Eat your way to a better complexion

Who knew what you put into your skin is just as important as what you put on it?
By Jen O'Brien

Forget botox and chemical peels, naturopathic doctor and skin-care guru Alan Logan says you can dramatically change the look of your skin by making some adjustments to your diet.

Q: What are the top three ingredients women should add to their diets to encourage optimum skin health?
A: Red and purple foods like blueberries, cherries, red cabbage and blood oranges contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which help blood flow and protect against UV damage.

Whole grains (such as brown rice and whole wheat) keep blood sugar and insulin balanced. Excess sugar has been linked to the malformation of collagen and increased acne in recent clinical trials.

Tomatoes are especially great for your skin because they’re rich in lycopene. An antioxidant, lycopene has been shown to lower certain acne-promoting hormones, and a recent German study found that higher levels led to smoother skin.

Q: In terms of topical treatment, what are a few of your favourite natural remedies?
A: Without question, my top choice is natural vitamin A in the form of retinol. For years, the scientific focus was on higher-strength synthetic topical vitamin A but recently studies have shown that topical natural vitamin A as retinol does have value in skin just takes a bit longer.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (lactic, malic, citric acids) are also great for improving hydration as well as elasticity, and stimulating the production of collagen. Lactic acid is found in fermented dairy products (produced by beneficial bacteria called “probiotics”). Malic and citric acids are found naturally in fruits.

Essential fats, such as omega-3 and fatty acids found in borage oil (gamma-linolenic acid), can protect against UV damage, improve hydration and reduce inflammation in the skin. In addition, new research suggests that these essential fats have so-called “pull and drag” properties which help carry other natural ingredients a bit deeper through the layers of the skin.

Q: Is there a particular edible ingredient that woman with signs of aging should pay attention to?
A: Tomatoes. Research has shown that the absorption of lycopene is enhanced when the tomatoes are subjected to a low-heat saute with olive oil. This is a rare case when heat actually liberates the lycopene. Olive oil also enhances absorption.

Q: What about adult acne? How would you treat this condition with edible ingredients?
A: Two recent studies have shown that a diet high in fibre, lean meats, whole grains, fish and seafood can significantly improve acne versus the standard North American diet. On average, there were 22 less acne lesions in those who adhered to the diet for three months. The key is that in both studies, dietary sugar was kept low. Thus, it is important to avoid high-sugar foods and beverages.

Green tea may be beneficial as it can lower an acne-promoting hormone called DHT, and lycopene may be helpful, as well. Fish is also important because the omega-3 can lower an inflammatory chemical that is known to promote excess sebum.

Q: When cooking are there certain principles to keep in mind if you’re looking to improve the condition of your skin?
A: In general, use low heat and cook with water whenever possible (think stewing, poaching, steaming, slow-cooking, soups). This minimizes AGE chemicals (advanced glycation end-products) that can increase inflammation, oxidative stress and skin-aging when consumed. AGEs are high in foods cooked on high heat without water (baking, frying, grilling).


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