I'm sure you have heard of collagen, but what is it and why is it important for the health and appearance of our skin?
Collagen is a protein that is found mostly in our skin, joints, bones and the lining of our gut. Our bodies make collagen out of amino acids, mainly glycine and proline. These we get from the foods we eat.
The skin's collagen forms the foundation of the connective tissue that supports its structure. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen and the skin becomes thinner, losing its fullness and eventually this will show as wrinkles and sagging.
Collagen is also broken down by other factors like free radicals caused by sunlight, pollution and bad habits like smoking.
So, logic dictates that we should eat foods that contain amino acids to help our bodies produce collagen; and in order to protect this collagen from being broken down, we should also consume anti-oxidant rich foods to fight harmful free radicals.
We have compiled a list of foods that will help you on your way to a healthy, smoother skin. As a bonus, these will also contribute to an overall, more healthy you.
1. Leafy and Dark Green Vegetables (to detox and cleanse)
Broccoli, spinach, watercress contain minerals and compounds that will re-energise the cells' metabolism to eliminate waste material. Iron from these sources, will provide for better blood flow and therefor more oxygen to the skin. Say hello to the glow!
2. Purple Food
Beetroot can cleanse the colon in a natural way by flushing out toxins. It is also high in iron and with the anti-oxidant, betacyanin, it will support the health of your liver and lymphatic system. This means cleaner, more oxygen-rich blood, which can lead to cleaner, brighter skin and eyes.
Purple cabbage can have up to 8 times more vitamin C than green cabbage. Vitamin C is one of those all-important vitamins for the skin, because it supports collagen formation and acts as an effective anti-oxidant.
3. Red Food
Tomatoes contain a carotenoid called lycopene. This protects the skin against sun damage, pollution and premature ageing. Cooking the tomatoes will release more lycopene, but tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes have much higher concentrations.
Other sources include guavas, grapefruit, watermelon, sweet red peppers, asparagus, purple (red) cabbage and carrots.
4. Orange Food
Foods like sweet potato, carrots and butternut contain beta-carotene. Our bodies convert this into vitamin A, which will restore, regenerate and strengthen our skin.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Seeds and nuts, like sunflower seed and almonds, are great sources of vitamin E and minerals like selenium and zinc. This combination of nutrients will help the skin to hold on to moisture (vitamin E) and to heal small blemishes, due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the minerals and the fatty acids.
6. Omega-3 Foods
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and oils like olive and canola oil, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These will protect the skin's cell membranes which, in turn, will then protect the structure of your skin. Incorporate these into your diet, about 3 times a week, and over time, your skin will be more hydrated and flexible.
7. Other proteins: Turkey, Liver, Eggs
Beef, turkey and chicken are examples of foods that contain carnosine. (A combination of 2 amino acids, beta-alanine and histidine). Carnosine can protect against cross-linking in the skin. Cross-linking causes the skin to lose elasticity which contributes to wrinkling.
Liver contains iron, which will promote healthy circulation and the transportation of oxygen and nutrients into the skin.
Egg whites are high in glysine and proline; the building blocks for collagen. This may support your body's production of it. Vegans can consider lentils, black beans and quinoa as sources.
8. Dark Chocolate
Okay; so actually it is the cacao that is important here, but what better vehicle for it than dark chocolate?
Cacao is packed with flavonoids that will protect your skin from oxidative damage. It also delivers minerals like magnesium, manganese and iron. Your body uses these to regenerate cells, transport oxygen and even to reduce stress.
9. Coconut Water, Green and White Tea
Green and White Tea are believed to protect the skin's structure by inhibiting the enzymes that break down collagen.
Coconut water is my personal favourite when it comes to hydration and protection. It is chock-full of skin-loving vitamins, minerals and electrolytes and it tastes great.
Add just a few of these to your daily routine and you should notice a positive difference within a few weeks. Beauty is reflected from the inside.
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