Eat Your Way to Beautiful Skin: The Benefits of a Plant-based Diet
The often-repeated maxim “you are what you eat” resonates with most of us. It’s common sense that a diet high in sodium, fried and highly processed food will leave its mark not only in our bodies but also manifest on our skin: expect acne and oily, dull skin if junk food regularly features in your diet.
Happily, a well-balanced, natural diet, rich in nourishing whole foods yields myriad benefits for the skin. One of the most prominent dietary trends of late is the shift towards a plant-based diet. This doesn’t mean you have to become vegan; instead, that you aim to eat primarily unrefined food of plant origin, such as:
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
A plant-based diet is rich in phytonutrients. Plants contain thousands of phytonutrients: naturally occurring, powerful chemical compounds found only in plants, which confer protective health benefits to those who eat them.
The health benefits of a diet comprised mainly of plant matter has been universally acknowledged by doctors and nutritionists. But what are the specific benefits for the largest organ in our body, the skin?
Less dairy means reduced acne
Clinical research has demonstrated associations between dairy consumption and acne in numerous studies. One hypothesis for this correlation is the presence of hormones in dairy products. Dairy naturally contains proteins such as whey and casein, which stimulate growth and hormones in calves, and also in humans when we consume cow’s milk. When these proteins are digested they release a hormone called IGF-1 which is known to cause breakouts.
Some dairy cow populations in the U.S. are also treated with bovine growth hormones. Artificial hormones in milk can undermine the balance of the body’s own hormonal endocrine system, triggering acne.
Finally, dairy products contain lactose--a naturally occurring sugar. Humans have trouble digesting lactose after infancy, with 65% of people lactose intolerant. Those who are lactose intolerant and continue to consume dairy may experience skin allergies or breakouts.
Plant protection against sun damage and skin cancer
Foods such as pecans, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, kale and artichokes all possess high concentrations of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to destabilize free radicals, which damage proteins, lipids, and DNA in cells. Antioxidants have been proven to reduce UVB-associated epidermal damage from sun exposure and protect against UVB-induced cell death. They also increase the expression of genes that help to repair DNA.
Other phytonutrients have been found to help scavenge free radicals, and protect cells from sun damage. These include:
This antioxidant compound is found in tomatoes and watermelon and reduces the risk of sunburn when eaten regularly, providing protection against acute and potentially longer-term photodamage. It also helps to decrease the risk of skin cancer.
This compound is found in grapes and berries and helps to decrease the risk of skin cancer. It also inhibits sunburn cell formation and swelling caused by photodamage.
Beta-carotene reduces the appearance of symptoms caused by photoaging, such as wrinkles and sun spots when consumed daily. You can get your beta-carotene fix from sweet potato and carrots.
Polyphenols (micronutrients found in foods such as blueberries, cloves, cocoa powder, and chestnuts) can also assist in protecting the skin from UV radiation, reduce skin inflammation and decrease oxidative stress.
Daily consumption of food rich in polyphenols and antioxidants teamed with an antioxidant-dense skin care regime will give you your best skin yet. Try Calysta Lab’s Restorative Foaming Cleanser with active antioxidant DMAE which helps to stabilize cell membranes against free radical damage.
Eat your way to radiant, glowing skin
Plant-based foods contain considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals than animal-based products. A diet enriched with various vitamins and minerals results in a healthy, glowing complexion.
One potent antioxidant that provides extra-special skin radiance is carotenoids. Carotenoids are found in tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and carrots, and beta-carotene can be found in leafy greens such as spinach and kale. These foods actually affect skin pigmentation, providing a natural, healthy-looking food tan!