Fruit and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help to protect skin from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are caused by smoking, pollution and sunlight and can cause wrinkling and age spots. Eat a rainbow of colourful fruit and vegetables and aim for at least five portions a day. Betacarotene, found in pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes, and lutein, found in kale, papaya and spinach are potent antioxidants, important for normal skin cell development and healthy skin tone.
Vitamin C is also a super antioxidant. It is needed for a strong immune system, radiant skin and helps blemishes heal properly. The best sources are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava,kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes. They all help to produce collagen that strengthens the capillaries that supply the skin.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant. It works alongside other antioxidants such as Vitamins E and C and is essential for the immune system. Studies suggest that a selenium-rich diet can help to protect against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots. One way to boost your intake is to eat Brazil nuts. Just four nuts will provide the recommended daily amount. Other good sources are fish, shellfish, eggs, wheatgerm, tomatoes and broccoli.
Vitamin E protects skin from oxidative (cell) damage and supports healthy skin growth. Foods high in vitamin E include almonds, avocado, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower and corn oils.
Skin needs moisture to stay flexible. Even mild dehydration will cause your skin to look dry, tired and slightly grey. Drink six to eight glasses of water a day - all fluids count towards your daily allowance, but water is the best. Herbal, caffeine-free teas are good too.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats - the types found in avocados, fish, nuts and seeds - provide essential fatty acids which act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple. These fats also come packaged with a healthy dose of Vitamin E, which will help protect against free radical damage.
Make sure you get enough omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are essential fatty acids which mean they cannot be made in the body and must be obtained through the diet. You will find omega-3s in oily fish and plant sources such as flaxseed oil, linseeds, walnut and rapeseed oil. Omega-3 fats encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help skin, particularly inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psorasis.
Eat plenty of beans, pulses, porridge and other slow-releasing carbohydrates. These release sugar into the blood stream gradually, providing you with a steady supply of energy and leaving you feeling satisfied for longer and therefore less likely to snack. Avoid high GI carbohydrates like biscuits and sugary drinks, as they lead to production of insulin, which may damage collagen and accelerate wrinkles.