I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love the Mediterranean. Italy is my spiritual home. One aspect of Italian life that I incorporate in my day-to-day habits is the Mediterranean diet. Not only does it benefit general health, but it can also have a profound effect on the function and appearance of your skin!
Skin is, as I frequently say, your body’s external nervous system. If something isn’t functioning optimally, your skin will bear the results. This is true for your sleep patterns, your stress levels, and your diet. If you aren’t treating your body well, your skin will show it. Likewise, a diet loaded with monounsaturated fats and omega fatty acids imbues your skin with a radiant glow. It’s no wonder that one of the five Blue Zones (e.g. areas in which people tend to live longer, healthier lives with fewer physical signs of aging) is in an Italian region with diets rich in healthy fats.
Your body can’t produce its own essential fatty acids—they must come from the foods you eat. Your skin relies on these dietary fats to play several crucial roles. Omega-3 fatty acids are a component of the cell walls in the top layers of your skin, where they help prevent moisture loss and maintain a plump appearance. Within the skin, omega-3 fatty acids help regulate oil production, control inflammation, and fight oxidative damage. Likewise, omega-6 fatty acids like linoleic acid are indispensable to skin’s barrier function and form the building blocks of your skin’s natural ceramides.
I love including lots of olive oil, avocado, and salmon in my diet to replenish my body’s essential fatty acids and get glowing skin from the inside out. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are also fantastic sources of omega-3s. These foods are incredibly common in the Mediterranean Blue Zone diets of Italy and Greece—in fact, those living in the Blue Zone of Icaria, Greece may get as much as 50% of their daily calories from these healthy fats.
Healthy fats mean healthy skin. The structural integrity of your skin, both at the surface and in deeper layers, depends on fats that you can only absorb through your diet. That said, don’t stress over how every little snack will affect your complexion. Dan Buettner, the author of Blue Zones, affirms: “one of the goals to a healthy lifestyle is moderation in all things.” You can enjoy an indulgence every once in a while. True asceticism isn’t sustainable, so live your life, don’t stress the small stuff, and have some chocolate once in a while.
Fun fact: some residents of Sardinia, Italy Blue Zone drink 3-4 small glasses of red wine per day. The high flavonoid content in red wine provides great antioxidant benefits, and moderate wine consumption can help lower stress. Napping is also a regionally common habit with positive stress-management connotations. So have a toast and an afternoon nap over the holidays—it’s good for you!
P.S.: The blog is taking a little holiday vacation. I won’t be posting on Tuesday (Christmas day) or Thursday of next week, nor the first week of January. I’ll be back to our regular schedule on Tuesday, January 8th. Ciao until then!