The expression “you are what you eat” may be more accurate than you think. There are many factors that contribute to the clear, glowing, blemish-free skin everyone strives for (including ). Some foods—depending on their vitamin, mineral, and content—can actually help promote healthy skin. We searched the web for meals that contain two or more foods with properties known to protect or repair skin. (But keep in mind, though studies suggest certain foods can protect our skin or repair damage, they're not a substitute for preventative measures like sunscreen.) From quinoa for breakfast to lots of dark chocolate for dessert, here are 26 ways to eat your way to better skin.
Blueberries, one of nature’s most potent antioxidant-containing fruits, provide the color for this simple, healthy smoothie. If you don’t have walnuts on hand to whip up homemade walnut milk, choose your favorite variety of milk (but keep in mind that some studies link whey-protein-based dairy to skin conditions, including acne, thanks to its insulin-boosting abilities) . Melnik, B.C. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Osnabruck. Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series. Pediatric Program, 2011;67:131-45. Del Prete, M., Mauriello, M.C., Faggiano, A., et al. Department of Molecular and Clinical Endocrinology and Oncology, Federico II University of Naples, Naples, Italy. Endocrine, 2012, Mar 25. . Ismail, N.H., Abdul Manaf, Z., Azizan, N.Z. BMC Dermatology, 2012 Aug 16;12(1):13.. If you can’t make walnut milk, try throwing a few whole walnuts in there anyways—they contain a healthy dose of magnesium, which is important for healthy blood flow in the skin Heidarianpour, A., Sadeghian, E., Gorzi, A., et al. Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran. Biological Trace Element Research, 2011 Oct;143(1):344-50..
Your typical morning breakfast may feature oatmeal, but switch things up with quinoa for an extra dose of protein. Whole grains, including quinoa, are a rich source of selenium, which can improve skin elasticity Richelle, M., Sabatier, M., Steiling, H., et al. Nestle Research Center, Nestec Ltd., Lausanne, Switzerland. British Journal of Nutrition, 2006 Aug;96(2):227-38.. Blueberries are high in (one of many antioxidants, which fight off the damage in our bodies caused by ). Almonds are a high source of vitamin E, known to protect our skin from the sun’s rays Zafra-Stone, S., Yasmin, T., Bagchi, M., et al. Research and Development Department, InterHealth Research Center, Benicia, CA. Molecular Nutrition Food Research, 2007 Jun;51(6):675-83. . Marquardt, D., Williams, J.A., Kucerka, N., et al. Department of Physics, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2013 May 22;135(20):7523-33..
Sip your way to healthy skin with this superfood-packed smoothie. Leafy green kale contains high levels of vitamin K, an essential vitamin known to suppress (which can result in acne or wrinkles) Ohsaki, Y., Shirakawa, H., Miura, A., et al. Laboratory of Nutrition, Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2010 Nov;21(11):1120-6.. Chewy, tangy, and sweet are a rich source of antioxidants, known to ward off the signs of (aging of the skin often caused by sun damage), including , freckles, and Afag, F., Mukhtar, H. Department of Dermatology, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Experimental Deratology, 2006 Sep;15(9):678-84.. Apples are also a healthy-skin super-fruit; Fuji and Red Delicious rank highest for antioxidants . Boyer, J., Liu, R.H., Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Nutrition Journal, 2004; 3:5..
This fall-friendly breakfast is warm and comforting, but it also features two healthy skin-promoting foods: oats and pumpkin. Foods high on the glycemic index (which measures how much a specific food raises blood sugar levels when consumed) can increase inflammation, and as a result, wreak havoc on our skin . Lebovitz, H.E., State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, USA.. High GI foods (like white bread, for instance) spike blood sugar levels because the body digests them very quickly, while low GI foods, like oatmeal digest slowly Ferdowsian, H.R., Levin, S. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC, USA. Skin Therapy Letter, 2010 Mar;15(3):1-2, 5. . Melnik, B.C., John, S.M., Schmitz, G. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Sedanstrasse, Osnabruck, Germany. Nutrition & Metabolism (London), 2011 Jun 24;8:41.. Pumpkin, on the other hand, has loads of , a that converts to vitamin A (known to improve aged skin) Kafi, R., Kwak, H.S., Schumacher, W.E., et al. Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI. Archives of Dermatology, 2007 May;143(5):606-12..
Perfect for a light lunch or side salad, this healthy skin medley features kale, avocado, quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, goat cheese, and a homemade Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Leafy greens, especially kale, are high in antioxidants and —both of which help the skin (antioxidants because they help slow down the process of aging, and vitamin K because it protects the skin’s elasticity). Pomegranate seeds boast super high levels of (an antioxidant also found in cranberries) . Neyrinck, A.M., Van Hee, V.F., Bindels, L.B., et al. Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group, Louvain Drug Research Institue, Universite catholique de Louvain, Avenue Mounier Brussels, Belgium. British Journal of Nutrition, 2013 Mar 14;109(5):802-9..
This hearty salad incorporates tons of Mediterranean staples, including fish, beans, green beans, olives, capers, and red bell pepper. Studies have found that the —composed primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, nuts, and olive oil—can protect against acne thanks to high fiber, antioxidant-rich, and Omega-3-packed (all of which help protect the skin from acne flair ups) . Skroza, N., Tolino, E., Semyonov, L. et al. Dermatology UnitD. Innocenzi, Polo Pontino, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2012 Jul;40(5):466-74. .
Perfect for late summer or early fall, this colorful salad highlights beets, plums, and tomatoes. Beets contain the antioxidant in a higher concentration than most vegetables, and research shows beets may also help reduce the risk for skin cancer Kapadia, G.J., Azuine, M.A., Sridhar, R., et al. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Howard University, Washington, DC. Pharmacology Research, 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8.. This salad also includes tomatoes, which are a great source of , an antioxidant found to reduce skin roughness . Darvin, M., Patzelt, A., Gehse, S., et al. Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Department of Dermatology, Berlin, Germany. European Journal of Pharmacology and Biopharmacology, 2008 Aug;69(3):943-7.. And to round things off, the antioxidant kaempferol—found in kale—may be therapeutic to skin burns . Park, B.K., Lee, S., Seo, J.N., Rhee, J.W., et al. Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea. BMB Reports. 2010 Jan;43(1):46-51..
Topped with just fennel, oranges, radishes, and almonds, this salad is a cinch. Quercetin, an antioxidant found in fennel, has been found to help treat psoriasis (an inflammatory skin condition) as well as and wrinkles . Vijayalakshmi, A., Ravichandiran, V., Jayakumari, S. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 2012 April; 2(4): 269-275.. The sweet and spicy homemade dressing is a little more involved, but it’s easy to make up a big batch and freeze some for later. The dressing uses dates for sweetness rather than refined sugar (a known trigger for acne) . Koku Aksu, A.E., Metintas, S., Saracoglu, Z.N. Department of Dermatology Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Eskisehir Osmangazi University, Eskisehir, Turkey. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Nov 10..
This burger, made up primarily of chickpeas, quinoa, and grated zucchini also features a hearty serving of sunflower seeds. Foods high in vitamin E, including sunflower seeds, help prevent acne development and may help acne-scarred skin heal El-Akawi, Z., Abdel-Latif, N., Abdul-Razzak, K. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Irbid, Jordan. Clinical Experimental Dermatology, 2006 May;31(3):430-4.. Plus, zucchini is 95 percent water, and hydrated skin makes for healthy, supple skin . Wipke-Tevis, D.D., Williams, D.A. MU Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia. Would Repair and Regeneration, 2007 Mar-Apr;15(2):174-85.. The green veggie is also a great source of Vitamin C, a nutrient required for healing damaged skin Boyce, S.T., Supp, A.P., Swope, V.B., et al. Shriners Hospitals for Children and Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2002 Apr;118(4):565-72..
This recipe, featuring omega-3-rich salmon, is a healthy skin superstar not just for its nutritional profile, but also for its low-grease preparation—baking instead of frying. While consuming certain foods can affect our skin from the inside out, greasy food causes problems the second it touches our mouths. Grease from fried food that touches our faces is a recipe for clogged pores . Gordon, B. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1885;78 Suppl 10:10-4.. Opting for baked recipes versus fried can reduce all that grease.
Crushed nuts replace breading as a gluten-free alternative to coat chicken and create a crispy outer crust. The almond-based crust contains high levels of vitamin E, which helps protect the skin from sun damage . Evans, J.A., Johnson, E.J. Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA. Nutrients, 2010 August; 2(8): 903-928.. The sauce uses onions and cherries, both of which have high concentrations of polyphenols, which help protect the skin from free radicals . Pandey, K.B., Rizvi, S.I. Department of Biochemistry; University of Allahabad; Allahabad, India. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2009 Nov-Dec; 2(5): 270-278.. For an even healthier sauce that’s better for the skin, try a that uses less refined sugar (the sweet stuff has been linked to not-so-perfect skin) . Koku Aksu, A.E., Metintas, S., Saracoglu, Z.N. Department of Dermatology Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Eskisehir Osmangazi University, Eskisehir, Turkey. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Nov 10..
This flavorful meal is quick and simple. Feel free to serve it over a bed of greens like bok choy or spinach. Salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help keep inflammation (which can show as redness on our skin) under control . Rubin, M.G., Kim, K., Logan, A.C. Lasky Skin Clinic, 153 Lasky Drive, Suite 1, Beverly Hills, CA. Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008 Oct 13;7:36. Acne: inflammation. Farrar, M.D., Ingham, E. Skin Research Centre, Division of Microbiology, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. Clinical Dermatology, 2004 Sep-Oct;22(5):380-4.. The dish also features edamame (soybeans), which research links to wrinkle reduction Jenkins, G., Wainwright, L.J., Holland, R., et al. Unilever R&D, Colworth Discover, Colworth Science Park, Shanbrook, Bedfordshire, U.K. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2013 Aug 8..
Though tuna is not the most typical main ingredient for stuffed peppers, it is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant that may protect skin from UV-induced damage . McKenzie, R.C. Division of Dermatology, Department of Medical and Radiological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Clinical Experiments in Dermatology, 2000 Nov;25(8):631-6. Traynor, N.J., McKenzie, R.C., Beckett, G.J., et al. Photobiology Unit, Ninewells Hospital, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine. 2006 Dec;22(6):297-303.. Plus, peppers have loads of , an antioxidant involved in the production of collagen, which helps maintain skin firmness . Ascorbic acid; Dehydroascorbic acid. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, Last reviewed: February 18,2013..
This colorful soup gets its hue from two veggies known for improving skin health. Tomatoes are a rich source of , a skin healthy antioxidant. And cooking tomatoes actually increases the concentration of lycopene . Fielding, J.M., Rowley, K.G., Cooper, P., et al. School of Nutrition and Public Health, Deakin University, Malvern, Victoria, Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005;14(2):131-6.. Red peppers, on the other hand, are loaded with vitamin C—which is associated with better skin-aging appearance Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4):1225-31..
The main ingredient of this comforting fall soup—carrots—is an excellent source of vitamin A, which prevents the overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer (That means there are fewer dead cells hanging around to clog pores.) El-Akawi, Z., Abdel-Latif, N., Abdul-Razzak, K. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Irbid, Jordan. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 2006 May;31(3):430-4.
This non-traditional chili incorporates gluten-free and vegetarian ingredients, including pepper, black beans, sweet potatoes, and—of course—lots of spice. Sweet potatoes have tons of Vitamin C, which is known to smooth the appearance of wrinkles Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4):1225-31.. Plus, black beans are a good source of folic acid, an important nutrient for protecting the skin from damaging UV rays . Williams, J.D., Jacobson, E.L., Jacobson, M.K. Folate in Skin Cancer Prevention. Subcellular Biochemistry, 2012;56:181-197..
Snacks and Side Dishes
This simple but tasty spread features three good-for-the-skin ingredients: eggplant, garlic, and red pepper. Eggplant contains the antioxidant nasunin, known to protect cell membranes from damage, while garlic has been used as a remedy for skin diseases and dandruff . Ichiyanagi, T., Kashiwada, Y., Shida, Y., Faculty of Applied Life Sciences, Niigata University of Pharmacy and Applied Life Sciences, Niigata. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005 Nov 30;53(24):9472-7. . Petrovska, B.B., Cekovska, S., Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Republic of Macedonia. Pharmacognosy Reviews, March 2, 2010.. Finally, the veggie that gives this dip its bright red color, red pepper, staves off the effects of skin aging with high levels of vitamin C Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4):1225-31..
For a simple fall salad, all it takes are some dried cranberries, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and toasted pepitas. Also known as pumpkin seeds, pepitas are an excellent source of zinc, which helps maintain collagen strength and promotes skin renewal Graille, M., Pagano, M., Rose, T., et al. IBBMC, Universite Paris, Orsay Cedex, France. Structure, 2010 Jun 9;18(6):710-8.. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as quinoa or farro, is a cheap and easy way to maintain healthy skin since they too have free radical-fighting antioxidants Nguyen, G., Torres, A. Department of Internal Medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA. Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, 2012 Sep;11(9).. The third and final main ingredient, cranberries, ranks highly among other fruits for both antioxidant quality and quantity Benzie, IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, Boca Raton FL: CRC Press; 2011..
There’s not much to this hors d’oeuvre, but kicking back oysters can provide a healthy dose of zinc (a necessary mineral to stave off a variety of skin problems, including acne and the skin disorder ) . Brocard, A., Dreno, B. Skin Cancer Unit, Nantes University Hospital, Nantes, France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Oct;25(10):1146-52. . Bae, Y.S. Hill, N.D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J., et al. Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dermatologic Clinics, 2010 Jul;28(3):587-97.
This no-cook snack wrap is refreshing and easy to compile. The sweet ingredient—red grapes—is a good source of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which helps maintain good circulation in the body as well as strengthen (the basis for the structure of skin) Hernandez-Hierro, J.M., Quijada-Morin, N., Martinez-Lapuente, L., et al. Grupo de Investigacion en Polifenoles, Unidad de Nutricion y Bromatologia, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain. Food Chemistry, 2014 Mar 1;146:41-7..
No need for pricey pre-packaged energy bars when you can whip up your own nutritious, homemade version. These little bites combine mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, dates, spinach, and cocoa. While all of these ingredients have healthy skin properties, spinach contains high levels of folate (a vitamin that may protect the skin from skin cancer) and nuts are chock full of the antioxidant flavonoids Williams, J.D., Jacobson, E.L., Kim, H., et al. Division of Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Pharmacy and Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ. Sub-cellular Biochemistry, 2012;56:181-97. . Ros, E., Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology and Nutrition Service. Nutrients. 2010 July; 2(7):652-682..
For a sweet and savory side, this garlicky spinach will do the trick. One of the main components of this dish, figs, contains flavonoids (the powerful antioxidant that may play a significant role in cellular aging in human skin) . Rahman, K. School of Biomolecular Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, England, UK. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2007 June; 2(2): 219-236.. The other sweet ingredient, honey, has antioxidants in the form of . Van den Berg, A.J., van den Worm, E., van Ufford, H.C., et al. Burns Research Institute, Red Cross Hospital, Beverwijk, The Netherlands. Journal of Wound Care, 2008 Apr;17(4):172-4, 176-8.. And to round things off at the antioxidant party, both spinach and garlic have tons of antioxidants.
This sneaky dessert features a secret ingredient—avocadoes. The creamy green fruit contains high levels of pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5). A number of B vitamins, including B5, promote healthy skin by decreasing oil production and reducing the size of pores. . Leung, L.H., Department of General Surgery, Hong Kong Central Hospital, Hong Kong. Medical Hypotheses, 1995 Jun;44(6):490-2..
This super simple dessert melds sweet, tart, and spicy. The pomegranate seeds are a rich source of polyphenols, an antioxidant known to protect against the adverse effects of UV radiation . Afag, F., Katiyar, S.K. Department of Dermatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 2011 Dec;11(14):1200-15.. Chocolate contains flavonols, an antioxidant that protects the skin against UV rays . Williams, S. Tamburic, S., Lally, C. Cosmetic Science Group, School of Management and Science, London University of the Arts, London, UK. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2009 Sep;8(3):169-73.. Look for with a cacao content above 70 percent for higher antioxidant power.
Foods with high levels of fiber, like apples, can help the body flush out toxins, which can lead to . Constipation has also been linked to skin conditions like acne . Zhang, H., Liao, W., Chao, W., et al. Department of Dermatology, First Affiliated Hospital, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China. Journal of Dermatology, 2008 Sep;35(9):555-61.. But a high-fiber diet with adequate hydration will help keep things moving smoothly . Anti, M., Pignataro, G., Armuzzi, A., et al. Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University, Policlinico, A. Gemelli, Rome. Hepatogastroenterology, 1998 May-Jun;45(21):727-32..
This sweet treat dresses up fruit with a -infused chocolate and nut coating. With deficiency associated with a variety of skin problems (including acne), there’s no excuse not to eat zinc-rich dark chocolate . Brocard, A., Dreno, B. Skin Cancer Unit, Nantes University Hospital, Nantes, France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Oct;25(10):1146-52. . Bae, Y.S. Hill, N.D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J., et al. Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dermatologic Clinics, 2010 Jul;28(3):587-97.. And studies show maca, a Peruvian root known for a host of health benefits, prevents ultraviolet induced skin damage . Gonzales, G.F., Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy and High Altitude Research Institute, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012;2012:193496. . Gonzales-Castaneda, C., Rivera, V., Chirinos, A.L. Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy, Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Herediam Lima, Peru. International Journal of Dermatology, 2011;50(8):928-38..
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