If cheeseburgers and pizzas are mainstream in your diet, you shouldn’t seem surprised when you spot (no pun intended) a pimple sitting comfortably on your cheek. Just like power foods that boost your health, there are certain nutrients to eat if you want an enviably clear complexion and naturally gorgeous skin. Genetics may play a factor when it comes to skin quality, but working on the inside-out by watching what you put in your body can make a tremendous positive change.
If you already usually eat typical Arabic dishes like balila, foul and lentil soup, where the main ingredients include legumes and garlic, you’ll be happy to know you’re on the right track. Here are five foods for a clearer, glowing, more beautiful skin.
It’s a regional habit to bring out a bag of nuts while entertaining or chillaxing in front of the TV. Well, if you’re prone to breakouts, you have all the more reason to enjoy snacking on some delicious nuts and kernels. A lot of acne sufferers are believed to have deficiencies in minerals such as zinc and selenium. Selenium helps to actively increase and strengthen white blood cells, which protect against skin infections like acne. The antioxidant mineral also helps protect the skin from sun damage and preserves elastin, a protein that keeps the skin smooth and tight. And Brazil nuts, a convenient and healthy snack that can help control hunger pangs, are especially rich in selenium and zinc.
Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats that maintain the skin’s texture and provide it with moisture, and a deficiency in this fat can result in eczema, which causes dry, scaly skin. Thankfully, a significant amount of omega-3 can be found in chia seeds and walnuts, which pack alpha-linolenic acid. Brazil nuts, the beauty bombs we mentioned before, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. What’s more, they’re loaded with vitamin E, a powerful protector from sun damage.
Consider yourself lucky to have so many regional dishes that are tomato based, as these red nutritious gems don’t only boost our brain and immune system, they’re also extremely beneficial to our skin. Like citrus fruits, tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, which helps to keep the skin firm and tight by helping collagen production.
They also contain lycopene, which just loves to take care of our skin. And there are several reasons we should learn to love this red pigment that gives tomatoes their bright red colour back. Lypocene is an excellent antioxidant that helps fight free radicals, caused by inflammation like acne, so it helps to prevent the skin from getting damaged. It also boosts our skin's natural protection factor (SPF), shielding us from the sun's harmful UV rays that cause signs of ageing. Lypocene also helps produce skin cells as well as aiding them to grow and regenerate, giving skin a more even and youthful appearance, basically improving its texture. Plus, the antioxidant assists in making collagen, which is what gives our skin a plumper, brighter appearance. Incidentally, you get higher levels of lypocene in cooked and tinned tomatoes because the cooking process releases it from the plant cells.
Rice is undoubtedly a dietary staple in the Middle East and GCC, however in order to improve your skin’s quality, you should consider switching to the brown kind. Scientists believe that maintaining steady blood sugar levels could be responsible for creating a clearer complexion. White rice causes spikes in blood sugar, as it induces the pancreas to produce more and more insulin to raise sugar levels way up high. In the process, the insulin produced sends signals to the oil (sebaceous) glands on our skin to increase production of sebum. But too much sebum leads to acne breakouts and may damage collagen, deepening wrinkles. Brown rice, however, regulates your sugar levels by releasing energy slowly throughout the day rather than all at once. So it makes sense to try swapping out processed white carbohydrates for brown, wholegrain foods that are lower on the glycemic index.
Plus, brown rice provides a rich source of selenium, the antioxidant mineral that helps protect the skin from inflammation and sun damage and preserves elastin, a protein that keeps the skin smooth and tight. It is also rich in magnesium, fibre, phosphorus, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6 and an excellent source of manganese.
Make sure to get the recipe for that lentil soup, foul or balila you love so much from your mum because it turns out legumes like beans and lentils should be part of your seriously skin-nourishing diet. As well as an abundance of protein, fibre and energy, legumes have a mighty cocktail of vitamins and minerals and are very high in dietary fibre, which is good for digestion and detoxification. All these elements help support your battle for clearer skin.
Plus, as mentioned before, switching from high GI processed carbohydrates, for example pasta and white rice, to low GI carbohydrates like beans and lentils, is thought to help prevent inflammation and flair-ups. Korean researchers found that when adults followed a low–glycemic load diet for 10 weeks, they ended up with less inflamed pimples and red spots. High-glycemic diets are thought to cause high insulin levels, which lead to the hormonal changes that cause acne. Beans, particularly chickpeas, are low on the glycemic index since they’re rich in nutrients that help slow down digestion and lower the blood sugar response.
A lot of dishes from the Arab region are infused with garlic thanks to that punch of flavour it provides. The fantastic news is that garlic, with its powerful antifungal, antiseptic and antibacterial properties, can also do wonders for our skin. These properties help smash acne from within by destroying the acne causing bacteria. Each clove of garlic is loaded with a naturally occurring chemical called allicin. And after it’s digested allicin reacts with the blood to create something that can kill off the many harmful bacteria and viruses that may be lurking in your body, including whatever triggers acne and other skin infections. Allicin also provides anti-ageing and skin smoothing benefits. Plus, it is also known to increase the body’s antioxidant levels.
The strong antioxidants present in garlic also help to make your skin appear firm and youthful as they help in reducing the free radical build up. Additionally, garlic contains sulphur, which also prevents infections and helps in reducing inflammation. It also enhances blood flow, thus giving the skin a natural glow, and helps the body to produce collagen, which help keep wrinkles at bay. Garlic even has a large number of skin-protective polyphenols too. To get the most out of it, try eating it raw by chopping it finely and stirring it into food just before eating.