Diet and its reflection on your skin

Diet and its relationship to your skin has always been an interesting topic for scientists, doctors and dietitians throughout the centuries. It has been reported that the skin reflects your inner health status and ageing. We now know that our diets play a major role in the condition and appearance of our skin.

While good skin relies on great skin care, a healthy diet rich in nutrients is crucial. While aging is a natural process that we can’t avoid, fighting off wrinkles can look and taste quite well!

Vitamins, flavonoids (anti-oxidants), omega 3 oils, collagen and a variety of plant  extracts, have been reported to possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to  delay skin aging and improve the appearance of your skin.


Skin Aging

Skin aging consist of two independent processes.  

The natural aging process (INTRINSIC AGING)

This refers to the chronological aging process. It affects the skin in the same way as it affects all internal organs. 

The unnatural aging process (EXTRINSIC AGING) 

This represents the aging of skin as a result of external factors like poor diet, sun exposure, smoking, pollution and sleep deprivation.

For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on the role of your diet in anti-aging. 

Premature Aging and Preventing Wrinkles

When it comes to combating premature aging, prevention is always better than cure. Wrinkles are primarily caused by sun damage and the loss of the proteins collagen and elastin. These two proteins are responsible for keeping the skin young, firm and supple.

Sun damage occurs when the skin is exposed to UV rays, which in turn affects the production of collagen and elastin. Even more so, these rays also encourage the production of free radicals, which then prematurely age the skin. 

Free radicals can easily be counteracted by antioxidants in your diet and therefore prevent the formation of wrinkles


Red Peppers

Red peppers and guava are two foods that contain the highest amount of the anti-oxidant, Vitamin C per portion. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which means that it reduces the damage that free radicals may do to the skin, including wrinkling and inflammation. 

Vitamin C is topically on the skin for lightening, skin pigmentation and helps reduce premature wrinkling by stimulating the growth of collagen. Collagen is a protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin.

Vitamin C is not naturally produced in the body and therefore an adequate  intake from your diet is required. If your diet is low in vitamin C, it will impair collagen production and can lead to premature aging.

Click here for a list of foods that are high in Vitamin C


They may be great for your eyes, but the nutrient found in carrots – beta-carotene – also helps to preserve the youthfulness of the skin by fighting free radicals.

Beta carotene is found in natural colorants in foods such as  carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, mangoes and papaya. 

Olive Oil

Aside from adding olive oil to your salad, it can also play a prominent role in preventing premature aging.

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and this allows it to keep the skin hydrated, which is important as dry skin can cause wrinkles. Aside from that, olive oil is also rich in the free-radical fighting nutrients, vitamin E and A.


Salmon is incredibly rich in wrinkle-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, but apart from that, it also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin. Astaxanthin, which is responsible for salmon’s pink color, helps to fight off free radicals.  The effects of UVA radiation, such as skin sagging or wrinkling can be prevented or at least minimized by topical or oral administration of astaxanthin.  To make the most of the anti-aging effect of omega-3 and astaxanthin aim for at least 300g of oily fish i.e. salmon, trout, sardines or pilchards per week.

Dark Chocolate

Polyphenols are powerful micronutrients that our bodies need. Due to their antioxidant properties, they have numerous health benefits and may offer protection from the development of cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Also Polyphenols, combined with sunscreen protection, have the ability to protect the skin from the adverse effects of UV radiation, including the risk of skin cancers.

Good sources of polyphenols are cocoa powder and dark chocolate, berries, beans, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, red onion, spinach, black and green tea and red wine. It is important to know that the way in which we prepare foods that contains polyphenol can actually reduce the levels of polyphenols.  For example, onions and tomatoes lose between 75% and 80% of their initial content when boiled for over 15 min, 65% when cooked in a microwave oven and 30% when fried.

Go for fresh and you will feel the benefits.

 It is never too late to start

Even people who already have signs of premature skin aging can benefit from making lifestyle changes. By protecting your skin from the sun, you give it a chance to repair some of the damage. Smokers who stop often notice that their skin looks healthier.

Are the signs of an ageing skin bothering you and you do not know how to introduce changes to your diet? Contact me for a consultation as I can help you make changes to your diet and lifestyle to help improve your skin and avoid accelerated aging!


Are you buying JUNK supplements

The supplement market in South Africa has never been bigger. Nearly every supermarket, chemist and plenty of health stores sell these. The question however with this great supply is do you really know what you are buying and putting into your body?

Analysis of omega-3 fatty acid content of South African fish oil supplements

A recent study on Omega-3- fish oils in South Africa, tested 45 commercially available products to see how much fish oil they contain.  Remarkably they found that more than half of the omega -3 supplements on the market contained less than 89% of the claimed content on the label. A majority of the capsules contained conjugated diene (CD) levels higher than that of vegetable oil from opened containers, indicating rancidity despite the addition of Vitamin E.

Probiotics for vaginal health in South Africa: what is on retailers’ shelves?

Similarly in 2003, a study was published where the researchers took 9 probiotics of South African shelves and sent it to a laboratory in Ghent, Belgium. The study showed that where was a poor correlation between the amount of bacteria on the label and the actual amounts. Only 3 of the 9 products tested, contained the bacteria as stated on the label, and 5 products had enough probiotic in them to have a desired effect. An evaluation of nine probiotics available in South Africa, August 2003.

How can this be true you should think?

South African Consumers has grown accustomed to the high quality of the manufacture of medicinal products and usually accept without question the consistency purity and potency of non prescription products. There would be no reason to doubt what is stated on the supplement label

Well, since there is no formal regulatory structure for any supplements in South Africa, consumers are open to buy just about anything – which could or could not be what it states on the label.  The nutraceutical industry does not have to comply to assurance of product quality, consistency, potency or purity. Is it not just the easiest thing to produce a product, put a label on it and sell to the public?

You should however be thinking about this. We want optimum nutrition for ourselves and our children. We know we have rushed lifestyles and not consuming the nutrients we need on a daily bases. We are bombarded with supplemental advertisements and feel guilty for not looking after ourselves properly. You might have a medical condition and try to manage some symptoms with supplements. Now I have made you worry……

I think there is a simple rule where it comes to the use of supplements:

Rule 1: Do research on the efficacy of the products that you buy

Check the label to see where your supplement was produced. Bigger supplement companies have facilities where supplement are tested and have medical teams who work in them. This information is easily found on the internet. If your supplement has little information available on it, better choose another. If your supplement is imported, there is a big possibility that supplements are overseen by a governing body.

Rule 2: Where do you go to buy supplements?

Supplements are best purchased from practitioners that has in-depth knowledge about the usage, indications and side effects of supplements. Some supplements can also interact with medication so it is best not to just choose of the shelf.  Health shops are also good starting points. Usually not your big chain pharmacies, or supermarkets.

Rule 3: Seek advice before using supplements

There is none such a thing as a one supplement for all. In all honesty every person that I consult have a different requirement for supplements. Don’t fall into the trap of buying things for example calcium, an immune booster or even multivitamins without knowing whether you need it. A specialised dietitian or a doctor specialising in nutrition and supplements can do an assessment for you based on your dietary intake, blood results and if you want to do a higher grade assessment, you can add your DNA test to see what your body requires

Rule 4: Ensure  you using the correct dosage of  supplement

Carefully look at the contents of the supplement whether it gives enough of the product to have a desired effect. For instance, if your calcium and vitamin D dosage is too low, it will not necessarily ensure adequate bone …..

If your probiotic dose is too low, it will have a minimal effect on the symptom or health benefit (i.e. immune support) you are trying to support. If your omega-3-dosage is too low, you cannot expect it to help with your joint pains for example.

If you spend enough time on the internet, you will be able to establish the right dosages for your gender and age group, but instead of wasting your precious time, rather have a chat with a professional.

Rule 5: Timing of supplement use

Did you know that certain types of calcium should be taken with food and others without. That only 300mg of calcium is absorbable at a time, so if you take a 500mg tablet, you are effectively wasting your supplements. Some nutrients cannot be taken with calcium, iron for example will bind to calcium and should best be taken alone. There are many more where this is concerned. Ensure that you know how much of your product you need and when the best time is to take it.

General advice

My general advise to you is that most people should consider the use of a Multivitamin, Omega 3 oil and Vitamin D. Our lifestyles these days are rushed and leading to skipped meals, poor planning and preparation and poor nutrient intakes.  On the long run deficiencies can set in which can adversely affect your mood, health and energy levels.

These days there is advanced tools like DNA testing which specifically indicates whether your body is in need of certain nutrients specifically the B vitamins, Folate , calcium, anti-oxidants and more. Obviously diet is first choice, however with increased needs of certain nutrients, dietary intake is not feasible.

I am a perfectionistic of nature and always send my patients to do some blood tests before a decision is made on what supplements and the dosages, specifically when it comes to single nutrients like vitamin D, Iron, Vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium intakes.

Each persons body is different and the DNA determines what your exact needs are. Therefore I do a DNA analysis followed by blood analysis to deliver an expert opinion of requirements of a patient.

Remember that all is not bad. There are many Reputable companies in the USA and other countries that regularly test their products in laboratories to ensure efficacy, purity and correct dosage.  Some even have research studies behind their products. These product are often more costly due to this factor, however rather invest in your future than taking supplements with its only benefit is the placebo effect.

So next time you are temped to take that two for the price of one special…… Think twice.