There is a clear connection between the foods we eat and the appearance of our skin and overall health. Foods high in sugar cause increased inflammation and acne breakouts. Having the right nutrition fueling our bodies can directly affect our mind, gut, body, and appearance of our skin. Luckily, we can help control our skin issues with the foods we consume.
Mediterranean Diet Basics
The Mediterranean Diet is inspired by the foods eaten in countries around the Mediterranean Sea such as Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Italy. Although each country’s cuisine is unique, the commonality is a health-conscious style of cooking resulting in one of the healthiest dietary guidelines to follow.
The basics of a Mediterranean Diet are a high intake of healthy plant foods and a low intake of animal proteins. This is a proven way to decrease your risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative disease and many more.
Foods to include: Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil.
Foods to eat in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
Foods to limit and/or avoid: Limit Red meat and avoid added sugars, processed meats, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods.
Fish is the one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean Diet. Fatty fish is the best source of natural omega-3 fatty acids which contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects on total body inflammation and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease.
How This Diet Balances your Skin
Reduced Inflammation: One of the main benefits you can receive from following a Mediterranean diet is reduced inflammation in the body. Internal and external inflammation can be caused by the body’s response to continuous stimulation of the immune system, something our American diet triggers often with its highly processed foods and high carbohydrate intake. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is fresh foods, whole grains and healthy fats and proteins which will lower inflammation and can even help skin inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Acne Prevention: Research has found that diet is a potential cause of acne, specifically a Western/American diet with a high glycemic index. A Mediterranean diet contains a naturally low glycemic index with fresh ingredients which can help stabilize oil production in skin. A high glycemic index increases inflammation, hormones and oil production which can cause clogged pores and oily skin. Fish, olive oil and vegetables are ideal to help control acne flare ups. High glycemic levels range from 70-100, medium ranges from 56-69 and low is 55 or less.
Antioxidants: Many foods included in this diet have high levels of antioxidants focusing on the high intake of vegetables and fruits. Antioxidants taken orally through fruits and vegetables can be very effective in keeping skin healthy, supporting collagen, and improving circulation. Antioxidants are essential for fighting against free radicals inside the body, repairing damaged skin and reducing signs of aging. Pairing the Mediterranean diet with topical forms of antioxidants such as a Vitamin C can improve your complexion.
Hydration: Hydration levels are increased when consuming a Mediterranean diet due to its high-water content. With many of the foods found in this diet having a high percentage of water, it will help to replenish the skin’s natural water retention levels. Additionally, it is important to drink plenty of water for the best results.
Diets high in sugar and animal fats cause generalized inflammation in the body. This inflammatory process increases the work the body must do to repair the cellular stress we experience causing the body to age more quickly overall. The direct effect on the skin is mainly caused by inflammatory processes like acne, and other inflammatory skin disorders which can worsen by a poor pro-inflammatory diet.
Primary skin disease is not cured by your diet, but a poor diet makes your skin condition much worse.
Quick & Healthy Recipe Idea
Examples of healthy Mediterranean snacks to eat between meals include: a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, carrots, berries or grapes, Greek yogurt, or apple slices with almond butter. Below, you will find one of Dr. Zenovia's favorite salad recipes.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad Recipe
2-3 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved (or left whole, if desired)
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 long English cucumber, chopped
1 cup chopped kale
1 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
kalamata olives (optional)
For the dressing: 2 tablespoons olive oil. juice of one lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons lemon juice), sea salt and pepper (to taste)
- In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, kale, red onion and parsley.
- Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the salad ingredients and add the salt and pepper.
- Toss everything together well and serve, or store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days (for meal-prep).
Celebrate Mediterranean Diet Month and enjoy the lifelong benefits!