Which Food Is Good For Skin? Eating food that is good for your skin is something you may have heard before, but it’s true. Skin health is linked to what we eat and drink. So, if we can feed our skin the nutrients it needs, it will look its best. This can range from fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants to omega-3 fatty acids. Let’s look at which foods are good for your skin to look beautiful and younger as well as prevent signs of aging.
Nutrients for Healthy Skin
What are the best foods for your skin and the best ways to get the vitamins and other nutrients your skin needs?
You know that you need to nourish your skin to keep it as healthy as possible. But are you getting enough of the right nutrients from the foods you eat? Could you benefit from taking a supplement or trying an antioxidant-packed lotion?
“The beauty of the skin is that you can affect it from both inside and out,” says dermatologist Doris Day, MD, author of Forget the Facelift: Turn Back the Clock with a Revolutionary Program for Ageless Skin.
What You Eat Matters
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants is good for your whole body, including your skin.
Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and A can curb the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. These molecules can harm skin cells and cause signs of aging.
One of the best ways to get more antioxidants is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Nutrition is important for health. An unhealthy diet can damage your metabolism, cause weight gain, and even damage organs, such as your heart and liver.
But what you eat also affects another organ — your skin.
As scientists learn more about diet and the body, it’s increasingly clear that what you eat can significantly affect the health and aging of your skin.
This article takes a look at 12 of the best foods for keeping your skin healthy.
What are some skin-friendly foods?
An abundance of skin care products are on the market, but the secret to healthy skin may lie in a person’s diet.
Many foods that benefit the skin contain:
- omega-3 fatty acids
- omega-6 fatty acids
- vitamin E
Research suggests that these and other nutrients and compounds in certain foods can benefit the skin. Also, hydration is as important for the health of skin as it is for the rest of the body.
While external products can help to treat conditions such as acne, the diet may play a direct role in nourishing the skin and keeping it healthful.
1. Fatty fish
Some people with skin issues stay away from fatty foods. However, it is important to note that not all fats are the same.
Cold-water fatty fish, including herring, sardines, and salmon, may benefit the skin, as they are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Authors of a study from 2016 found “considerable evidence” that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, especially in people who have the highest risks.
The researchers found that the acids reduce damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation and markers of inflammation and immunosuppression in the skin. A diet high in omega-3 acids may, therefore, help reduce inflammatory symptoms and make the skin less reactive to UV rays from the sun.
Fatty fish also provide vitamin E, a crucial antioxidant. Vitamin E protects the skin from inflammation and harmful free radicals.
Nuts may provide the same benefits as fatty fish, making them a great addition to the diet, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
Walnuts are among the richest sources of both omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids, according to a review published in 2012.
The authors also estimated that 95–99 percent of the population consumes fewer omega-3 fatty acids than are necessary for good health.
Maintaining a balance between these two fatty acids is essential. A typical Western diet contains excessive levels of omega-6 fats, which can cause inflammation and worsen inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis.
Almonds are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, and they are a particularly good source of vitamin E.
Many seeds are rich sources of antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids that may help promote healthy skin.
4. Sunflower seeds
Like nuts, sunflower seeds are rich in protective fatty oils.
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sunflower seeds also contain substantial amounts of zinc and vitamin E. Both may help to protect skin cells.
5. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Grinding fresh flaxseeds into a smoothie or onto a salad can be a simple way to add more omega-3 fats to the diet and keep the skin looking healthful.
Authors of a study from 2011 found that female participants with sensitive skin who took a flaxseed oil supplement for 12 weeks experienced:
- reduced skin sensitivity
- reduced roughness
- reduced scaling
- increased hydration
- smoother skin
Soybeans contain compounds called isoflavones, which may play an important role in protecting the skin, especially for females.
Authors of a review from 2017 cite findings that suggest that middle-aged female participants who consumed more of the specific isoflavones found in soy had fewer fine wrinkles and more skin elasticity.
The authors concluded that these isoflavones may have a more significant effect during menopause, when reduced estrogen levels cause the skin’s elasticity to diminish.
Avocados are rich in healthful fats and vitamin E, which support the health of the skin.
The fats in avocados are essential fats, which humans need to consume because the body cannot produce them.
Authors of a review from 2013 noted that avocados also contain compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect the skin from both UV and visible radiation damage.
8. Olive oil
Among cooking oils, olive oil may be the most healthful choice for the skin.
Results of a study from 2012 support the more widely held conclusion that a diet rich in olive oil reduces the effects of photoaging on facial skin.
The researchers attribute this effect to monounsaturated fatty acids in the oil, as well as other compounds, such as squalene, which the authors suggest may protect against dryness and damage from free radicals.
9. Green tea
Green tea makes for a healthful, energizing drink, and it contains certain compounds that may benefit the skin.
According to the authors of a study from 2011, green tea is especially rich in antioxidants called catechins, which boost blood flow to the skin. Increased blood flow ensures that the skin cells are regularly receiving fresh oxygen and nutrients, which help to maintain their health.
The researchers found that participants who drank green tea regularly for 12 weeks had improved skin health, including:
- better elasticity
- less roughness
- reduced scaling
- improved skin density
- a more healthful amount of water in the skin
The antioxidants in green tea can also protect the skin from harmful UV radiation.
10. Dark chocolate
High-quality chocolate with a high cacao content may also help to protect the skin.
Authors of a review from 2014 note that cacao is rich in antioxidants and minerals that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. They also explored the use of chocolate in the prevention and treatment of skin issues, including acne and psoriasis.
Water supports the functioning of every system in the body, and it benefits the skin in many ways.
For example, staying hydrated protects skin cells from damage, including that caused by environmental factors. Also, hydration makes it easier for skin cells to absorb nutrients and release toxins.
Drinking more water may be the easiest way to support the health of the skin.
Factors that affect your skin
As we age, it’s normal to see changes in our skin, but why? Hopsecger offers a few reasons.
Oxidative stress: Oxidative stress has a role in skin aging; it’s a process that happens when free radicals cause damage to your cells. Free radicals are natural products of human metabolism, sun exposure and lifestyle factors like a highly processed diet, alcohol intake and smoking.
Inflammation: Increased inflammation in your body can have a negative impact on your skin. A diet filled with processed foods may increase total body inflammation.
Dryness: Skin dryness happens when your cells are poorly hydrated. This causes skin cells to get smaller. Dry weather, certain soaps and excessive sun exposure can also cause dryness.
Lifestyle changes that help your skin
Hopsecger strongly suggests visiting a dermatologist first to talk about any skin concerns you may have. But she says that there are other things you can do to help your complexion.
“Wear sunscreen, reduce alcohol, quit smoking and stay hydrated,” advises Hopsecger. Drinking less alcohol leads to fewer free radicals being produced and less cell damage. If your skin is dehydrated, she says that drinking eight glasses of water daily can help.
Hopsecger also says that a diet full of fried foods, fast foods and sugar can impact your skin’s health in a negative way.
“Eating too many processed or refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index (dairy, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats) can actually cause skin inflammation, irritation and breakouts, and possibly promote aging,” she says. So, eat these foods in moderation and remember: supplements aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet.
By eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fatty fish and legumes, you can help nourish your skin from the inside out.
Nutrients that benefit your skin
Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s help your cells stay hydrated. In addition, omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in your body. Antioxidants and phytonutrients can help protect your cells by reducing free radicals in your body. So, which foods are good sources of omega-3s, antioxidants and phytonutrients? Here are Hopsecger’s picks.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids improve cholesterol and battle inflammation. They also help preserve collagen in your skin and keep it firmer.
“The top source of omega-3s is fish,” says Hopsecger. These are the best candidates for the job:
- Tuna (bluefin and albacore)
If you don’t eat fish, here are some plant-based options for an omega-3 boost:
- Flaxseeds — Look for ground flaxseed. Your body doesn’t get as much of the nutrients from whole flaxseed. Mix ground flaxseed into smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal.
- Chia seeds — Try making chia seed pudding, add some to a smoothie or make homemade granola bars.
- Walnuts or almonds — Reach for them instead of your other go-to snacking nuts, or try almond butter with a banana.
- Edamame — Toss these into a salad or stir fry.
- Canola or soybean oil — Canola oil can be used in baking, oven cooking or stir-frying.
Tomatoes for lycopene
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can help keep your skin smoother. Plus, they’re easy to work into anything — like salads, side dishes, sandwiches and sauces.
Foods that are rich in vitamin C
Some fruits and vegetables not only contain antioxidants, but also contain healthy amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C can help fight wrinkles. Some of the best foods for skin that are packed with vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruit — Oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.
- Bell peppers — Green, orange, red or yellow — take your pick.
- Broccoli — Steam or roast (yes, roast!) for an easy, healthy side.
- Strawberries — Snack on them fresh or put some in a simple smoothie.
- Kiwi — Add some to your favorite fruit salad or make veggie kebabs for a fun twist.