As a dermatologist, people ask me for tips on how to improve their skin all the time.
While I can certainly give lots of recommendations ranging from lifestyle modifications to medical and surgical options, I’ve found that most people, especially travelers and other people on-the-go, are not very willing to put in a lot of work into their skin care regimens.
This is totally understandable. The prospect of lugging around skin care products and spending an extra half an hour in front of the mirror each day may not be very attractive to people who would rather be out there experiencing the most of the world.
Plus, most medical and surgical options require regular check-ups with a dermatologist, which may not be very feasible when you’re jumping from one place to the next.
The good news is, I do know of a way that you can improve and maintain your skin health while on the go – and I’m pretty sure this is something you love to do anyway: EAT!
So to inspire wanderlust and promote healthy skin practices, I’ll be talking about seven delicious meals from around the world that will help improve your skin!
1. Lhzina from Morocco
This orange and olive salad is made of everything that’s good for your skin. Vitamin C from citrus fruits and fennel seeds speeds up the wound-healing process and gives you radiant skin, and it boosts your immune system as well. The olive oil dressing is rich in antioxidants that help slow down skin aging.
If you’re more of a meat-eater, try the djaj mqualli, a Moroccan stew made of chicken, green olives, and lemon. It has the added benefits of ginger and turmeric, both of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
2. Som tam from Thailand
Som tam is basically Thailand cuisine in a salad: it’s sour, hot, savory, salty, and sweet all in one, plus all that papaya packs a punch of vitamins. The most important of these is beta-carotene, a derivative of Vitamin A that helps protect you from the sun’s harmful effects.
While it is not a substitute for sunscreen, adding beta-carotene-rich foods to your diet helps protect the skin against sunburn. So it’s definitely a good idea to load up on this before heading to Thailand’s gorgeous beaches.
You can get beta-carotene from other fruits and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, and mangoes, too. So go ahead and give in to one more plate of khao neeo mamuang (mango and sticky rice). You know you want to!
3. Paella de Marisco from Spain
Believe it or not, eating seafood is not purely an indulgence. The shrimps, mussels, clams and various seafood that makes the paella de Marisco an absolute must-eat when visiting the seaside towns of Spain are packed with astaxanthin, another important Vitamin A derivative.
Astaxanthin has been shown to significantly counteract the harmful effects of ultraviolet A rays on our skin and keeps skin sagging and wrinkling at bay.
The paella’s tomato base also gives us lycopene for that added antioxidant boost and protection from the sun.
4. Kokkinisto from Greece
Kokkinisto, or Greek lamb stew in tomato sauce, is one of those dishes I would eat even if it was bad for me. Luckily, it’s quite a healthy dish! It’s cooked with olive oil, tomatoes (hello, lycopene!), and red wine, which is rich in polyphenols.
Combined with sunscreen protection, polyphenols can protect the skin from the bad effects of ultraviolet radiation, including the risk of skin cancers. Polyphenols can also protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, so make a daily habit of pouring yourself a glass of red wine and drinking to good skin and a healthy heart!
5. Baingan bharta from India
This dish is not only a great way to have more vegetables in your diet (you already know that eggplants, tomatoes, and lime are all good for you and your skin), but it also incorporates India’s wonder spice: turmeric.
Turmeric is an antioxidant that promotes wound healing and suppresses inflammation. It may also prevent certain cancers, including skin tumors. Going beyond skin deep, it’s also good for your liver and protects against diseases of the brain, heart, and kidneys.
Make sure to get more of this spice while you’re in India. It’s frequently used to add a yellow color to dishes, so try to go for the yellow rice – and yes, it’s also in the tandoori chicken.
6. Chirashizushi from Japan
Chirashizushi (literally “scattered sushi”), a bowl of vinegared sushi rice topped with raw fish and vegetables, is absolutely worth waking up at dawn to eat fresh from the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Its most common toppings are salmon and tuna, which are oily fish rich in ubiquinol.
This antioxidant is mainly found on the epidermis, the outermost layer of our skin, and serves as the initial barrier to oxidant assaults. Simply put, ubiquinol slows down the aging process so you can live longer and eat more sushi – not a very vicious cycle at all!
While you’re in Japan, make sure to drink lots of green tea as well. It contains polyphenols that will keep your skin looking fresh and young.
7. Guacamole from Mexico
Last on this list is the yummy guacamole, whose main ingredient – the avocado – is one of the most popular foods for healthy skin.
Avocados contain high levels of essential fatty acids. Don’t be put off by the word “fat,” though. There are definitely good kinds of fat that our body needs for absorbing vitamins and for synthesizing our tissue lipids.
This translates to well-hydrated, supple, and wrinkle-free skin. So go ahead and have one more spoonful of guacamole.
Summary: Foods For Healthy Skin
I hope this short list gave you some ideas on meals and food groups that you can try incorporating into your travels and everyday life.
Remember: rather than focusing on specific foods or taking in high doses of a particular vitamin or nutrient in the form of supplements, the best way to have healthy skin and better overall health is to be generally mindful of your diet.
Eat more fruits and vegetables; add nuts, seeds, and beans into your diet; aim to eat a variety of foods; and always go for the healthy choice.
What are your favourite foods for healthy skin? Let us know in the comments below – we love learning new recipes!