You already know that consuming nutrient-rich foods such as salmon, leafy greens and citrus can have a massive impact on your overall health. Not only do they help you maintain a healthy BMI, they also reduce the risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
However, did you know that certain foods could be especially beneficial to your skin health as well?
What you put into your body can have a powerful effect towards your glow. A diet rich in skin-friendly foods improves your hormonal balance, reducing acne and inflammation that is linked to premature skin aging.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and with advancements in research and technology, there is more supporting evidence on what foods can significantly impact your overall skin health. Keep reading to find out our top skin-friendly foods that aren’t only nourishing for the skin, but are also readily available and are easy on your wallet.
Contrary to popular belief that fats are bad, some fats are actually good for you and your skin.
Fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in keeping skin elastic, hydrated and glowing.
Note that the reverse is also true. Research suggests that a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids may cause dry skin that is prone to wrinkling.
Furthermore, omega-3’s help combat inflammation, which is notorious for causing acne and redness. It also helps reduce your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, thereby reducing the risk of premature aging caused by exposure to sunlight.
According to some studies, participants who took fish oil supplements reduced their risk of autoimmune conditions that affect the skin, such as lupus and psoriasis.
Fish, such as salmon, are also rich in vitamin E, a vital antioxidant for the skin. Consuming more vitamin E rich foods can help protect skin from inflammation and free radical damage. Fish is also packed with protein, which is necessary to maintain strength and the structural integrity of your skin.
It doesn’t end there. Fish is an incredible source of zinc, which plays a massive role in skin cell turnover, reducing inflammation and improving overall skin health. Not getting enough zinc from your diet can delay skin healing, increase skin lesions and make you more prone to inflammation.
A 2012 study that investigated the diets of 1264 women found that participants who consumed more than 2 teaspoons of olive oil per day showed 31% fewer signs of aging compared to participants who consumed less than a teaspoon of olive oil per day.
An important part of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil clearly beats all other oils when it comes to improving skin health from the inside because it is composed of 75% monounsaturated fatty acids. This means consuming more olive oil can reduce the risk of premature aging, increase skin elasticity and boost your skin’s natural glow.
Moreover, olive oil is rich in polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help reduce free radical damage in the skin, thus reducing inflammation and signs of aging.
Watermelon screams summer because it is water-dense and therefore, helps cool the body and refresh it.
Although it may sound counterproductive, consuming more watermelon can actually reduce water retention in your skin that causes puffiness around your eyes.
To top it all off, watermelon is low in sugar compared to most other foods so you don’t have to think about glycation – a chemical reaction that affects collagen production and causes wrinkles and aging spots.
If you’re feeling hungry between meals, instead of reaching for a sugary snack that may compromise your collagen production, reach for a few walnuts instead.
Walnuts are packed with essential fatty acids that your body cannot manufacture on its own. In addition, they have a higher concentration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids compared to most other nuts, which makes walnuts an excellent snack food to beat inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, whereas omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory, which means the latter induces inflammatory conditions such as lupus and psoriasis. The western diet is packed with pro-inflammatory foods, but sources of anti-inflammatory foods are scarce. Walnuts offer a positive ratio of both fatty acids and can help counter the inflammatory response from a diet rich in omega-6s.
Walnuts also contain zinc, which strengthens the skin’s function as a barrier, enhances wound healing and reduces the risk of infection from the entry of bacteria.
They’re also a good source of plant-based protein and antioxidants such as vitamin C and E.
According to a 2008 UK study, individuals who added 5 tablespoons of tomato paste and a tablespoon of olive oil to their diet every day over a span of 12 weeks showed 33% more protection from UV damage compared to those who only consumed olive oil.
Tomatoes are unique for their antioxidant, lycopene. Lycopene is like edible sunscreen – it boosts your skin’s natural SPF and thus, reduces the risk of premature aging associated with sun exposure. Note that it does not act as a replacement for sunscreen, but just offers supplementary benefits to the skin.
Lycopene is a carotenoid, which needs fat to be absorbed readily, so be sure to pair your tomato dishes with skin-friendly fat sources, such as olive oil or avocado.
Lycopene levels in tomatoes are highest when cooked, so feel free to add a generous portion of your homemade sauce on your cauliflower crust pizza.
Healthy fats are essential for keeping skin smooth and moisturized.
According to a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, women who consumed a diet richer in healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, showed suppler, bouncier skin compared to individuals with diets lacking in healthy fats.
Studies show that avocados also contain compounds that may help protect the skin from UV ray damage, which increases the risk of lines, wrinkles and aging spots.
Unfortunately, the modern diet does not consist of sufficient vitamin E to meet the demands of your skin and your body. Avocadoes are packed with vitamin E, which supports the skin barrier and prevents oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
You can really optimize how vitamin E behaves in the body by consuming it with vitamin C, rich foods. Avocado pairs well with lime. Think guacamole with an extra squeeze of lime to cut off the need for salt.
However, note that avocados also have vitamin C of their own (17% of the RDI). Vitamin C works wonders on your skin as it helps create more collagen, the structural protein of your skin. Collagen helps keep your skin firm and less prone to sagging.
Vitamin C also plays a role in preventing free radical damage caused by the sun and other environmental factors, while ensuring that your skin stays hydrated and supple.
Dark chocolate is full of flavanols, which is a plant compound with potent antioxidant properties. Replacing your sugary treats with dark chocolate (at least 80% cocoa) can help reduce damage caused by sugar. Plus it’s easier on your waistline.
The flavanols in dark chocolate help hydrate the skin and improve blood circulation, bringing in more oxygen and nutrients to enhance skin health.
According to one study, women who consumed a high flavanol cocoa beverage every day over a period of 12 weeks resulted in skin that was less rough and scaly, compared to the control group.
While too much dark chocolate can add calories to your diet, a 1-ounce portion (150 calories) is enough to reap the benefits of dark chocolate on your skin, without negatively affecting your weight.
What Else Can You Do to Improve Skin Health?
In addition to featuring these wholesome foods in your diet, there are other things you can do to naturally improve your skin health. You can read about natural skin care, using household ingredients in our Beauty Essentials series and learn how Dry Skin Brushing can help make your skin more healthy and radiant.
Photo: Anna Pelzer