Is your diet bad for your skin?

By: Helen Racanelli

©iStockphoto/ValuaVitaly Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto/ValuaVitaly


Is your diet bad for your skin?

By: Helen Racanelli
Clear, dewy skin is on the top of many beauty wish lists. Over-the-counter medicines, scrubs and even prescriptions can help moisturize dry skin and control acne, but you can give your skin's appearance a natural boost by eating and drinking the right things. If you subsist on cups of cream-and-three-sugar coffee and regular doses of fast food, you probably have an inkling that these habits aren't contributing to a glowing complexion. Start improving your diet for the sake of your health, and your skin might be the happy beneficiary.

We checked with Montreal-based registered dietitian Caryn J. Roll of Montreal Nutrition for the scoop.

Nutrition tips for better skin
We could have inherited mom's sensitive skin or dad's combination dry and oily zones, and that's out of our control much like the colour of our eyes. Yet instead of just shrugging our shoulders and chalking up our skin's deficiencies to bad genes, we can manage our lifestyle in the quest for great skin. That includes being more mindful of what we eat, says Roll who maintains a nutrition blog in addition to her practice. "There are no magic pills, perfect food combinations and definitely no fad diet out there that is better than basic nutrition," Roll says. And what if you eat high-fat high-calorie convenience foods more often than not? It's playing a role in how you look. "Junk food will not make you look radiant," she says.

Here are 5 bad-skin culprits
1. Too much sugar

Most people are getting too much sugar these days in the form of actual table sugar (including the healthier-sounding brown sugar, honey and maple syrup,) and sugared drinks like soda and ice tea. Roll also counts white refined flour products like white bread, white pasta, pastries, and even sugary granola bars and breakfast cereals as part of our too-much-sugar problem, all of which can take a toll on our skin. "Avoiding sugar will help some people improve the look and feel of their skin," she says.

Page 1 of 2 – Discover 4 common bad-skin culprits on page 2.
2. Not getting enough fluids
One of our skin's worst enemies is lack of hydration, which includes hydration from the inside out. Nothing fancy is needed either, so you don't have to shell out for rare teas or pricey vitamin drinks. "The most inexpensive addition to your skin-care regime is water," she says. Simply by drinking more plain water, you will notice a substantial improvement in your skin. And you'll be on the receiving end of other benefits like better concentration, more energy and less fatigue.

3. Not eating enough healthy fat
It's not news that a diet loaded with trans fat is widely considered to be the height of poor nutrition. According to Health Canada even though Canadians have reduced their total fat intake over the last two decades, we are still consuming too much saturated and trans fat. But a low- or no-fat diet is not necessarily good for your skin either, as our bodies require some fat for optimal health. The secret is upping your healthy-fat intake, which will perk up your skin by providing your body with the nutrients it needs. Roll says that it's important to eat healthy fats that come from plants and fish, something many of us don't get enough of.

Reach for avocados, nuts and olive oil for example, all of which contain heart-and skin-nourishing oils. And don't forget fish. "To improve most skin types, include omega-3 from fish at least three times a week," she adds.

4. Using vitamin supplements instead of whole foods
There isn't anything innately wrong with popping vitamin pills, particularly if your healthcare provider suggests you do so or you follow a restricted diet for ethical or religious reasons. But eating a balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients you're lacking for a superb complexion. Why is this? "Absorption is not as efficient from a pill as it is from food itself," Rolls says.

She explains the reason for this is that vitamins and minerals work synergistically with other elements found in the food. This effect aids absorption of the micronutrients from the food into the body. So if you've read that vitamin A will help your face look as bright as a freshly picked flower, consider eating carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, cantaloupes, and oranges. If you decide you need more vitamin B12, it can be found in liver, beef, pork, lamb, poultry fish, dairy products, oysters, and yeast, she says.

5. Believing in miracle foods
Even if you have it on good authority that eating slices of lemon will reduce oily skin, beware before you start stockpiling the yellow citrus fruits. "I don't believe there are any foods that you can eat to directly eat to improve oily skin," Roll says.

And likewise, a superfood-of-the-moment will not magically heal chapped winter skin unless you're using it as a homemade exfoliation treatment. What vegetables and fruit will do however, is improve your organs' health – and your skin is an organ – through their antioxidant power that combats cell-damaging free radicals. "I'm sure you've heard this," says Roll, "but a well-balanced diet with foods from all of the four food groups really is the way to go."

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Is your diet bad for your skin?