When it comes to making food choices for your health, what do you usually think about? Eating for a healthy heart? For brain health? For muscle growth? Focusing on nutrition for these reasons is important, but you don’t want to forget about your body’s biggest organ—your skin!
What you eat, and what you don’t eat, can have a direct impact on the health of your skin including everything from elasticity to sun protection. Here are the most important nutrients for eating your way to healthier skin and how to add them into your diet every day.
How nutrition impacts skin health
Your skin functions as a barrier between the rest of your body and the outside world. By fueling your body with the right balance of nutrients, you can feed your skin so it can perform its job as best as possible. A variety of nutrients play a role in supporting the health of your skin, from antioxidants, which protect against cellular damage, to proteins, which support healing and structure.
Although many nutrients impact the health of your skin, a few stand out from the crowd. Eating foods rich in these nutrients each day is one of the best ways you can support the health of your skin now and in the future.
Vitamin C. “Vitamin C is a vital nutrient for healthy skin,” shares culinary communications consultant Beth Stark, RDN, LDN. “It helps your body make the protein collagen that heals wounds, keeps skin supple and strengthens hair.”
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also plays a key role in helping to prevent damage to skin from sunlight as well as environmental pollutants. And its benefits don’t stop there. “The powerful anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C are helpful in decreasing both hyperpigmentation and redness of skin,” adds Dr. Lisa Leslie-Williams, PharmD., founder of theDomesticLifeStylist.com. (Just know that vitamin C is not a replacement for sunscreen—so remember to keep slathering on that SPF!)
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men. To ensure you are getting enough each day, aim to add a variety of produce to your plate including citrus fruit and dark green leafy vegetables, along with peppers, berries, and tomatoes. For instance, one medium orange (140 mg) contains 82 mg of vitamin C, whereas one cup of raw broccoli contains 69 mg.
Collagen. When you think about nutrients that impact skin health, you probably think about collagen—a protein that has built up quite a buzz about its potential anti-aging benefits. Since this protein provides structure (think of it as the body’s scaffolding), a decrease in collagen, which occurs as we age, can lead to a loss of elasticity in skin.
There are four forms of collagen in the body, with two playing the biggest role in the health of our skin. Eating foods that contain collagen such as eggs, bone broth, fish, and chicken can help ensure you are getting enough of this protein each day, however supplemental collagen can help as well. “A collagen supplement can be easily tracked and can offer convenience,” shares Leslie-Williams. “To help manage premature wrinkles, add 2.5 to 10 grams per day and choose a supplement that has types I and III collagen which are specifically beneficial for healthy skin.”
Healthy fats. Dietary fat can offer a variety of protection to our skin. “Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to be helpful in protecting our skin from UVB light,” explains Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, CDCES, FAND, of Diabetes Every Day. For instance, almonds which are a rich source of these unsaturated fats may offer protection from the sun’s rays. “A recent study found that it took longer periods of UVB exposure for any telltale signs of sunburn to appear in women who ate almonds,” shares Smithson, who recommends eating an ounce and a half of almonds (about 35 almonds) before heading outdoors.
Omega-3 fatty acids, a form of polyunsaturated fats, offer additional health benefits for skin as well. “Omega-3 fats keep skin moist and glowing and may also reduce redness, dermatitis, and acne flare-ups due to their anti-inflammatory compounds,” shares Stark. To add more omega-3s into your diet aim to eat fatty fish like salmon and tuna two times per week, or add plant-based omega-3s such as walnuts and flaxseed into your diet.
The perfect plate for skin health
Looking for a way to add all of these nutrients onto your plate? In addition to doing so, ingredients like the following support overall health and the other systems—heart, brain, and muscle—in a balanced eating pattern.
Try making this easy salad a few times per week. Simply mix together leafy green vegetables with vitamin C-rich fruit, top with nuts for a boost of healthy fat, and add on grilled fish to increase your intake of both collagen and omega-3s.
3 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup sliced strawberries
1 Tbs chopped almonds
3 oz grilled salmon
1 Tbs vinaigrette
Top a plate of fresh spinach with sliced strawberries and salmon filet. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and vinaigrette and enjoy!
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.