As well as improving how you feel on the inside, eating the right foods can enhance your natural beauty too. ‘For your skin to look its radiant best, it needs to be nourished by the best beauty nutrients,’ say the authors of the new book from Neal’s Yard Remedies, Eat Beautiful. Our skin thins as we age, becoming drier and less supple as levels of sebum, collagen and elastin fall.
As well as moisturising it from the outside with skincare products, ensuring you eat plenty of skin-nourishing ingredients is proven to make a visible difference. ‘For glowing skin, eat foods with essential fatty acids to moisturise from within,’ say the authors. ‘Keep your skin supple and firm by eating foods rich in easily digested proteins and eat foods rich in healthy fats to boost collagen and elastin.’
Here are some of their top age-proofing choices.
COLD-WATER FISH Wild salmon, trout, sardines and herring are rich in protein, helping repair your skin at a cellular level. They also contain omega-3 fats for supple skin. The pink colour in trout and salmon is due to astaxanthin, a powerful anti-inflammatory carotenoid that increases skin elasticity. How to eat it: Have a 150g portion two to three times a week.
NETTLES These greens are one of the richest sources of the beauty mineral silica, crucial for the formation of collagen, which keeps your skin tight and wrinkle-free. Silica deficiency can cause poor skin elasticity and texture. Nettles are also a good source of the hydrating molecule hyaluronic acid. How to eat them: Add a small handful of nettles to your meals daily. Top tip: Pick nettles by plucking the top few leaves off the plant, taking them from underneath by pinching the stem with your nails. Then roll them into a very tight ball, squidging them as you go to break down the fine hairs that contain the sting. You can then eat them raw.
BUTTER BEANS A great store-cupboard staple, these beans help your skin produce hyaluronic acid; known as nature’s moisturiser. As you age, levels of this moisture-packed substance fall, leading to reduced elasticity and a loss of tone and plumpness. How to eat them: Have an 85g portion of butter beans two to three times a week. Try adding them to soup or stews.
SWEET POTATO This tasty veg is full of betacarotene, which can boost your glow and protect your skin from UV damage. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin A, which strengthens skin tissue; and B vitamins, which aid circulation to carry nutrients to your skin. These tubers also aid the production of hyaluronic acid for a more youthful complexion. How to eat it: An 85g portion of sweet potato makes one of your five a day. Steam or bake them with the skin on to maximise nutrient intake.
KIWI FRUIT Fibre-rich kiwis can be yellow or green. Both types are a great source of vitamin C, which aids collagen production as well as smoothing skin and boosting radiance. Kiwi fruit are also full of anti- ageing antioxidants. How to eat them: Have a couple of kiwis a day to count as one of your five a day.
TOFU AND TEMPEH A great source of protein, calcium and vitamin E, these soy foods have traditionally been eaten to keep skin looking fresh and youthful. They are thought to firm skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Tofu is also rich in omega-3 fats, zinc and calcium. How to eat them: Have up to 75g of tofu or tempeh daily. Use in stir-fries, salads and stews or add silken tofu to smoothies.
CUCUMBER With its high water content, the humble cucumber is a top hydrating beauty food. It contains collagen-building silica and skin-strengthening sulphur, which tone and firm fine skin. It’s also rich in vitamins A, C, E and K. How to eat it: Eat a quarter of a cucumber daily in salads, juices or as a snack.
QUINOA This gluten-free seed is high in protein, with all the amino acids your skin needs for renewal. It also contains silica for strong, elastic skin and omega-3s and antioxidant polyphenols for reducing inflammation. Meanwhile, the amino acid lysine aids tissue repair. How to eat it: Eat up to 60g daily as an alternative to rice or add to salads and stews.
PINEAPPLE This sunshine fruit is especially high in vitamin C, which stimulates the production of collagen and elastin and has antioxidant properties that protect the delicate skin on your face and neck from damage and breakdown. Other vitamin C-rich fruits include papaya and strawberries. How to eat it: Include vitamin C-rich fruit daily as a healthy snack or add to smoothies or juices.
OATS Swap your morning toast for a bowl of oats and you’ll get a good dose of essential fatty acids and silica to boost collagen and elastin for firmer, toned skin. Oats also contain hyaluronic acid, which bathes collagen and elastin in moisture, keeping your skin hydrated. How to eat them: Have up to 100g of oats daily. Add them to smoothies or soak them overnight for a bircher muesli.