Updated: 5 days ago
What is plant-based?
When we think of plant-based food, perhaps it reminds us of hippy lentils, a tasteless lettuce leaf, or a stinky side of broccoli. But a plant-based diet is so much more than that.
Plant-based food for skin includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, beans and plant oils. It can be excitingly versatile and rich in flavour. Think coconut milk chickpea curry, spicy mung bean hummus with lime and garlic or chocolate mousse made with cacao and avocado. Yum!
A whole-food, plant-based diet is a little different and arguably healthier since it focuses on whole and processed foods as little as possible, eliminating foods such as oils, refined sugars and bleached flours.
A plant-based diet includes foods that have many health benefits and help to prevent many health conditions, leading to better quality and longer life:
Improves skin condition
Lowers blood pressure, heart disease and type II diabetes
Helps with weight loss
Reduces LDL bad cholesterol
Reduces risk of cognitive-related diseases and disorders
Increases diversity and number of gut microbiota
Plant-based for the environment
The food industry, which includes land usage, transport, factory processing, retail consumption and waste, generates around one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the Earth is getting hotter, devastatingly affecting biodiversity, climates and global food supply.
By 2050, an enormous 10 billion people will live on the planet, nearly double the current population. How and what we eat significantly impacts our ability to sustain the planet's and population's needs.
By taking steps to focus on a plant-based diet and eat fewer products derived from animals, we can dramatically decrease greenhouse gases and reduce the alarming rate of deforestation caused by raising livestock. Eating less meat is one of the most significant steps that we can take to make a difference in sustaining our existence on Earth. We can make a difference from today!
Plant-based for skin
Plant-based foods are incredibly rich in compounds such as Vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, polyphenols and phenolic acid, which are antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and improve the skin's structural integrity.
Take a look at these potent foods. Eating these will be hugely beneficial for your skin:
Increase hydration, increase brightness, reduce hyperpigmentation
Mango (beta-carotene, vitamin C, flavonoids, mangiferin):
Melon (vitamin C, beta-carotene):
Orange (vitamin C, flavonoids):
Passion fruit (piceatannol):
Pomegranate (punicalagin, ellagic acid):
Almonds (alpha-tocopherol, unsaturated fatty acids):
Soybean extract (isoflavones):
Green tea (catechins):
Coffee extract (coffee polyphenols):
Increase blood flow
Cacao (cacao flavanols, catechins):
Increase blood flow
Water makes up two-thirds of our bodies. So it's simple: drink more! Well, maybe not quite so simple as that. You need at least 2 litres of water per day if you are female and 2.5 litres of water as a male.
Stick to drinking water as fruit juices on their own, and drinks with added sugar are not optimal for hydration, can add unnecessary calories to our diet and are not great for your pearly whites. If you need an extra zing, add a slice of lemon. Even carbonated water can add a refreshing kick. If you sweat a lot through exercise or in hot weather, you need to drink more to replace the electrolytes lost in the sweat and ensure you are replacing fluids quickly.
You can make a sports drink by adding half juice, half water and a pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon salt for 4 cups of water/juice mix), providing you with some of the necessary electrolytes or purchase an electrolyte replacement powder. Natural coconut water is full of electrolytes and an excellent sports drink, although it carries a price tag and some calories, so if you are not on the tennis court or a runner, keep water to hand instead.
Dehydration can increase the appearance of fine lines and unwanted skin conditions, including dryness and itching. Staying hydrated is very important for good skin. It helps carry nutrients to and flushes away waste from the skin. In addition, hydration is essential to help the skin act as a barrier, preventing germs and irritants from entering the body.
When we consume foods we are allergic to, our body reacts with immune responses. It produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) to fight the perceived 'threat' by instructing mast cells to produce inflammatory histamine. Unfortunately, this can cause a severe reaction in the body, sometimes life-threatening.
Food intolerances/insensitivities are different. Consuming foods we are intolerant to invokes a reaction via the gut, and they will not break down properly, leading to discomfort and bloating and sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, heartburn, headaches and an irritable mood. Skin can also be affected. Food intolerances may cause redness, itching, swelling or a rash. Look out for these symptoms, start writing a food diary along with your symptoms, and consult your general practitioner or dietician.
Taking steps to work towards a plant-based diet
It's all about baby steps. If you are a meat-eater, you can reduce the number of days you consume meat. To begin with, try cutting out red meat, then poultry, and if you want to go even further, fish. Luckily there are no health detriments if you cut out animal products as long as you eat a varied plant-based diet.
If you doubt the range of plants you are eating, supplement with at least vitamin B12, vitamin D and plant-based omega 3, as these are a little harder to keep at optimal levels. It's always best to get a routine blood test with your physician to check you are on the right track. Plants contain all the nutrients you find in animals. You need to eat a broader range of foods, which is also excellent for healthy gut bacteria!
Gradually cut out dairy (foods produced from an animal such as milk or products made from that milk like yoghurt or cheese). Dairy is known to have some detrimental effects on the skin, such as acne. Sometimes it is one of the hardest to cut out as cheese tastes so good! Thankfully, we have so many choices with dairy alternatives these days. Buy some plant-based options such as oat milk or coconut yoghurt and give them a go. Just watch out for added ingredients that make these products unhealthier, such as oils in milk or sugar in yoghurt. Better to add fresh fruit to the porridge you make with milk.
Now, if you already relish in a plant-based diet, here are a few baby steps you can take to make sure you are doing what you can to optimize your health and help the planet:
Check how many 'processed' or 'ready-made' products you use as meal replacements. Whole food ingredients are fine, but if the product lists an element with an unfamiliar chemical name, it's better to avoid it!
Do you know if any food products have added oils or sugars? A little oil is fine, but watch out if you consume it daily in products such as milk. Natural fats in whole foods are very healthy, but oil is processed, and we don't need much of it. The same goes for sugar. Fruits, even dried fruits, are safe, but we want to avoid products with added refined sugar which is processed. These can play havoc on our skin.
Have you ever consciously included any delicious fermented foods in your diet? Foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are all made by using microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria. They break down sugars in the food anaerobically (without oxygen) and produce very beneficial compounds for our health, giving the food a unique taste and better shelf life. They are easy to make too!
Are you varying your plants? Pack your shelves with different plant foods and change them daily. Gut microbiome heaven! Vary colours and add plenty of fresh herbs.
Throw leftover veggies in smoothies or soups, freeze food so that it can be stored for later if you have too much in the fridge and plan your meals so you don't buy too much at the store and create food waste. Try to buy produce that is in season and local. These are all great ways of saving money and the planet. Buy a couple of plant-based recipe books for inspiration. There are so many authors creating delicious and easy recipes.
Plant-based recipes for skin
Smooth skin mango smoothie
1 x cup mango
1 x tbsp almond butter
1 x carrot
1 x cup probiotic yoghurt
½ cup oats
1-2 cups filtered water (depending on desired thickness)
4 x dates
1 x tbsp hemp seed
Add ingredients to a blender and blend for one minute. Add 2 cups of ice and blend for another minute. Pour, serve and enjoy radiant skin!
Matcha Better Skin Iced Latte
1-2 tbsp matcha powder (depending on desired taste)
4 x dates (more or less depending on desired sweetness)
3 x cups oat or soy milk
1 x tbsp hemp seed
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend for one to two minutes. Pour the mixture onto some ice and enjoy a skin makeover!
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