At 12 to 15 percent of total body weight, skin is the largest and fastest growing organ of the human body. It's also what people first see when they look at you.
So how can you keep your skin looking healthy and vibrant without breaking the bank? The answer is in your diet. Research has shown that natural components found in many plant-based foods and fish help to protect, hydrate and nourish skin. Here are my top foods for healthier, more beautiful skin.
Rich in vitamin E and healthy fats, avocados improve skin’s overall appearance, texture and protection. Vitamin E serves as a powerful antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals which play a large role in skin aging and, over time, can lead to skin cancer. Monounsaturated fats act as a natural moisturizer by locking water in your skin cells. Aim to eat a quarter of an avocado multiple times per week.
Honorable Mentions: sunflower seeds, almonds, olive oil, peanuts, peanut butter and cashews.
Vitamin C, found in abundance in oranges, is essential for the production of collagen, the main structural protein of skin. It is natural for collagen to break down as we age, reducing skin’s elasticity and producing wrinkles. Adding vitamin C-rich oranges to your diet helps to increase collagen production. Oranges are also a source of carotenoids, powerful antioxidants responsible for the yellow, orange and red color of fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids accumulate in the skin to fight off sun damage and leave you with a natural glow. A study in the Journal Evolution and Human Behavior published in 2011 found that when given a choice between skin color caused by lying in the sun and skin color caused by carotenoids, people preferred the skin glow attributed to eating a diet rich in carotenoids.
Honorable Mentions: tomato, watermelon, red bell pepper, sweet potato, carrot and apricot.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, are crucial for the production of the skin’s natural oil barrier. They hydrate the skin while keeping toxins out. The anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3s has been shown to increase skin’s immunity to sunlight and to help reduce symptoms of inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema. Including moderate amounts of healthy fat in your diet also helps to better absorb fat-soluble antioxidants such as vitamin E and carotenoids. Aim for 2 servings of oily fish per week.
Honorable Mentions: tuna, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed oil, herring, mackerel and anchovies.
The flavonoids in dark chocolate are antioxidants that promote healthier, softer and younger-looking skin. They are responsible for the blue, purple and red color of many foods and work by absorbing the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Flavonoids also increase blood flow to the skin, leaving a natural, rosy glow. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition fin 2006, women who drank a high-flavonol dark chocolate beverage showed a 25-percent reduction in skin reddening after being exposed to UV radiation. These women also had skin that was thicker, smoother and less scaly compared to those women who drank a beverage low in flavonols. Stick to a 1-ounce portion per day of dark chocolate. Aim for at least 70-percent cacao to get the most skin benefit.
Honorable Mentions: blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates, red wine, tea and grapes.
As a good source of zinc, kidney beans are a must-add to any skin-protective diet. Zinc is an essential trace element crucial for cell growth, repair and skin renewal. Its healing properties have been well-researched and zinc-rich foods are often recommended for individuals with skin injuries and wounds. Zinc also offers skin protection through its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Include ½ cup of kidney beans in your diet multiple times per week.
Honorable Mentions: chickpeas, cashews, lean beef, oysters, spinach and pumpkin seeds.