How to Eat Your Way to Amazing Skin—According to a Dermatologist
I am a strong believer that what you eat shows up on your face. It’s not always been the case. When I was a kid, my dad used to say that chocolate gave him spots, but being pre-puberty and a big fan of Kinder, I just ignored him. Funny then, that fast-forward 20 years and it was food, or rather skimmed milk to be precise, that was the cause of my hormonal acne (you can read about my acne and milk story here). Dads know best, apparently.
The thing is, besides avoiding skimmed milk like the plague—yes, I’ve been known to yell over the counter in coffee shops manically pointing, “the blue bottle, the full-fat milk!” to bemused looking baristas—I live pretty free and loose with my diet. I try to eat good fats and lean protein where I can, but then I also love sugar (I know, I know) and eating out at restaurants where “low” and “fat” are dirty words.
I know that what I eat is literally staring me in the face each day; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley gave up dairy, gluten and alcohol on Dr. Nigma Talib’s recommendation after she identified different skin complaints linked to those food groups. It was recently that I was chatting with another expert Dr. Rachel Eckel, a board-certified dermatologist and the principal trainer for ZO Skin Health, who believes the same as Dr. Talib. Eckel told me “diet is a huge factor when it comes to good skin.” But does she practice what she preaches, I asked. “When it comes to my diet I’m real good, so much so what when I go on trips I pre-plan my meals.” Naturally I wanted to know everything she eats and why, keep scrolling to find out the two skin damaging foods Dr. Eckel never eats…
“Great skin is partly down to genetics, but we can maximise our genes with what we eat,” Dr. Eckel told me. “If you want to eat for better skin, you need to adopt a low-GI diet because we know sugar is the enemy. It causes glycation [Ed note: where the collagen becomes dry and brittle and is no longer plump], and also leads to inflammation. Sugar—just get rid of it. “
“The second thing to ditch is unrefined foods. It is so important that your food is not refined,” emphasises Dr. Eckel. “Refined foods are foods that have been processed; eating something as close to its wholesome natural self is much better than something processed. Refined foods are often high sugar—take low fat peanut butter, for instance, the fat is swapped with sugar. Same thing with skimmed milk, you’re swapping the fat for sugar, otherwise it would taste awful. An unrefined, low-sugar diet is a great way to improve skin,” Dr. Eckel says.
“You have to always remember that fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, a study found that artificial sugars (found in lots of diet foods) increase the bad flora in your gut and actually alter the way your body handles sugar. If you eat a lot of artificial sugar and sweeteners and then eat, say, a muffin, the artificial sugar will alter your insulin response to real sugar and cause a much greater spike, this in turn can cause you to store fat as well as inflammation, which we know is not good for skin.”
But is a low-sugar, unrefined diet really feasible for busy working women? Dr. Eckel who travels the world for work believes it is. Keep scrolling to find out what Dr. Eckel eats in a typical day…
Dr. Rachael Eckel’s Version of Mike Dolce’s Breakfast Bowl:
2 tbsp. of oat bran With oat bran you get the maximum benefit of oats, without the additional carbs that you don’t need.
1 tbsp. of chia seeds, for omega-3
1 tbsp. hemp seeds, for protein
30 g of almonds
75 g of blueberries and 50 g of strawberries—these are low-GI fruits
The secret ingredient is 5 g of psyllium husk. It is fibre from a plant, but when you add water to it, it makes the breakfast bowl gooey like porridge.
Water, add gradually and stir until you reach the consistency you like.
A piece of low-GI fruit—a pear or apple—with a small handful of almonds or walnuts.
At around 3 p.m. I have another piece of low-GI fruit, plus another small handful of almonds. Or I’ll blend up some blueberries with coconut water to make a shake.
I usually have plain salmon; I always cook with coconut oil or grapeseed oil on a medium heat. I’ll serve this with some steamed broccoli or asparagus.
Incite Nutrition Probiotics Food Supplement ( £30 ) (£13)
I take a probiotic supplement every day. I have whatever I can find, but I make sure that it has a good number of cultures, around 10 billion. I used to take omega-3 because it's great for the skin, but I eat so much of it that I don't need to supplement.