We’ve all heard the adage - “you are what you eat.” While this is not 100% true,
your skin does reflect what you do or don’t consume. Eating foods for healthy skin can address your complexion concerns from the inside out while being just as delicious. "We've compiled the best foods for healthy skin so that you can focus on the fun part...eating!"
Antioxidant-rich Foods for Healthy Skin
Antioxidants fight free radicals that damage the skin and trigger signs of aging. Beyond choosing antioxidant-rich natural skin care products, foods with high concentrations of these protective vitamins promote healing and help prevent and repair signs of aging. They ward off oxidative damage from stress, pollution, poor diet, sun overexposure, and smoking. The best sources are fruits and vegetables high in Vitamins A & C, dark chocolate, green tea, and red wine. Beta Carotene is natural Vitamin A found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (cantaloupe, carrots, mangoes, oranges, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and yams).
Other sources include green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, lettuce, spinach), watermelon, and tomatoes. Dark leafy greens and broccoli also contain Vitamin C - checking off two boxes for a healthy natural skin care diet. Fruits high in Vitamin C include strawberries, black cherries, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, and red bell peppers (yes, the last two are indeed fruits!) found to help promote collagen production and protect against sun damage. Strawberries also contain anthocyanins that guard against damaging UV rays.
Healthy Fats For Healthy Skin
Healthy fats nourish the skin from within, promote wound healing, prevent inflammation and moisture loss, enhancing barrier function. They also improve circulation and facilitate waste elimination, which is vital for acne, rosacea, dry skin, signs of aging, and sensitivity. Foods rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) help produce prostaglandins, support wound healing, moisturize, and control inflammation. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of EFA found in fish and flax oil that support rosacea, dry skin, aging, and acne. Studies show that Omega-3s protect the skin’s collagen from damaging UV rays, making them a healthy skin diet essential.
Since our bodies don’t make EFAs, here are top sources:
- Seeds (chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, safflower, sesame, and sunflower)
- Canola oil
- Olives and olive oils
- Oily fish (herring, mackerel, salmon) or fish oil
- Nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts)
Inflammation is at the root of a wide range of skin issues, including acne, rosacea, eczema, and aging. Target “inflamm-aging”, and you will be doing your skin a huge favor. There is a whole host of inflammation-fighting foods beneficial for skin health. Take in the following and watch your skin start to glow:
- Pineapple - Bromelain, the enzyme in this tropical fruit, provides immune system and anti-inflammatory support.
- Berries & grapes - Resveratrol found in grapes, blueberries, and cranberries helps combat skin inflammation by neutralizing unstable molecules and helping the body make its own antioxidants.
- Leafy greens - Collards, kale, and spinach have a high antioxidant and polyphenol content that helps protect the skin against inflammation.
- Red wine & coffee - Drink your way to healthier skin in moderation with these beverages backed by the protective benefits of polyphenols.
- Chocolate - High in fiber, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants, it boosts circulation, oxygenation, and skin nutrition.
- Vitamin E-rich foods - Antioxidant Vitamin E found in almonds, dairy, fortified cereals, peanuts, and meat neutralizes free radicals while alleviating inflammatory skin issues.
- Zinc - Present in fortified cereals, chicken, and red meat, this micronutrient is beneficial for keeping inflammation at bay.
Superfruits: The Best Foods For Healthy Skin
Superfruits laden with vitamins and nutrients are the biggest supporters of skin health.
- Grapes are bursting with potassium, polyphenols, Vitamin C, and other antioxidants that smooth, hydrate, protect and slow cell breakdown as we age. In addition to healing, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and immune-boosting benefits, they contain melatonin to improve beauty sleep. The only thing you should be asking yourself is red, purple, seedless, or seeded.
- Acai berries rank amongst the top foods for healthy hair and skin due to high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory Vitamin E, plus circulation-enhancing benefits.
- Blueberries contain antioxidant anthocyanin, which lends this superfruit its blue hue, counteracting free radical damage to help ward off signs of aging. And while it seems blueberry muffins would work skin magic, unfortunately, the sugar and white flour cancel out the benefits.
- Cranberries are full of flavonoids, a type of polyphenol powerhouse found to thwart oxidation in its tracks.
- Pomegranate’s seed-like arils have Vitamin B5, polyphenols, punicic acid, and Omega-6 fatty acids that speed up cell turnover and help clear breakouts.
Additional Age-Fighting Foods
Lean proteins, fermented foods, and circulation boosters can help defy signs of aging and round out your skin-beautifying diet.
- Lean proteins (plant-based proteins, eggs, chicken, fish, pork) fight fine lines as they facilitate the rebuilding of collagen and elastin that declines with age. Eggs are also rich in Omega-3s excellent for skin health.
- Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, sour pickles, kefir, kombucha, yogurt) contain probiotics that balance and facilitate better absorption of nutrients needed for skin health.
- Beets are rich in nitrates which the body converts to a gas that may improve circulation.
- Water-rich cucumbers, granny smith apples (lower sugar apples), romaine lettuce, and celery flush out toxins and increase hydration. In addition to drinking plenty of water, these foods are important as dehydration contributes to aging, and hydrated skin heals and repairs itself more quickly and efficiently.
Since the sun is one of our primary triggers of signs of aging, foods that may reduce the risk of sunburn and curb sun damage are noteworthy when exploring the best foods for healthy skin. We’re not advising you skip sunscreen, but give your skin added protection against sun damage by eating foods high in antioxidant Vitamin C and carotenoids that may help minimize sun sensitivity.
- Leafy greens were found by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University to be an excellent UV fighter. Leafy greens also contain Vitamin K and lutein to strengthen capillaries and improve tone and elasticity - more reasons to eat your greens.
- Another study showed that daily consumption of 5 tablespoons of tomato paste for 12 weeks helped reduce the incidence of sunburn. This was attributed to their high carotenoid content, which reduced skin tumors from UVB rays.
- If you must have sweets, choose chocolate with flavonols and antioxidants found to inhibit sun damage.
Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before making any dietary changes, as this content should not be deemed as a substitute for medical advice.
- Scientific Reports “Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations” Date Published Online July 11, 2017. Authors: Jessica L. Cooperstone,1 Kathleen L. Tober,2 Ken M. Riedl,1 Matthew D. Teegarden,1 Morgan J. Cichon,1 David M. Francis,3 Steven J. Schwartz,1 and Tatiana M. Oberyszyn corresponding author2 NIH National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5506060/
- Harvard Health Publishing “Foods that fight inflammation” Date Published Online: November 16, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
- Healthline “7 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate” Date Updated Online: July 27, 2021 Authors: Kris Gunnars, BSc — Medically reviewed by Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD, Nutrition.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate