Chilly winter winds outside and dry hot heaters inside, both are a disaster for skin hydration. Local application of creams and moisturizing lotions work to a limit but for that hydrated, glowing skin in winters we need to nourish it from within. Like any other body organ, the skin needs nutrients to stay healthy. Our skin isn't just a thing of beauty, it performs many important functions. Skin is the primary organ that acts as a shield against mechanical, thermal and physical injuries. It also prevents excessive loss of moisture while preventing the entry of harmful agents into our body. One of the largest organs of the human body, its health is very important for the overall protection of our body.
Some of the important nutrients and foods that maintain the integrity of our skin are:
Fat-free diets don't work for a healthy hydrated skin. Essential fatty acids are a part of the cell membrane and eating adequate healthy fats is important for a healthy skin.
1. Eat Nuts and seeds: Rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, they also contain phytonutrients that protect us against the detrimental effects of oxidative stress. They are calorie dense, so one ounce, aka a handful are enough for a day.
2. Avocados: They are one of the best sources of healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and do also contain small amounts of saturated fats that our body needs. In addition, it contains vitamins that act as antioxidants. Use them as bread spreads or add them to salads.
3. Fatty fish: It is a rich source of omega -3 fats that are not manufactured in our body, but are an essential nutrient for our cell membranes. It is advisable to eat at least three servings a week.
4. Coconut Oil: It is fantastic for topical application. It contains active compounds that work on reducing inflammation and enhances the skin's protective layer by helping trap moisture. Eating coconut oil may not be healthy as it is a saturated fat, which we know may lead to other health issues.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. When absorbed from our food, these are used as building blocks for the 10,000 odd proteins that our body needs. Each cell and tissue of our body needs protein as a structural element. The skin structure is made up of Collagen and Keratin proteins. A healthy skin needs quality proteins.
5. Eggs: Best quality proteins and an additional supply of Sulphur and Lutein - both of which help the skin lock in the moisture while preserving its elasticity.
6. Soy: It provides the maximum amount of proteins in the vegetarian and vegan food chain. In addition, Soy is a rich source of isoflavones which may help in preventing wrinkles by helping preserve the collagen. Drink up soy milk or eat some tofu.
7. Milk & Yogurt: When ingested, milk and yogurt add quality proteins to your daily diet. In addition, yogurt is great for a healthy digestive system, which means a clean gut and a healthy skin. Our home remedy of raw milk or yogurt as a face pack is also very beneficial. The lactic acid present in yogurt is associated with closing fine pores and preventing wrinkles to having exfoliating properties that will leave your skin feeling softer and glowing.
It is critical for helping the collagen hold its shape. It is also a strong antioxidant for our body, helping neutralize free radicals that play havoc with our skin.
8. Citrus fruits are the richest source of Vitamin C. Winter months are the best time to gorge on Oranges, Kinnow and Sweet lime. They are very low in calories and are good sources of rehydration too.
9. Tomatoes make a great face pack. When eaten they provide not just Vitamin C, but also Lycopene, an antioxidant which helps keep the skin fresh and protects against aging. Tomatoes are best eaten pureed and cooked with a little oil - so tank up on those gravies!
10. Guavas are also seasonally available which serve as rich sources of Vitamin C. Additionally, they also contain iron, protecting against anemia and anemic looking skin.
Skin is a layered organ, and both the upper and lower layers need Vitamin A to maintain their integrity. Vitamin A may be associated with stopping the breakdown of collagen due to the harmful effects of the sun. It also helps the oil glands in the skin, around the hair follicles. Further, it stimulates the production of fibroblasts- cells that develop tissues keeping the skin supple.
11. Carrots are one of the best sources of Beta carotene and vitamin A. Both these vitamins scavenge free radicals, helping with an even skin tone and preventing ageing,
12. Sweet Potato, especially the one with red skin and roasted, is one of the good sources of beta carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in our body. They also contain Vitamin A. This winter friendly food helps keep dry, flaky skin at bay.
13. Green Leafy Vegetables are in abundance in winters. From Saag to methi to Cholai, it's all there. In addition to Vitamin A, they are rich sources of Vitamin C and are known for their high antioxidant level. So eat up! Very low in calories, they can be consumed in abundance.
Hydration is paramount to a healthy supple, wrinkle-free, glowing skin. Winters makes us not feel thirsty, but being in air-warmed offices and using heaters means we lose water. Also, our body needs adequate hydration for working in top form, so drink up! Water is probably the best fluid to hydrate the skin. It prevents flaky and dry skin. If you find it hard to consume plain water add some fruit slices or spices to flavour it.
14. Green tea is another good method of adding to your daily calorie-free fluid intake. In addition to hydration, it adds antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help heal damaged skin and prevent blemishes.
15. Fresh vegetable juices, soups help give you calorie-free hydration while adding all the benefits of the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.
Eating healthy involves consuming foods in their freshest and natural form. Taking supplements does not add the same benefits as food, so to get your dream skin, eat.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.