Having a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity is important for your overall health and wellbeing, as it can help reduce your risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, and even help you to maintain a healthy weight as well as boost your mood. However, diet and exercise can also have an effect on the skin – both positive and negative – all depending on the types of foods you eat and how much physical activity you’re getting.

Diet and the Skin

I always recommend patients eat a healthy diet – particularly diets that are low in carbohydrates. This means avoiding things like white bread, white rice, and white pasta, as these are foods that contain little to no nutritional value and can contribute significantly to weight gain, which puts you at risk of developing other health problems, such as heart disease. Sugar is also something that is found in many of the foods that we eat, and is commonly used to improve the taste of beverages like tea and coffee – but this, too, is something that should be avoided, as it can also contribute to weight gain in addition to things like tooth decay (cavities.)

When it comes to how a poor diet might impact the skin, you may notice things like loss of elasticity as well as inflammation. Excess sugar consumption can cause things like free radical damage, reduces antioxidants, and can even cause yellowing of the skin (jaundice) over time. To improve the skin, you need to cut out refined sugars and replenish antioxidants. This will improve skin cells, which will ultimately improve the appearance of your skin and even result in improved energy levels. Below are just some foods that are known to benefit the skin.

Leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach and kale) all contain vitamins, including A, C, E and K, which are all vital for the health of our skin. Kale also contains something known as lutein, which helps absorb free radical damage caused by UV light. If you’re someone who has dry skin and are looking for natural ways to boost your skin’s moisture, you need essential fatty acids, which can be found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, fish and oils (such as flaxseed oil.) Protein is another important building block for the skin (as well as other parts of the body such as our bones, muscles, cartilage and blood), and can be found in things like eggs, poultry, fish, red meats, beans and legumes. If you drink a lot of tea or coffee, considering switching to green tea, as it is a healthier alternative. It contains polyphenols, which can slow down some of the signs of aging, contains antioxidants, and works as a natural anti-inflammatory. Chocolate might not be something you would think to be good for the skin – dark chocolate, however, can be (though it is always important to consume it in moderation.) It not only fights free radical damage, but also contains antioxidants and flavanols, which can improve the skin’s elasticity, decrease wrinkles, and more.

Exercise and the Skin

Keeping fit can help detoxify the skin and improve its radiance, which for some people can be a confidence booster. Increasing your physical fitness also helps stimulate the production of collagen and human growth hormones, as well as reduces both free radical damage and cellulite. Essentially, having a poor diet and lifestyle will increase the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, cause cellulite, breakouts, and decrease your energy – while following a good, healthy diet will improve the health of cells, plump the skin, clear the skin, improve the skin’s hydration, and boost your energy.

To reap the benefits, you should increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats, while decreasing things like white breads, cereals, sweets and fizzy drinks (such as sodas.) To avoid premature aging, alcohol should also be avoided, while you should instead increase your intake of water as it can speed up blood flow, improve lymphatic drainage, and promote high levels of hydration – all of which ensure good skin health. With inadequate levels of hydration, you may notice dull complexion as well as have an uneven skin tone, and have higher levels of dehydration which, if severe, could result in hospitalization for intravenous fluids.