Many people spend a lot of time slathering on creams and using other products to improve their skin, but a beautiful complexion starts with a healthy skin diet. Like your other organs, your skin needs nourishment to be at its best, too. Along with staying properly hydrated, there are a number of nutrients that can not only impact how healthy you are on the inside, but how you look in the mirror. (And the good news is that you’re probably already meeting these goals if you eat a balanced diet.)
Proper nutrition is a powerful thing, and following the fundamentals of a healthy skin diet is a great way to actually see just how impactful eating right can be. You’ll congratulate yourself on your wise choices every time you catch your reflection.
Often called “the forgotten nutrient,” water is a crucial component of a healthy skin diet, as it rids your body of harmful toxins that can clog your pores. Aim to drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses over the course of each day. And remember: Sodas, juices, coffee and tea aren’t as powerful as the clear stuff when it comes to nourishing your skin. If you find it hard to down that much plain water, try tossing berries, citrus wedges or cucumber slices into your glass to add subtle flavor.
Partake in Protein
Protein is essential for cellular repair, and because we shed so many skin cells each day, a diet filled with healthy protein ensures that we replenish what we’ve lost and keep the cells we have well fed. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adult women (ages 19 to 70) is 46 g, while the RDA for men in the same age group is 56 g. Keep in mind, however, that all proteins are not created equal: Skip fatty cuts of red meat and processed meats, like cold cuts and sausage, in favor of eggs, poultry, fish, lean red meat, low-fat dairy products, soy foods, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Get a Daily Dose of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen–the spongy network of fibers that keeps our skin looking plump and wrinkle-free. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red peppers, dark green leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and kiwis. The RDA is 75 mg for adult women and 90 mg for adult men, and most adults meet this goal without trouble.
Zap Problem Spots with Zinc
Zinc is involved in wound healing and the formation of new collagen, and it plays an especially important role in minimizing the inflammation that causes acne. While zinc is available in supplement form, there are plenty of good food sources of zinc, including oysters, legumes, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, poultry, wheat bran and wheat germ. Most people easily get enough zinc in their diet (the RDA for adult women is 8 mg, 11 mg for men), although vegetarians often fall short.
Antioxidant-rich foods protect collagen and inhibit the formation of wrinkles and fine lines. They also improve the overall appearance of skin, speed skin’s ability to repair itself and protect against further damage from elements, like sun and wind. To get an array of antioxidants (such as the important vitamins C, A and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium) into your diet, aim to eat six or more servings of vegetables each day and two or more servings of fruit. Darker fruits and vegetables tend to contain the most antioxidants, so choose richly-colored options like dark green leafy greens, broccoli, blueberries, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, red peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, plums, red grapes, beets and tomatoes. You may consider visiting your local farmers’ market all year long to find a great variety of fresh, seasonal produce.
Help Yourself to Healthy Fats
Monounsaturated fats and essential fatty acids help to keep skin moisturized from the inside out by absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Many monounsaturated fats also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Goods sources of monounsaturated fats include extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, avocados, raw or dry roasted nuts, seeds and natural nut butters. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, Arctic char and sardines, as well as ground flaxseeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, are good fatty acid-rich picks.