We tend to think a lot about the foods that can benefit our internal organs, but forget about how what we eat affects our largest organ – the skin. There are all kinds of products designed to slather on the outside of our bodies, but what goes in is actually just as important to skin health. To keep aging in check and rock that healthy glow, make certain to eat a lot of the foods on our list. We guarantee you’ll be surprised by some of the delicious items you no longer have to feel guilty about consuming.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and herring, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, crucial to both skin and cardiovascular health. A diet strong in omega-3 fatty acids keeps skin thick, supple, and moisturized. Not getting enough can be a cause of dry skin. But that’s not all. Omega-3s reduce inflammation, often complicit in redness and acne, and reduce sensitivity to UV rays from the sun. Blocking that inflammation may also help to fight back autoimmune disorders that affect the skin, like psoriasis and lupus. Finally, fatty fish also contains a lot of vitamin E, which is vital for protecting the skin from damage by free radicals, and zinc, which supports production of new skin cells and general skin health.
Avocados contain a lot of healthy fat, which are important to keep skin flexible and moisturized. One study looked at the diets of over 700 women, and found that a high intake of the types of healthy fats found in avocados tends to produce more supple, springy skin. Further, early evidence points to certain compounds in avocados that may protect the skin from sun damage. Avocados are also a good source of both vitamin E and vitamin C, which work very well together to create collagen and protect against oxidative damage.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, which keeps skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock. It can help to prevent sunburn, which results in cell death and dry, wrinkled skin, not to mention an increased risk of skin cancer. Interestingly, consuming beta-carotene can also create a warm, orangey tone in your skin, making it a vital nutrient and a cosmetic in one. Other great sources of beta-carotene include red and yellow bell peppers.
Broccoli is a fantastic all-around food that is full of vitamins and minerals crucial to skin health, such as zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C. It also has a good dose of lutein, which is a carotenoid similar to beta-carotene that protects skin from the oxidative damage that causes dryness and wrinkling. Even more impressive, broccoli florets feature a special compound called sulforaphane, which has been shown to reduce the occurrence of some kinds of skin cancer. Sulforaphane also neutralizes free radicals and triggers the body to activate other protective systems. However, note that broccoli cooked in the microwave loses most of its cancer-prevention ability, so steam it or eat it raw.
Tomatoes are one of the very best foods to eat for your skin or several reasons. The first is that they contain ALL of the major carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, which we know are very good at protecting skin from sun damage. Tomatoes also contain a good amount of vitamin C, a deficiency of which can cause scaly skin. But here’s the best part – in order to be fully absorbed, carotenoids need to be eaten with fat. That’s a free pass to eat some cheese, olive oil, nuts, or avocado at the same time!
6. Dark Chocolate
More good news: dark chocolate is actually good for you. Multiple studies have concluded that eating cocoa powder, which is high in antioxidants, can give you thicker, more moisturized skin. Overall, regular consumption of cocoa means skin will be less rough and scaly and resist sunburn longer. It will also receive better blood flow, which in turn brings more nutrients to the skin. We recommend dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa to really reap the benefits while avoiding too much added sugar.
7. Red Wine
Red wine contains resveratrol, a compound known to reduce the effects of aging all over the body. When applied topically, resveratrol boosts the youthfulness of skin. When eaten, it can reduce production of free radicals, which are notorious for damaging skin cells and causing premature aging. Now, there are negatives to drinking alcohol that may not outweigh the benefits of resveratrol, especially because one glass will not net you enough to make a difference. But if you already intend to drink, red wine may be the healthiest choice. Note that resveratrol comes from the skin of red grapes, so you should eat those frequently, too. It may also be a good idea to buy skin products that contain grape extract.
Walnuts contain a good ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s, essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself. They contain a modest amount of the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium, plus 4–5 grams of protein per ounce. One ounce will also get you 6% of your RDI for zinc, which aids in skin healing as well as fighting bacteria and inflammation. All of that good stuff makes walnuts an excellent choice to add to salads, casseroles, baked goods, or yogurt. They provide a satisfying crunch and act as mini skin-protecting multi-vitamins.
What you eat is just as important to skin health as what you put on its surface. Plant-based food along with a small amount of lean meat tends to offer the most comprehensive range of vital nutrients that work together to protect skin from sun damage, harmful free radicals, and common skin disorders. Look for foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and carotenoids for the best boost in skin health. Skin that is healthy from the inside out will keep you looking so youthful that your friends will be jealous. Be sure to drink a lot of water to push the effects even further – and if you’re feeling charitable, let your pals in on the secret to your success!