Taking the Heat Off Your Skin: 10 Anti-inflammatory Diet Tips
One of the most important ways a healthful diet can help you nurture beautiful, youthful skin is by keeping your body's inflammatory response in check. Under normal circumstances, inflammation promotes healing by sending white blood cells to infected or injured tissues. But inflammation can also damage tissues when stressors such as smoking, obesity, or sun exposure cause it to spiral out of control and become chronic. Chronic inflammation plays a key role in a host of skin problems from rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea to wrinkles, sagging, and other visible signs of aging. An anti-inflammatory diet increases the power of your topical skincare routine to minimize the symptoms of these conditions and restore balanced health to your complexion. Controlling inflammation depends as much on avoiding the wrong foods as it does on eating more of the right ones. Here are some basic guidelines to help you distinguish between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods.
Pro-inflammatory Foods: Adding Fuel to the Fire
To minimize your exposure dietary compounds that fuel inflammation-related skin damage, avoid foods from the following categories.
Trans fats – Steer clear of processed foods such as crackers, cookies, and chips that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils on their labels.
Refined carbohydrates – Replace white bread, pasta, and rice with whole grain versions.
Sugar – The link between sugar and inflammation has serious implications for your skin. When sugar molecules attach to the proteins in our skin's collagen fibers, the resulting inflammation causes those fibers to break down, reducing the skin's strength and resilience. Inflammation linked to high blood sugar levels can also worsen acne. In addition to limiting your intake of sweets, watch out for sugars hiding in processed foods under different names like sucrose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, cane juice, and corn syrup.
Omega-6 cooking oils – Popular cooking oils such as corn, soy, canola, sunflower, and safflower are high in omega-6 fatty acids. While these fatty acids play a crucial role in our health, some of them promote inflammation when consumed in excess. For optimum health, you need to balance your omega-6 consumption with adequate amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Good sources include beans, fish, olive oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Depending on your specific health needs, the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in your diet should vary from 4:1 to 1:1.
Anti-inflammatory Foods: Keeping Your Skin Cool, Calm, and Collected
The following foods are among the richest sources of compounds that help keep your complexion healthy and youthful by interrupting the inflammatory process.
Berries – The phenolic compounds in blueberries, strawberries, and other berries help block enzymes that contribute to inflammation.
Olive oil – Another great source of anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds—for the highest concentration of these compounds, choose the extra virgin variety.
Cruciferous vegetables – These vegetables belong to the mustard family and include cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, and cauliflower. The vitamin K, the omega-3 fatty acids, and a chemical called ITC in cruciferous vegetables help regulate the body's inflammatory response.
Mushrooms – Mushrooms have been used an anti-inflammatories since ancient times. Porcini, shitake, and oyster mushrooms are particularly good choices.
Onions and garlic – These two members of the allium family of vegetables help prevent inflammation with a potent combination of phenolic compounds. Red onions are particularly high in these anti-inflammatories. They're concentrated in the outer layers, so be sure you don't peel away this portion of the onion.
Sweet potatoes – The anti-inflammatory effects of sweet potatoes come from the pigments that give them their orange or purple color, as well as from their high levels of vitamin A and other antioxidants. To preserve these nutrients cook sweet potatoes by steaming.
Ensuring your diet and your skincare products contain healthy doses of natural anti-inflammatories is a safe, gentle, effective way of protecting your complexion from the damaging effects of inflammation. In my next post, I'll review the major plant-derived anti-inflammatories used in top-quality organic skincare products.