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The 12 Best Foods for Healthy Skin

Nutrition is important for health. An unhealthy diet can damage
your metabolism, cause weight gain and even affect organs such
as your heart and liver.

What you eat also affects the health of another organ — your
skin.

As more is learned about how diet affects the body, it’s
becoming 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.

Young Woman Holding an Avocado

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish,
such as salmon, mackerel and herring, are excellent foods for
healthy skin. They are rich sources of
omega-3 fatty acids
, which are important for maintaining
skin health (1).

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to keep skin thick, supple
and moisturized. In fact, a deficiency in omega-3 fats can
cause dry skin (1, 2).

The omega-3 fats found in fish reduce inflammation, which can
be the cause of redness and acne, and even make your skin less
sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays (2, 3).

Some studies have found that fish oil supplements may help
fight inflammatory and autoimmune conditions affecting the
skin, such as psoriasis and lupus (4).

Fatty fish are also a source of vitamin E, which is one of the
most important antioxidants for the skin. Getting enough
vitamin E is essential for protecting the skin against damage
from free radicals and inflammation (5).

They’re also a source of high-quality protein, which is
necessary to make the structural proteins that maintain the
strength and integrity of the skin (5).

Lastly, fish is a source of zinc, a mineral that’s important
for regulating inflammation, the production of new skin cells
and overall skin health. Having a deficiency in zinc can lead
to skin inflammation, skin lesions and delayed wound healing
(6).

Bottom Line: Fatty types of fish contain
omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and keep
skin moisturized. They are also a good source of high-quality
protein, vitamin E and zinc.

2. Avocados

One and a Half Green Avocado


Avocados
are high in healthy fats. These fats benefit many
functions in your body, including the health of your skin
(7).

Getting enough of these fats is important for keeping skin
flexible and moisturized.

One study of over 700 women found that a high intake of total
fat, specifically the types of healthy fats found in avocados,
was associated with having more supple, springy skin (8).

Preliminary evidence also shows that avocados contain compounds
that may protect the skin against sun damage. UV damage to the
skin can cause signs of aging, such as wrinkling (9, 10).

Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an
important antioxidant that helps protect the skin from
oxidative damage. Vitamin E is also a nutrient most Americans
don’t get enough of.

Interestingly, vitamin E seems to be even more effective when
it’s combined with vitamin C (5).

Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin. Your skin needs
it to create collagen, which
is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and
healthy (11).

A deficiency in vitamin C is rare these days, but common
symptoms include dry, rough, scaly skin that tends to bruise
easily.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects your skin from
oxidative damage caused by the sun and environment, which can
lead to signs of aging (11).

A 100-gram serving (about 1/2 an avocado) provides 10% of the
RDI for vitamin E and 17% of the RDI for vitamin C (12).

Bottom Line: Avocados are high in healthy
fats and contain vitamins E and C, which are important for
healthy skin. They may also contain compounds that protect
the skin from sun damage.

3. Walnuts

Cracked Walnuts

Walnuts
have many characteristics that make them an excellent food for
healthy skin.

They are a good source of essential fatty acids, which are fats
that your body cannot make itself.

In fact, they are richer than most other nuts in both omega-3
and omega-6 fatty acids (13, 14).

A diet too high in omega-6 fats promotes inflammation,
including inflammatory conditions of the skin like psoriasis.
Omega-3 fats, on the other hand, help reduce
inflammation
in the body, including in the skin (14).

While omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in the Western diet,
sources of omega-3 fatty acids are rare. Walnuts contain a good

ratio of these fatty acids
, and may, therefore, fight the
inflammatory response to too much omega-6.

What’s more, walnuts contain other nutrients that your skin
needs to function properly and stay healthy.

One ounce (28 grams) contains 6% of the RDI for zinc, which is
essential for the skin to function properly as a barrier, as
well as necessary for wound healing and fighting both bacteria
and inflammation (15).

Walnuts also contain small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin
E, vitamin C and selenium, in addition to 4–5 grams of protein
per ounce (13).

Bottom Line: Walnuts are a good source of
essential fats, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and
protein, all of which are nutrients that your skin needs to
stay healthy.

4. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

In general, nuts
and seeds are good sources of nutrients that are important for
healthy skin.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent example.

One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds contains 32% of the RDI
for the antioxidant selenium, 10% of the RDI for zinc and 5.4
grams of protein (16).

This amount also contains 37% of the RDI for vitamin E, which
is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough of this
important vitamin and antioxidant (16).

Additionally, sunflower seeds are an excellent source of
linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fat that helps
your skin stay thick, flexible and moisturized (16).

In a large observational study of more than 4,000 women, a high
intake of linoleic acid was associated with a lower risk of dry
and thin skin as a result of aging (17).

Bottom Line: Sunflower seeds are an
excellent source of nutrients, including vitamin E, which is
an important antioxidant for the skin. They also contain
linoleic acid, a type of fat that may prevent dry and thin
skin.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato

Beta-carotene is a nutrient found in plants.

It can be converted into vitamin A in the body, and it’s found
in orange and dark-green vegetables such as carrots, spinach
and sweet potatoes (5, 18).

Sweet
potatoes
are an excellent source of it.

One 1/2-cup serving (100 grams) of baked sweet potato contains
enough beta-carotene to provide nearly four times the RDI of
vitamin A (19).

Carotenoids like beta-carotene help keep your skin healthy by
acting as a natural sunblock.

When consumed, this antioxidant
is incorporated into your skin and protects your skin cells
from sun exposure. This may help prevent sunburn, cell death
and the resulting effects of dry, wrinkled skin.

Interestingly, beta-carotene may also add a warm, orange color
to your skin, contributing to an overall healthier look
(5).

Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes are an excellent
source of beta-carotene, which acts as a natural sunblock and
protects the skin from sun damage.

6. Red or Yellow Bell Peppers

Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

Like sweet potatoes, bell
pepper
s are an excellent source of beta-carotene. One cup
(149 grams) of chopped, red bell pepper contains the equivalent
of 92% of the RDI for vitamin A (20).

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They are also one of the best sources of
vitamin C
, the antioxidant that’s necessary for creating
the protein collagen, which keeps skin firm and strong. One cup
of bell pepper provides an impressive 317% of the RDI for
vitamin C (20).

A large observational study in women found that eating plenty
of vitamin C was associated with a lower chance of skin
appearing wrinkled and becoming dry with age (17).

Bottom Line: Bell peppers contain plenty of
beta-carotene and vitamin C, both of which are important
antioxidants for the skin. Vitamin C is also necessary to
create collagen, the structural protein that keeps skin
strong.

7. Broccoli

Piece of Broccoli

Broccoli
makes the list because it is full of many vitamins and minerals
important for skin health, including zinc, vitamin A and
vitamin C (21).

It also contains lutein, a carotenoid that works like
beta-carotene. It protects the skin from oxidative damage,
which can cause skin to become dry and wrinkled.

But broccoli florets also contain a special compound called
sulforaphane, which seems to have some impressive
health benefits. It may even have anti-cancer effects,
including on some types of skin cancer (22, 23).

Sulforaphane is also a powerful protective agent against sun
damage. It works in two ways: by neutralizing harmful free
radicals and turning on other protective systems in the body
(23, 24).

In the lab, sulforaphane reduces the number of skin cells
killed by UV light by as much as 29%, and the protection lasts
for up to 48 hours. There is also evidence that it helps
maintain collagen levels in the skin (24).

Bottom Line: Broccoli is a good source of
vitamins, minerals and carotenoids that are important for
skin health. It also contains sulforaphane, which may help
prevent skin cancer and protect the skin from sunburn.

8. Tomatoes

Whole Tomato and a Slice of Tomato

Tomatoes
are a great source of vitamin C and contain all of the major
carotenoids, including lycopene.

Beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene have been shown to protect
the skin against damage from the sun and may also help prevent
wrinkling (25, 26, 27).

Because tomatoes contain all of the major carotenoids, they are
an excellent food for maintaining healthy skin.

However, carotenoids need fat
to be absorbed, so be sure to pair tomatoes with something like
cheese or olive oil.

Bottom Line: Tomatoes are a good source of
vitamin C and all of the major carotenoids, especially
lycopene. These carotenoids protect the skin from sun damage
and may help prevent wrinkling.

9. Soy

Tofu in a Bowl

Soy
contains isoflavones, or plant compounds, that can
either mimic or block estrogen in the body.

They may have several potential health benefits, including
possible benefits for the skin.

One small study of women in their 30s and 40s found that eating
soy isoflavones every day for 8–12 weeks improved fine wrinkles
and skin elasticity (28).

In postmenopausal women, soy may also help improve skin dryness
and increase collagen, which helps keep your skin smooth and
strong (29).

These isoflavones not only protect the cells inside of your
body from damage, but also protect your skin from damage from
harmful UV rays. This may even help prevent the development of
some skin cancers (30, 31, 32).

Bottom Line: Soy contains isoflavones.
Isoflavones have been shown to improve wrinkles, collagen,
skin elasticity and skin dryness, as well as protect the skin
from UV damage.

10. Dark Chocolate

Four Pieces of Dark Chocolate

As if you needed
one more reason
to eat chocolate, the effects of cocoa on
skin are pretty impressive.

One study found that after 6–12 weeks of consuming a cocoa
powder high in antioxidants, participants experience thicker,
more hydrated skin.

Their skin was also less rough and scaly, less sensitive to
sunburn and had better blood flow, which brings more nutrients
to the skin (33).

Another study found that regularly eating just 20 grams of dark
chocolate high in antioxidants per day could allow skin to
withstand more than twice as much UV radiation before burning,
compared to eating chocolate low in antioxidants (34).

Several other studies have produced similar results, including
improvements in the appearance of wrinkles. However, it is
worth mentioning that at least one study did not find
significant effects (35, 36, 37, 38).

Evidence shows that cocoa may be a powerful tool for keeping
your skin young and protected from damage. Make sure to

choose dark chocolate
with at least 70% cocoa in order to
maximize the health benefits and keep added sugar to a minimum.

Bottom Line: Cocoa contains antioxidants
that may protect the skin against sunburn. They may also
improve wrinkles, skin thickness, hydration, blood flow and
skin texture.

11. Green Tea

Green Tea in a Glass Cup


Green tea
may also have the ability to protect your skin
from damage and aging.

The powerful compounds found in green tea are called catechins,
and they work to protect and improve the health of your skin in
several ways.

Like several other antioxidant-containing foods, regularly
consuming green tea can help protect your skin against sun
damage (39, 40, 41).

One 12-week study in 60 women found that drinking green tea
daily could reduce redness from sun exposure by up to 25%. It
also improved the moisture, roughness, thickness and elasticity
of their skin (42).

While green tea is a great choice for healthy skin, you may
want to avoid drinking your tea with milk. There’s evidence
that milk could reduce the beneficial effects of its
antioxidants (43).

Bottom Line: The catechins found in green
tea are powerful antioxidants that can protect skin against
sun damage and reduce skin redness, as well as improve the
hydration, thickness and elasticity of skin.

12. Red Wine

Glass of Red Wine

Red
wine
is famous for containing resveratrol, a compound that
comes from the skin of red grapes.

Resveratrol is credited with a wide range of
health benefits, and reducing the effects of aging is one the
most well-known.

The skin has specific binding sites for resveratrol. When
applied to the skin, this compound has been shown to slow
skin’s aging.

When consumed, it’s also able to reduce the production of
harmful free radicals, which damage skin cells and cause signs
of aging (7, 44).

Unfortunately, there’s not much evidence that the amount of
resveratrol you get from a glass of red wine is enough to make
a difference in your skin. And since red wine is an alcoholic
beverage, there are negative effects to drinking it in excess.

It’s not a good idea to start drinking red wine just because of
its potential health benefits. But if you drink in moderation
anyway, you might want to consider red wine as your drink of
choice.

Bottom Line: Resveratrol, the famous
antioxidant found in red wine, may help slow the aging
process of the skin by quenching harmful free radicals that
damage your skin.

Take Home Message

What you eat can have a huge effect on the health of your skin.

From making sure you’re getting enough essential nutrients to
protecting your skin, the foods on this list are great options
to keep your skin at its best.

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