Our skin is the largest organ in the body, and we need to eat in order to keep it healthy. Living, breathing, protecting: the skin has a big job to do. Dryness, redness, flaking, sunburn, rashes, and itchiness abounds as the seasons change and skin health becomes ever more important. With plenty of external support from lotions and products, you are what you eat and your skin is no exception. Many foods support skin health, helping to hydrate and guard from environmental damage. The best skin-friendly foods contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals that support healthy cells.
It’s all about the antioxidants.
Studies show that antioxidants in foods may aid skin health by breaking down and neutralizing damaging free radicals, protecting skin from the sun and increasing the expression of genes related to replicating and repairing DNA. Protein aids in immune support, healthy fat is part of every cell wall in the entire body, and vitamins and minerals are crucial for skin support. For example, Vitamin C is a precursor to collagen, a critical part of the elasticity and structure in skin.
Aim for a diet rich in brightly colored fruits, veggies, and other skin-supporting foods.
Large research studies have concluded that antioxidants appear to be more protective of the skin when they come from food sources than in supplement form, so aim for a diet rich in brightly colored fruits, veggies, and other skin-supporting foods rather than seeking these benefits in pill form. This doesn’t just apply to skin health; studies have shown similar results for other diseases, such as cancer.
Supplements certainly have their place when discussed with a medical provider and are addressed on an individual level, but most people can get all the nutrients they need from diet alone. If you would like to focus on healthy skin from the inside out, be sure to start with proper nutrition to support the largest organ in your body. Take care of your skin in this way your whole life through.
Like so many systems in the body, there are other lifestyle factors to consider when thinking about skin health. Trying to avoid smoking or smoke exposure is key. Sun protection plays an important role as well. Regular visits to the dermatologist as part of your yearly doctor visits and annual checkups should be on your to-do list.
5 Foods to Eat for Healthy Skin
Full of antioxidants, namely epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCg), a potent polyphenol. Studies indicate potential consuming green tea can aid in protecting your skin. It has been studied in conjunction with protection against UV rays and shows promise for reducing inflammation. Better yet, tea is hydrating – another important factor in skin health. In addition to drinking plenty of water, include green tea in your diet to support skin health through antioxidants.
Aside from a variety of vitamins and minerals, mushrooms contain a unique compound called beta-glucans which are a type of polysaccharide or long-chain carbohydrate. Studies have shown that beta-glucans may support the skin through regeneration of collagen-producing cells and help protect against environmental burdens. Collagen is a protein in the human body, and is critical for skin, cartilage, and bone health. Beta-glucans are also found in oats and seaweeds so be sure to include a variety of these types of foods to gain access to this skin-healthy compound.
Omega-3 fatty acids .
From salmon, halibut, anchovies, and herring to chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds, be sure to include enough healthy fats in your diet to support your skin. The outer barrier of all cells contain a ‘lipid’ or fatty membrane so the types of fat you consume get incorporated into your body. You are what you eat! Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the antioxidant defense system of the skin. Nuts and seeds are also sources rich in copper, another precursor to collagen production for skin health.
Tomatoes contain antioxidants including lycopene. Studies have shown they help protect against DNA damage and redness from sun exposure. Lycopene is a carotenoid, a pigment that contributes to the red color of most tomatoes, and scientists are researching potential health effects. Tomatoes also contain vitamin C, another heart healthy vitamin and antioxidant. Include tomatoes in a variety of ways in your diet – whichever form is your favorite!
Winter and Summer Squash
Packed full of two antioxidants shown to prevent free radical damage in the skin, several squash varieties have proven high content of lutein and zeaxanthin. Orange or red-fleshed squash may be particularly rich in these skin-supporting compounds. Dark leafy greens, orange pepper, and egg yolks are also rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. Squash is also high in fiber and water to support proper elimination and hydration. Gut health and the microbiome continues to gain traction in the medical community and has links to so many systems in the body. Eating plenty of fiber is detoxifying and stimulating to the good bacteria in your gut.
What are your favorite foods to eat for healthy skin? Check out my series on healthy eating here.
Also published on Medium.