I speak a lot on this site about eating lots of healthy omega-3 fats for smooth skin and a soft complexion, and trying to include plenty of greens in your diet each day to help slow down the ageing process. But there are some lesser-known skin nutrients that work just as hard to protect your cells from the ravages of toxins, chemicals, pollution and less than healthy lifestyle choices:
1. Flavonoids: These are dietary compounds that belong to the class of phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Science has discovered over five thousand kinds of flavonoids, often with hundreds of different types present in one item of food, and each with different properties, which often contribute to the foods colour.
They prevent inflammation throughout your body, enhance the power of vitamin C in foods and prevent blood vessels from rupturing. Picking up colds and infections regularly could be a sign that you need to eat more flavonoid foods.
In terms of your skin’s health and beauty, flavonoids are delivered via your bloodstream to your skin, where they have the ability to protect your cells from oxidative damage, absorb ultraviolet light and protect your skin from sun damage, as well as minimise the inflammation and damage caused by sunburn.
They help to repair your DNA, reduce oxidative damage and improve your immunity too. Flavonoids can be applied to your skin in creams, but their stability and ability to permeate the layers of our skin is an issue and some perform better than others. Therefore, proper nutrition combined with the appropriate skincare is ideal for tackling your skin’s ageing process.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that flavonoids, including resveratrol found in grapes, berries and red wine and lycopene found in tomatoes, are effective in preventing and treating cases of skin cancer such as malignant melanomas.
I have mentioned that chocolate is a powerful skin food, but only in its raw form as cacao powder, as I have used in many of the recipes on this site.
Raw cacao contains nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas!
However, the chocolate you can buy in bars and pieces are two very different types of foods. Processed chocolate is made with roasted cocoa, sugar, dairy, vegetable fat and various other ingredients. While there’s no denying that processed chocolate tastes delicious, the benefits of cacao are only found when it’s eaten in its raw form.
In a twelve-week study of women age between eighteen and twenty-five, cacao powder rich in flavonoids was found to improve the effects of UV damage, increase the circulation of blood in the tiniest capillaries of the skin, improved the skin’s structure by boosting its volume and reducing roughness, scales and wrinkles. The flavonoids in cacao were found to work best as prevention rather than cure for skin damage.
Try my ‘Ferrero Rocher’ Truffle Pops for a seriously chocolatey skin treat!
Apart from cacao powder, there are so many easily available flavonoids to enjoy every day. Some of the best sources include blueberries, apples, onions, apricots, parsley, pinto beans, cabbage, raspberries, pears and tomatoes.
2. Vitamin K2: This lesser-known vitamin has the power to bring about some incredible health benefits. From increasing brain function, protecting us from cardiovascular disease, building strong bones and teeth to helping to ward off cancer, it also promotes growth and normal development. It does all of this by directing calcium to be laid down in your bones and teeth, rather than parts of your body that it doesn’t belong in, such as soft tissue.
But in terms of your skin’s health, vitamin K2 helps to keep premature ageing at bay by blocking the calcification of the elastin in your skin. This is one of the proteins that gives spring and smoothness to your skin.
K2 is needed to stimulate the proteins that prevent calcium from being laid down in elastin fibres and protect these fibres from growing harder and creating wrinkles.
A 2007 study published in the medical journal, Laboratory Investigation, has even shown that those who have difficulty making K2 are left with serious and premature wrinkles in their skin.
Vitamin K2 also helps to support the work of vitamin A in growth and repair of your skins cells, so this can’t work properly if K2 is lacking in your system. This makes vitamin K2 an important nutrient in preventing and treating acne and other skin disorders associated with a lack of vitamin A.
One of the best sources of vitamin K2 for helping to build beautiful skin and preventing wrinkles is actually from your own colon!
The bacteria in your intestines can synthesise K2 for your own nutritional requirements, which goes back to why it’s just so important to look after our friendly bacteria with fermented foods like sauerkraut and probiotics, if you want to avoid getting premature wrinkles!