There’s been much ado about the Mediterranean style diet of late with headline after headline touting its benefits for heart health and longevity.
The latest study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people at increased risk for heart disease who ate a Mediterranean diet slashed their risk of strokes and heart attacks by 30%.
That’s major in its own right, but this way of eating will help you look better too, says Nikolaos Metaxotos MD, PhD, President & CEO of Symmetria in Athens, Greece. (And he should know, he’s Greek!) “A Mediterranean diet will not only improve your body’s health, but will also improve the appearance and health of your skin,” he tells Beauty in the Bag.
One of the key ingredients of a Mediterranean-style diet is olive oil—which is rich in vitamin E. “Premature aging of the skin is a direct result of the free radicals that are created from excess exposure of the body in the sun, the detrimental natural environment ,and our food choices,” he explains. Vitamin E—in combination with the other antioxidants found in olive oil—decrease the amount of free radicals and delay the signs of aging.
Healthy Skin Tip No 1: Use olive oil instead of butter when sauteing your veggies. Remember more is not merrier. Olive oil is a healthy fat, but it still has calories.
The traditional Mediterranean diet also is replete with such colorful fruits and vegetables as strawberries, peppers, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, and broccoli. Many of these are loaded with vitamin C and caretenoids. Vitamin C packs a one-two punch against skin aging. C has potent antioxidant qualities and also is important for collagen synthesis. Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin, and gives it the stretchy, elastic quality most associated with youth. Our collagen supply tends to diminish with age, but vitamin C helps reboot our natural collagen supply.
“The beauty of carotenoids is that they take preventative action over the skin and they act as natural sunscreens,” Metaxotos says. (This doesn’t mean skipping your sunscreen.)
Beta-carotene generates more melanin, which protects the skin from exposure to the sun. “Your body cells are only capable of producing natural melanin when they are exposed to the sun and beta-carotene is needed to support this process,” he says. “Moreover, beta-carotene is also known for its antioxidant properties that classify this nutrient as a vital contributor in the prevention of the skin’s photo-aging.”
Healthy Skin Tip No 2: Eat vitamin and carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables daily. Saute carrots, spinach, kale, collard greens, or bell peppers in olive oil, and add tomatoes to your salad.
The Mediterranean diet also is hot on fish and nuts, which are primary sources of omega-3s, he says. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to improving overall skin appearance, health and shine, because of their strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Healthy Skin Tip No. 3: Go Fish! Eat fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel at least two or three times a week.
We can’t talk about the Mediterranean style diet without mentioning wine. Red wine, in particular, is teeming in antioxidants called polyphenols, including resveratrol. “There is a good study from Germany showing that red wine consumed orally protects against sunburn, and red wine extracts such as resveratrol are becoming popular skin care ingredients because they are among the most powerful antioxidants,” says Seattle plastic surgeon Richard A. Baxter, MD.
Healthy Skin Tip No. 4: Moderate alcohol consumption can have important health benefits. This means one glass of red wine a day for women and two for men.