancing, especially in women, because they contain a substance called indole-3-carbinol that has been found to balance oestrogen levels. Therefore, if you are a woman who is prone to skin breakouts around your period, you may find it helpful to eat one to two portions a day of these vegetables – but make sure you vary your choice so you don’t get bored.

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8. The ‘F’ word

As well as being necessary for our heart, brain and eye health, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play an essential role in the structure and appearance of the skin. They are incorporated into cell membranes in the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and form a matrix around the cells, helping to maintain the skin’s barrier function and prevent moisture loss. They are also thought to have a role in the dermis – the lower layer of skin – by controlling inflammation and minimising collagen damage from UV rays. Be sure to eat a good serving of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines three times a week or a quality supplement such as Super Omega 3-6-9 by Quest Vitamins.

9. Get zingy with zinc

Zinc plays many roles in the body and is involved in many biological processes. Zinc is required for normal cell growth and for this reason is hailed as one of the most important nutrients for beauty. A lot of people find zinc useful in the case of acne and other skin conditions. Try to include oats, pumpkin seeds, eggs, oysters and peas in your diet. You can also take a supplement, such as Nature’s Plus Zinc. 

10. Building Blocks

Proteins are essential for tissue repair and for the construction of new skin layers. Every cell in your body needs protein to maintain its life. But that’s not everything - protein is also necessary to 'replace' worn-out or dead cells. On average, a woman needs 1g of protein per kilo body weight per day. A woman weighing 60kg needs at least 60g of protein - equivalent to two chicken breasts. four eggs or three cups of cooked lentils.

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