You Are What You Eat

For years I’ve been told by dermatologists that diet doesn’t affect my skin, but I am convinced that nothing is further from the truth.  (Unless it’s the ridiculous notion that HFCS is the same thing as sugar, but I digress.)  I’ve seen my diet directly impact the condition of my skin, and the more I read about the benefits of eating real food over the industrially processed foodstuffs that are such a large part of the Standard American Diet, the more I am convinced that our diets effect every aspect of our health.  When your mother told you, you are what you eat . . . she was correct. 

When I’m eating what I call a “clean diet,” my skin is smooth and moist and my complexion is generally clear.  When I fall off the wagon (this often happens when I’m traveling and I have to eat out a lot) my skin goes to pot.  I start breaking out with zits and pimples, it gets bumpy, and it feels dry and rough to the touch.  NOT so pretty.   No skincare product and no amount of exfoliation can help it when it’s in that state.  (Good skincare products are also a component of keeping my skin looking great, but they can’t do it alone.)  The only thing I can do to get my healthy skin back is to get back on the clean eating wagon and wait for it to clear up.  It always does, but it takes a few days.

Here are my best tips for keeping your skin healthy with diet.

Five Diet Tips for Optimum Skin Health

1) Drink your water, and avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, and soft drinks. Drinking lots of water keeps your skin hydrated, but it also aids digestion and helps flush out the toxins that your skin absorbs from the environment.  Moderate consumption of coffee and wine may have health benefits, but over-indulging definitely does not.  A good rule of thumb is to try to drink two glasses of water for each non-water drink you consume.  This works in your favor in numerous ways.  You will drink fewer non-water drinks this way.  Also, drinking water helps to fill you up so you don’t over eat.

2) Eat good fats. This may come as a surprise to some, but we do need fat in our bodies.  The popular low-fat eating fad is not healthy; your body actually needs fat to absorb nutrients from food.  But what KIND of fat?  Hint: go back to the fats and oils that your great-grandmother used.  Lard, butter, and olive and coconut oils are good fats.  Butter your veggies, use olive oil in your salad dressings, make smoothies with coconut oil, bake with lard, not hydrogenated shortening.  News flash: eating healthy can taste good too!

3) Stay away from industrial vegetable oils. While good fats ARE good for you, bad fats are quite harmful.  If it says corn oil or soy oil, steer clear.  (Warning: soy oil is in EVERYTHING.)  These industrially processed fats are high in Omega 6 fats*, which promote inflammation when consumed in excessive amounts.  I have no scientific proof that these fats cause my skin to break out, but I know that when I get lax and start allowing them into my diet, I feel the breakouts coming on.

*For more information on Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, see this concise article from Dr. Andrew Weil.

4) Eat your veggies. You knew that was coming, didn’t you?  Again, when I’m traveling, I have a hard time getting my daily allotment of vegetables; instead I find myself consuming too many empty carbs and sugars.  When I’m at home and making sure to get a few servings of vegetables (liberally slathered in butter for better nutrient absorption) every day, my skin always improves.

5) Cut out sugar AND artificial sweeteners. I know, I know.  No one wants to hear this, but honestly, refined sugar weakens your immune system and wrecks havoc with your body’s ability to regulate insulin levels.  Again, I have no solid proof that sugar affects skin health, but I can tell you how my skin looks and feels when I’m eating it and when I’m not, and the difference is striking.  Instead, grab a piece of fruit to satisfy that sweet tooth.  Over time, your taste buds will adjust, and you will find sugary treats much less appealing.  I promise.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist or an expert of any kind, unless you count my ability to simultaneously wash dishes, make dinner, help a child with homework and remove batteries from a pesky electronic toy, all while keeping up a conversation with a friend on speakerphone.  All that to say, this post is based largely on my personal experience and my obsession with the websites of Dr. Weil and Dr. Mercola.