Lots of people struggle with the health of their skin. Polluted air, unhealthy eating habits and stress are only some of the triggers that can cause spots, rash or other impurities. Model Emelie Stenman explains us the astonishing effects of nutrition (aka food) on our skin. Emelie, you have our full attention!
Can you really eat your way to beautiful skin? The answer is yes and it's actually not as hard as you may think! As a girl with a somewhat, how to put it nicely, problematic skin I'm always on the look out for the best and natural solution to keep my skin looking as healthy as it possibly can. As I child I was taught that food does not affect your skin, eating chocolate wouldn't make you break out and improving your diet would have little to no effect on your complexion. I was always slightly puzzled by this as food has an effect on hair and nails, how can it not effect my skin health? I was right to doubt that information as it is simply incorrect. No, chocolate will not make you break out per say but the sugar in your regular chocolate bar will cause havoc on your skin. According to Dr. Nicholas Perricone a dermatologist and nutritionist, sugar causes your insulin levels to spike when your pancreas digests it which then creates insulin. The result of an insulin spike isn't pretty as it triggers the release of androgen hormones. Too many androgen hormones leads to more sebum and therefore will lead to clogged pores. YIKES! But reducing your sugar intake won't result in a beautiful and clear complexion, you have to eat the right kind of foods too. Trust me, I have battled with my complexion all my life and as a model it is absolutely key that I look after my skin properly and stop neglecting my skin health. I started to really educate myself about food and what I have discovered have changed the way I eat forever.
The basics first
So let's start with the basics. The air is full of pollutants and this is especially apparent in our larger cities. Air pollution is full of free radicals which are detrimental to our health. The definition of free radicals is “any molecule that has a single unpaired electron in an outer shell.” Basically what that means is that the molecule is missing something (an electron) which makes the molecule unstable and it seeks to become stable by seeking another electron to pair with. The problem with this is that the electron it may have stolen could come from a healthy cell within your body, leaving that cell damaged. The effects of free radicals are on the outside seen as lines, wrinkles and sagging skin. This process of free radicals damaging cells also occur from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Sounds pretty darn scary right? Well it is and its not. Don't get too freaked out by free radicals, this process is completely natural and it is something that happens each and everyday inside of our bodies. But too many free-radicals will result in premature ageing, lack lacklustre skin and poor skin health. And ageing faster than necessary isn't ideal.
We have all heard about antioxidants, but what do they really do? Antioxidants act like a shield stopping and neutralizing free radicals within our bodies and different antioxidants play a different part in protecting us. Some antioxidants work as anti-inflammatory agents and others help our immune system to function properly.
Nutrition is key when it comes to keeping your skin looking its best but apart from antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, there is another group of compounds that that plays a huge part in helping our skin stay clear and youthful. They are called amino acids.
But really, what are amino acids and why are they so important? Let me explain. When you consume protein (a vital building block) our digestive system breaks it down into amino acids which are then passed through the body via our blood. Our cells in our bodies require amino acids to be able to build new body tissue amongst other vital things like cells. They are absolutely crucial when it comes to good skin and general health. As our hair, skin and nails are made of proteins and amino acids are the building block of protein, they are necessary in order to repair and create new tissue. So not having enough of these important building blocks will have a great impact on your hair and skin's condition. Our bodies are very fine tuned machines so we require the correct balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein in order to give our bodies the right tools to fight off free radicals, help our bodies produce collagen and repair damaged tissue. Getting the right type of nourishment is absolutely crucial for keeping our insides and our outer shell in prime condition.
So what do we do?
Our bodies are pretty awesome little machines which are naturally designed to fight off free-radicals and repairing damaged tissue, but they do need our help!
The incredible thing is that you have the power and you can seriously reduce the negative impact of free-radicals and collagen depletion by eating the right kind of foods. Sounds too good to be true? Well its not and it is actually not as complicated as you may think!
Here is my favorite super-hero foods based on what I have learned on my quest for a healthier lifestyle:
Avocados: Avocados are well known for containing healthy Omega 9 fats but they are also a great source of antioxidants carotenoids like alpha-carotene, beta carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein. These incredible antioxidants are little super heroes when it comes to fighting off free radicals, fighting them off and neutralizing them like there is no tomorrow. On top of that, studies have shown that high amounts of carotenoids in your diet can really help improve your skin’s density, thickness, tone and general appearance.
Chickpeas: Chickpeas contains Manganese which is a mineral with an incredible super power. Manganese seeks out free radicals in our bodies and neutralizes them which limits the damage they are able to cause. Chickpeas also contain other nutrients such as folate and Vitamin B which helps to repair our skin from within. Last but certainly not least they contain good levels of protein which is essential in order to repair our skin and muscle tissue.
Broccoli: This is probably one of my favorite foods, the good old broccoli. Broccoli is a fantastic source of Vitamin C, chlorophyll Vitamin E, A and calcium and fibre. The other great thing with this green little super hero is that is has a low glycemic index so it helps you feel fuller for longer. Not bad for a green mini tree look a like.
Salmon: We have all heard that oily fish is good for us but how can it improve your skin and hair health? It is all down to the essential fats that this fish contains. The reason why salmon is classed as an "oily" fish is because they store high amounts of healthy fats in their tissues compared to white fish such as cod which store their fats in their liver. Hence why many take cod liver oil supplements in order to obtain these super healthy fats. Although taking supplements may help, many studies have shown that it's much better to actually consume foods containing the vitamins, fats and minerals we need rather than using supplements.
Salmon is one of the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids and contain high levels of Vitamin D which helps our bodies to regulate the immune system and Vitamin D also plays a vital role in in the life cycle of the human cells. The fatty acids contained in salmon help our skin to stay moisturised, subtle and enable the skin to repair itself from sun damage.
Spinach: "I'm strong to the finish, 'cause I eats me Spinach, I'm Popeye the sailor man!" You may have heard this quote before but even though it is taken from a fictional cartoon character, it does make a lot of sense. Spinach has been one of my go to foods for a long time as it is super nutritious and I find it really tasty. It contains high levels of Vitamins A , C and Iron. Our bodies need Vitamin C in order to repair skin cells, repair wounds but it is also essential to the collagen production. If your body is lacking Vitamin C it will struggle to keep up the collagen production within the skin and you will start seeing those pesky lines and wrinkles creeping up!
Another skin hero is iron. Iron is an essential part of haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen throughout your body and without having sufficient amounts of iron, your body is unable to transport oxygen as efficiently, which will leave you with pale and lacklustre complexion.
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds has become one of my favorite foods as of late even though I only really started eating them on a regular basis recently. You can do so much with them and they are incredibly nutritious as they are an excellent source of antioxidants. Did you know that Chia seeds contains almost 20% more antioxidants than fresh blueberries? Pretty amazing right?! But one of the best things about these little seeds is that the are the highest plant-based source of complete protein and they are a good vegan source of omega 3 and zinc. Zinc is a so called "trace metal" that is present in every single cell in our body and having a deficiency in zinc can lead to a weak immune system, thinning hair and skin conditions such as acne. Zinc helps our skin to repair itself and it also helps our immune function to control the inflammatory response which in turn will improve the cell turn over, preventing clogged up pores that could lead to acne.
Tomatoes: I love tomatoes and sometimes I find myself just sitting on my sofa, going through a whole pack of tomatoes without even realising! (A little weird perhaps but I just love a good cherry tomato as a snack!). Did you know that tomatoes help your skin to protect itself from the sun's harmful UV and UVB rays? The reason why tomatoes are able to do this is due to the high levels of a Phytonutrient (organic nutrients present in plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory) called lycopene. Our bodies are unable to produce lycopene naturally so we need to eat foods which contain it. By adding tomatoes to your diet you will not only help your skin to protect itself from the sun but it will also help boost your collagen production, keeping your skin plump and wrinkle free.
By heating tomatoes slightly you can really boost the benefits of this incredible red fruit and research has shown that it is also best consumed with healthy fats (for example salmon, nuts or avocado)
Fitting in nutrition in a busy life
When it comes to eating healthily I think many of us see it as being complicated, time consuming and so forth. As we all lead pretty busy lifestyles the thought of trying to figure out how to make a nutritious yet filling and tasty meal can feel a little overwhelming.
I particularly find it really tricky to eat the right foods when I have a busy schedule. Take a normal casting day for example, I'm running around London from casting to casting like a headless chicken trying to make all my appointments in time. Days like this I find it near enough impossible to get something to eat as I'm constantly on the go and I used to just go for the quick fix, sugar or a sandwich from a local supermarket and they always disappoint. Not a lot of flavors and really poor nutritional value. I really struggled to find anything which solved my food dilemma. I wanted fast food that was healthy, fills me up without making me feel heavy, delicious and most importantly had great nutritional value. This is why I was seriously excited when I found out about ProtoGo Food. As a former model, Valerie (founder of ProtoGo) could definitely relate to this issue and as a fellow foodie who really appreciates delicious healthy food, she really has hit the nail on the head! Unlike other companies, Valerie has really considered the nutritional value in every single meal, making sure it's a perfect balance between carbohydrates, protein and fats. When you don't have the time to cook, are on the go or want to make a conscious effort to lose weight or build muscle, ProtoGo can really help you with that. It is my go to when I'm in London.