Five-plus a day is good for the body but what about superfoods for your skin?
Reading about skincare sometimes feels like swotting up on molecular gastronomy. A lot of suspended molecules and dazzling showmanship, with - if you're lucky - some sustenance buried within.
With Viva going foodie this week for its annual Takeout Awards issue, my thoughts have more-than-ever been centred on eating. With skincare on the menu for my column I couldn't help getting my wires crossed and have been looking out for products with ingredients that cover both bases.
Top of the list to increase eating are antioxidant-rich foods. These powerhouses are good for your body and your skin, helping counter the accelerated ageing oxidative effects of free radicals. So it pays to up your consumption of vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables for all-over benefit. Omega fatty acids are another sure-fire winner and these are found in fish and some plant oils.
A TREAT TO EAT
There are plenty of foods that are good for us, but it's harder to isolate those that actually make us look good. We know greasy stuff should be bypassed in favour of healthier takeouts, but some food sources stand out on top of the obvious five-plus a day exhortations.
Nutty not to: Nuts are a great snack and though they are energy-rich and should not be over-eaten, a handful is a great way to hold hunger at bay while also providing a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
Research commissioned from the University of Otago to mark National Nut Day last month highlighted the beauty and other health benefits of including nuts in an everyday diet. They are rich in vitamin E which helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles and apparently they also help give you shiny hair. Diets rich in nuts can also cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and promote weight loss (when eaten in moderation).
The Nutrition Foundation recommends a daily intake of a handful of nuts which is around 30g, equating to around 20 almonds or 15 cashews. Nuts contain less than 5.5g of saturated fat per handful and it is best to consume a mixture for maximum benefits.
"Nuts are a nutritionally dense food and mixing up the types you eat will provide you with different health benefits. The great thing about nuts is you only need to eat a handful to get a wide range of antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals," says the foundation's chief executive Sue Pollard. "Nuts are the ultimate fast food; tasty, convenient and affordable," she says.
In the swim: Eating salmon and other oily fish is an easy way to ingest essential fatty acids while enjoying a quick-to-prepare meal ideal for the summer season. With salmon available on many menus and sold in supermarkets in easy portions for home cooks, access to this great source of nutrients is readily available.
A side-effect of upping your consumption of salmon can be healthier hair growth and supple skin. This is because it is packed with Omega-3s, vitamins and minerals. Long-chain Omega-3s are good for brain and eye health and may help joints as well. Salmon also contains high-quality protein with most of the essential amino acids.
Salmon is a great standby to have on hand for a quick, healthy meal. To make this even easier, Marlborough-based Regal Salmon has recently brought out two handy new cuts of salmon for supermarket sale, Regal Salmon Loins and Salmon Stirfry, both smaller portions of fresh salmon packaged to have a 10-day refrigerated shelf life.
The grilled slamon dish pictured is a 20-minute recipe from Regal and is just the think for spring, served with in-season asparagus. Check out regalsalmon.co.nz/recipes for some delicious ideas on how to increase your uptake.
You'll find plenty of antioxidant-rich ingredients in skincare with current favourites being the likes of coffeeberry, acai and pomegranate extract. The issue is how much difference they make when applied topically and what quantities and combinations this should be in. The answer is it depends who you are talking to, but vitamin-based skincare, with peptides - and, more contentiously, growth factors - thrown in is where the smart money is at.
Certain vitamins applied in stable formulations of good strength do have a clinically proven impact on the skin; the problem for the retail skincare consumer, myself included, is determining if what they are looking at is in that category.
There is also a noticeable push for supplements for skin health. As with many supplements this may be money down the drain, but the right ones certainly can make a difference to hair and nail condition and overall energy levels, so why not skin? It's just that with any changes to skin condition generally being gradual and often judged subjectively through the prism of price and wishful thinking, monitoring results can be trickier than say noticing nails have stopped breaking.
You can get your antioxidants from high-tech cosmeceutical ranges or from natural plant oil extracts; which you prefer is like choosing a favoured style of cuisine, initially the appeal will depend on the eye of the beholder and ultimately satisfaction is best determined by sampling.
1. Trilogy Rosehip Antioxidant + $34.90
Trilogy has built its name on rosehip oil which can improve the look of skin; now it adds antioxidants to a serum to take the fight against free radicals to a new level. These environmental scavengers our skin encounters every day from pollution, sun exposure, diet and stress cause tissue damage and accelerate signs of ageing.
Antioxidants help combat their damaging effect by binding with free radicals to deter attacks on the healthy cells that support skin's structure. In Trilogy's case it takes a natural approach to harnessing their power, by adding antioxidants from tomato and acai berry to essential fatty acids from cranberry and rosehip oils. (From selected pharmacies, health food and department stores)
2. Skin Medica Vitamin C+E complex $173
With vitamins C and E this gives antioxidant facial protection while working on skin tone, texture and firmness. It is fragrance free and like other Skin Medica products the vitamins are stabilised to ensure secure shelf-life without oxidation.
This cosmeceutical company also uses vitamin A in some lines in strong non-prescription concentrations. (From skin therapy clinics including Prescription Skin Care, Clinic 42 and Palm Clinic.)
3. Sans Baobab Regenerative Cream $60
Rich silky body cream is highly hydrating and non-greasy thanks to a decent dollop of vitamin A, plus vitamin E, four omegas and baobab phytolipids. Omega 7 (palmitoleic acid) is drawn from macadamia nut oil and being close to skin's natural sebum absorbs particularly well to help maintain skin suppleness in another example of a natural skincare brand looking to offer advanced approaches. (From Lucy & the Powder Room, stephenmarr.co.nz)
4. Environ AVST Body Oil $95.80
This body oil from vitamin skincare pioneers Environ contains A and antioxidant C and E to nourish dryness and combat sun-damage in all skin types. It can be used with the Cosmetic Body Roll CIT, a professional-style device that allows for dermal rolling at home. Rolling (and needling) is gaining ground as a delivery mechanism for skincare ingredients in beauty clinics. Environ's roller is sold in a sterile pack and is designed to work on crepey skin. It can be used on arms, legs, and the abdomen in a bid to restore skin firmness and improve tone. (For skin specialist and beauty therapy stockists ph (09) 636 1966 or visit psb.net.nz)
Others we like: Priori's Coffeeberry range and Weleda's Pomegranate range also tap into some of the higher-rated antioxidants available.