Just as there are foods that can damage your skin or aggravate existing skin problems, there are other foods that help guard and heal it. Skin is an essential layer of protection, but if you don’t care for it properly, your skin can also leave you vulnerable. One of the best ways to promote healthy skin, and the confidence boost that comes with it, is to eat right every day.
As dermatologist Howard Murad explained to GQ, “The body is constantly replacing damaged cells, and if we eat key foods we can protect and promote cellular health by keeping the body flooded with cell protecting antioxidants.”
Whether it’s sun protection, a clear complexion, firmness, or youthfulness you are seeking, healthy skin is only a few delicious snacks away. For a handsome exterior and a strong barrier from all the germs and toxins your body has to contend with, here are 10 essential foods to bring long-lasting health to every inch of your skin.
1. Olive oil
High-quality healthy oils like extra-virgin olive oil help keep the skin lubricated, and olive oil’s omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, making it a skin-essential. Olive oil was also shown to reduce signs of aging in a 2012 study of more than 1,200 women, and there’s no reason to assume the same isn’t true for men. According to Prevention, polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in olive oil, help fight back against free radicals that can do damage to your skin.
In a 2011 study from Scotland’s St. Andrews University, participants improved their skin tone after six weeks of eating beta-carotene-rich vegetables like carrots, making them appear more healthy and attractive. Carrots are loaded with vitamin A, which helps balance your skin’s pH, making it just acidic enough to fend off harmful bacteria, according to Men’s Health. National Cancer Institute researchers found people with high intakes of carotenoids are also less likely to develop skin cancer.
Along with salmon’s many other health benefits, its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are great for your skin. “It combats the inflammation that can cause blotchiness, rashes, and other skin problems,” Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., told Men’s Fitness. Salmon can also help protect your skin from UV damage. Sardines are a great source of essential fatty acids too, and mackerel is one of the best sources of vitamin B12, which helps keep your skin even-toned. If you are a fish lover, your skin will thank you.
4. Nuts and seeds
Among the most beneficial nuts and seeds are almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, which fends off free radical damage that leads to dullness, wrinkles, and possible weathering of skin, according to Men’s Fitness. Sunflower seeds are one of the best providers of vitamin E, packing 37% of your daily dose per ounce. One study found a correlation between severe acne and low levels of vitamin E, likely due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Grab walnuts as well, especially if you don’t eat fish, as walnuts are the only nut containing significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Tomatoes, especially when cooked, provide a heavy dose of the antioxidant lycopene, which helps prevent sun damage to the skin. In a 2008 study out of the U.K, people who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste daily, along with almost a tablespoon of olive oil, had 33% more protection from sunburn than those who just had olive oil. Tomatoes are also a water-rich food, and hydration is necessary to keep skin supple and youthful.
Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries are loaded with antioxidants, so in addition to being sweet treats, they have countless benefits for skin health. In addition to slowing the aging process, they provide some sun protection. Of course, food is never a replacement for sunscreen, but berries will only mean greater defense from sunburn and damage. Pomegranates are wonderful too, if you can get your hands on one. “They’re are a great source of ‘Pomphenol’ and ellagic acid, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants,” Murad told GQ.
Kale is one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, according to Prevention. These nutrients absorb and neutralize free radicals created by UV light that is able to reach your skin, sometimes bypassing your sunscreen altogether. A single cup of kale gives you well over your daily dose of vitamin C and A, which promote firmer skin and even complexion.
8. Dark chocolate
Flavonols, an antioxidant found in chocolate, can help to improve your complexion as well as provide sun protection. According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition, women who drank a flavonol-enriched cocoa drink showed an improvement in skin texture and a decrease in UV damage. While men were not included in the study, this antioxidant is likely beneficial to everyone’s skin, which makes a great excuse for the occasional serving of dark chocolate.
9. Green tea
Drinking polyphenol-rich green tea has multiple advantages. In addition to boosting your metabolism, drinking a daily cup of green tea can boost blood flow and oxygen to the skin, reduce damage from UV light, and increase your skin’s smoothness and elasticity, which may stave off wrinkles. Other research shows green tea can reduce the risk of skin cancer. If you are a coffee drinker concerned about your skin, consider switching to green tea.
One of the most important things you need to consume for the sake of your skin is also one of life’s essentials. Drinking plenty of water is crucial to our total physical health, and that includes our skin. Many Americans are chronically dehydrated, and this can exacerbate many skin problems and even create new ones. Water keeps your skin hydrated and therefore, more plump, healthy, and strong. Another reason to make water your beverage of choice is many other drink options contain added sugar, which is one of the worst substances for skin health.