We break down the foods you should be eating for a younger complexion.

Even with all of the miracle creams, magic serums, and skin-care superheroes on the market today, your diet is what is going to be written across your face. The “face diet” may sound like the latest diet fad, but it makes a lot of sense. Our bodies break down the food we eat for energy and building materials, which means our complexions are telling, especially if we’re missing crucial vitamins and minerals in our daily meals.

Here are some of the most important components of the face diet:

Omega-3s

Omega-3s, which have been in the limelight for quite a while, are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by our bodies naturally. Omega-3s help to protect the structure of the cell membrane: they control which nutrients can enter and exit the cell, and also aid with water retention, keeping our skin hydrated and supple. Omega-3s also act as antioxidants to fight off free radicals, which damage our collagen.

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Foods with Omega-3s: Salmon, tuna and mackerel. Ensure an adequate intake by eating three four-ounce servings per week. If you don’t eat fish regularly, stock up on flax seeds and walnuts: one ounce of walnuts will give you the equivalent omega-3s of three and half ounces of salmon.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C increases our collagen production, fighting off lines and wrinkles. L-ascorbic acid, a common anti-aging ingredient, is a derivative of vitamin C. While not a sunscreen, vitamin C also protects the skin from UV rays by acting as an antioxidant, and repairing UV-damaged cells. Water soluble, excess amounts of Vitamin C are excreted instead of being stored in fat in our body, so our sources need to be replenished daily.

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Foods with Vitamin C: Eat plenty of sweet potato, spinach, broccoli, strawberries and tomatoes.

Zinc

Zinc, a hard working mineral, helps to regulate the sebaceous glands’ function, which are responsible for producing sebum. Our hormones also control our sebaceous glands— explaining why we often experienced troubled skin as teenagers, our hormones ran wild! Zinc actually metabolizes the hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the hormone that increases sebum production.

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Foods with Zinc: Red meat, whole grains, pumpkin seeds and cashews.

Water

This may seem like an obvious one, but its important nonetheless. Our skin needs 32 to 64 ounces of water a day, or four to eight cups.  Dehydrated skin porduces more sebum, which attempts to compensate for the lack of moisture causing an oily appearance and pesky breakouts. Our skin can also get flaky and lack-lustre. So drink up! Besides hydrating, water also helps to flush out toxins in the body.

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Eating well isn’t always easy—sometimes it just feels faster and more convenient to eat fast food, and then down a few supplements. But because you take supplements and vitamins doesn’t give you free reign to eat as unhealthy as you like! While supplements are good, especially if you have dietary restrictions, the nutrients from whole foods are always best. It’s important to keep a healthy balanced diet. Look at the Canadian Food Guide to know what your daily intake should be. In fact, many packaged foods and fast foods are very high in omega-6 (found in soybean oil). Omega-6 is important for blood clotting, but can also cause a lot of unwanted inflammation in the body. Balance is key: omega-3 and omega-6 are both essential, and work to complement each other.

Inflammation in the face and body results from the immune system feeling attacked and typically shows itself in the physical symptoms of redness and swelling. Often a high-carb, low-protein diet is the culprit. When we eat foods high in carbohydrates, like refined sugars and white-bread products, our insulin spikes to help digest the foods. This spike upsets our immune systems, leading to inflammation. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals—especially our skin-favourites above—will not only give you a clear complexion, but lots more energy for a noticeable glow.