Skin: Eating Clean for a Healthy Complexion
Terry Walters believes (and lives by) the age old adage: beauty comes from within. But this “within” refers to the food that you ingest. Example: eating more greens, seeds and super-foods. Her two acclaimed cookbooks, Clean Food and Clean Start demonstrate this clean lifestyle in a way that is realistic, delicious, and offers a healthier way of life. Embrace the change – if not for your heart, kidneys and liver, then do it for your complexion. A nutritious diet leads to a more youthful complexion free of acne, wrinkles and dull skin.
Read on for tips on green eating, healthy skin and foods that can help prevent the aging process:
SARAH HOWARD: In layman terms, how does what you eat affect your skin?
TERRY WALTERS: A healthy diet supports good health in countless ways, just as poor choices challenge us to maintain balance and wellbeing. Our skin, as our largest organ, reflects our state of health on the inside and can fluctuate just as our diets do. Increases in sugars (simple and complex), unhealthy fats, processed foods and artificial ingredients create acidity, inflammation and imbalance that effect our skin, hair, nails, and of course, the rest of our body and its “systems”.
SH: Some dermatologists and facialists say that the food you eat is a direct link to break outs while others call that train of thought a myth. What’s the real story?
TW:People break out for a variety of reasons. For some, breakouts can be a result of stress, for others it can be hormonal shifts and still others may never break out at all. I suspect there is little conclusive evidence of certain foods directly linked to breakouts simply because every body is different. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a connection. What we eat is undeniably connected to our overall health and the health of nearly every system in our bodies. Our bodies’ ability to break down the foods we eat also plays a huge role as food sensitivities and compromised digestion are increasingly more common and can be at the root of a variety of symptoms that affect the skin from acne to eczema.
SH: Ever since I was a child, it’s been drilled into my head that chocolate causes acne. Tell me, does it?
TW: I really hope not! In truth, while there’s not convincing evidence that chocolate causes acne directly, there is evidence that acne can be caused by sugar, and even more evidence of a link to hormonal shifts and an increase in acidity, which can be caused by both sugar and caffeine. Unfortunately, both of these ingredients are in our chocolate. Does that mean you need to eliminate chocolate? Definitely not. To get at the root of what’s causing your acne, I’d recommend assessing your overall diet to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need before I’d encourage you to deprive yourself of the foods that nourish you, at least emotionally if not physically, too!
SH: Are there any foods that can actually help with acne?
TW: A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants is your skins best friend. Eliminate processed and refined foods, and strive to eat foods that are minimally processed and come in a rainbow of color. Switch from processed grain products to whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice. Increase your vegetable intake with extra emphasis on greens such as kale, broccoli, collard greens, watercress and sea vegetables that provide essential minerals and support nearly every bodily function. Strive to bring in non-animal sources of protein and healthy fats from legumes, nuts and seeds. Fill in with foods high in antioxidants such as berries and add some lemon or apple cider vinegar to your water to alkalinize and support overall health. The more you focus on bringing in the foods that serve you, the sooner the foods that don’t serve you will fall by the wayside, or will at least move to a healthier place in the mix.
SH: When it comes to aging, any foods that speed up the process?
TW: Processed foods, sugar, artificial ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils and any foods that you can’t translate in your mind you’re likely not to be able to translate in your body either. These combined with a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on your skin and your health.
SH: How about foods that slow down the aging process?
TW: Our food choices together with life-style can help slow the aging process. Antioxidant-rich foods that neutralize free radicals and the damage they do to cells and membranes are a great addition, as are super foods such as blueberries, broccoli, oats, quinoa, pumpkin seed, walnuts and more. Keep your food clean – minimally processed for maximum nutrition – and eat foods that come from the green kind of a plant as opposed to a processing plant. Combine a healthy diet with vitamin D from the sun, fresh air, clean water, ample sleep and exercise, and you’re apt to be feeling and looking younger in no time.
SH: If there was one food everyone should eat to make our skin look its best, what would it be?
TW: I always recommend that people start with greens! Many consider green to be the color of healing, and it happens also to the color most missing in the standard American diet. Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, cabbages, romaine lettuce, watercress, mustard greens, dandelion greens…provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that benefit everything including your liver and heart to your bones and eyes. Greens are known to reduce inflammation, and can even help reduce risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
SH: What’s the perfect diet?
TW: If every body is different, how can there possibly be one perfect diet? Good health is about making conscious choices – one healthy choice at a time, and we can’t make healthy choices unless we know what we’re choosing from. Focus on keeping to foods that are minimally processed so that you can access maximum nutrition. And stick to foods that come from the green kind of plant – whole grains, lots of vegetables, non-animal sources of protein and fat like legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits and super-nutritionals like sea vegetables, antioxidant-rich foods and extra emphasis on greens. That’s what I call CLEAN FOOD – the foods we ALL need more of, not matter what else is on your plate. The more you focus on bringing these foods in, the healthier you’ll be on the inside and out.
SH: Is there a middle ground? Can we still keep our treats?
TW: We all make food choices that nourish something other than our best nutrition! Perhaps it’s an emotional need, a connection to tradition or possibly an addiction (especially if it’s a combination of fat and sugar). The reality is that deprivation doesn’t serve anything and just makes us want those favorite foods even more. Moderation is key! Focus on bringing in the good and making a slow and successful transition to eating clean. All it takes is one clean food a week. If you make that your goal, at the end of the year, even if you only like half of the foods you try, you’ll have 26 new clean foods in your diet. That’s a lot of added nutrition for good health and glowing skin.
*For more of Terry Walters and her health tips, follow her at @terrywalters.