Are you truly what you eat? When it comes to the health of your skin, you certainly are. Just as food affects your heart, your cholesterol level and your blood pressure, food affects the health of your skin as well. Potions and lotions can do their best to help you look better from the outside in, but eating right can truly nourish the skin from the inside out. For a head to toe beauty boost, be sure to eat a wide variety of foods from all the food groups. Some particularly super skin standout foods include:
You probably know that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart — but did you know they’re good for your skin too? Omega-3s are actually a group of several nutrients, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), none of which the body can produce on its own. They’re found mainly in coldwater fish (as well as walnuts, flaxseed and some green vegetables such as kale) and help keep the cell membrane strong (the skin is made up of cells, and the cell membrane is the outside layer of the cell), preventing harm from the outside from getting in. “Omega-3s help the skin increase its ability to hold water, which leads to softer, wrinkle-free skin,” says Beth A. Czerwony, MS, RD, LD, of the Cleveland Clinic. Fish is also a great source of protein, an essential building block for healthy skin.
Fish high in omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, cod and tuna (particularly the albacore and bluefin varieties). If fish isn’t your thing, look for eggs high in omega-3s or go for flaxseed, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts.
Get more: Try smoked salmon on whole wheat crackers for breakfast, bring pouches of tuna to work, sprinkle walnuts on salads, and used ground flaxseed in baking. Taking omega 3 fatty acid supplements such as EPA, DHA or flaxseed oil is also an option.
Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, are high in antioxidants, chemicals that protect the cells by combating the free radicals that damage skin at a cellular level. “Free radicals are by-products that form when oxygen is used by the body, almost like how an apple gets brown when you cut it open and expose it to the air,” says Lauren Slayton, RD, director of Food Trainers in New York City. “Antioxidants interrupt that damaging process.”
Get more: Don’t shy away from frozen berries — they’re just as good as fresh, Slayton says. Throw berries into hot cereal or grainy dishes like couscous or tabbouleh.
Green tea is chock full of phytochemicals, chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. It’s particularly high in one called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which a 2009 study on rats in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found is protective against UV-induced skin damage.
Get more: Steep a tea bag in the water you use to make rice or hot cereal. Keep a pitcher iced in your fridge.
Higher in vitamin C than oranges, this tangy treat can help maintain the skin’s collagen. Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the skin, providing its scaffolding. “Collagen is what gives the skin its strength, to help it repair damage and keep it strong and elastic,” says S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, a board certified dermatologist, founder of the Miami Skin Institute, in Miami, Florida and associate clinical professor of dermatology at University of Miami. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with higher C intake from foods had significantly fewer wrinkles.
Get more: Chop some into salads or salsas for a sweet, surprising taste. Also high in vitamin C: red peppers and mangoes.
While too much saturated fat in the diet can be unhealthy, cutting fat out altogether can leave you with dry, flaky skin that’s unable to lubricate itself properly. Olive oil, a good monounsaturated fat, contains linoleic acid, a compound that does not allow water to evaporate from the skin, Czerwony says. The same American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that women who got more linoleic acid in their diet had less age-related dryness and skin thinning.
Get more: Sprinkle your salad with olive oil and toss in some avocado and sunflower seeds for even more healthy, skin-lubricating fats.