We are all familiar with the saying, “You are what you eat.” And when it comes to your skin, it couldn’t be truer. The foods you consume can either nourish or harm your skin, affecting its texture, tone, and overall health.
Studies suggest that there is a strong connection between diet and skin health, from reducing acne and inflammation to improving skin barrier function and promoting better skin elasticity.
In this article, we’ll explore 10 of the best foods for clear skin and how they support skin health.
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, essential proteins, and amino acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to maintaining healthy skin by keeping it thick, supple, and moisturised. Insufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to dry skin.
They can reduce inflammation, redness, and acne, as well as lower your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. Several studies also show that taking fish oil supplements may help combat inflammatory and autoimmune skin conditions, such as psoriasis and lupus.
Fatty fish is also a source of vitamin E, an important antioxidant and protein, which are necessary to maintain the strength and integrity of the skin. It also supplies zinc, a vital mineral that helps regulate the production of new skin cells.
Avocados are a rich source of healthy fats, which are beneficial for the body and can contribute to skin health by keeping it flexible and moisturised.
According to a study with 39 female participants aged 27-73, consuming one avocado daily for eight weeks improves the skin’s elasticity and firmness, especially around the forehead area.
Avocados also provide vitamin E and vitamin C, which work effectively together. Vitamin E works as an antioxidant to shield your skin from oxidative harm, and vitamin C is necessary for producing collagen, one of the structural proteins of the skin.
Consuming roughly half an avocado, equivalent to a 100-gram serving, can supply 14 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E and 11 percent of the DV for vitamin C.
Walnuts contain multiple nutrients beneficial for our skin and bodies. It is also richer in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than most nuts.
Walnuts contain eight percent of the DV for zinc in just one ounce (28 grams). Zinc is crucial for healthy skin function as it has wound-healing properties and helps optimise the immune system to fight bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Although not its primary benefit, in addition to four to five grams of protein per ounce (28 grams), walnuts also offer small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium.
4. Sweet potatoes
High glycemic index foods, such as white bread, cookies, white pasta, and bagels, have been associated with inflammation and acne. You can easily swap them out with their low-glycemic index counterparts, like sweet potatoes.
Other than being low in GI, sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your body. A 1/2 cup serving (100 grams) of baked sweet potato contains sufficient beta-carotene to supply more than six times the DV for vitamin A.
Beta carotene can help reduce sunburn and cell death, as well as dry and wrinkled skin. At the same time, it can add a warm orange tone to your skin, making it appear healthier.
Broccoli is a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals — including vitamins A, C, and zinc — that are crucial for maintaining healthy skin.
It is an abundant source of lutein, a carotenoid that acts like beta-carotene and helps protect the skin from oxidative damage that can lead to dryness and wrinkles.
Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, a special compound with potential anti-cancer effects, including on certain types of skin cancer. It can protect your skin from sun damage by neutralising free radicals and activating other protective systems in your body.
If you are not a big fan of broccoli, you can swap it with other leafy greens such as kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, or collard greens. This type of food also contains folate, a necessary nutrient for DNA repair.
As we all know, tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C. It also has a good amount of water volume, which helps hydrate your skin.
They also contain all major carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. Studies show these three can protect your skin against UV damage and prevent wrinkling.
Consider combining foods that are high in carotenoids, like tomatoes, with a source of dietary fat, such as cheese or olive oil. Fat in your meal can improve your body’s ability to absorb carotenoids.
Soy contains isoflavones that can protect cells from damage and the skin from UV radiation, potentially reducing the risk of certain skin cancers. They can also promote collagen production in the skin — improving elasticity and reducing wrinkles.
A study with middle-aged women who consumed soy isoflavones daily for 8-12 weeks proved this. They experienced reduced fine wrinkles and improved skin elasticity.
Meanwhile, another study with postmenopausal women shows that isoflavones can help improve skin dryness and increase collagen, contributing to smoother and stronger skin.
8. Green tea
Green tea is known for its benefits to the skin, such as reducing DNA damage, preventing inflammation, and shielding against sun damage and burns.
Green tea contains catechins, powerful compounds that help improve skin health and protect it from damage and ageing.
Like other antioxidant-rich foods, green tea helps protect the skin from sun damage. It can also improve your skin’s moisture, texture, thickness, and elasticity.
9. Chia seeds
Many consider seeds as good sources of nutrients that can benefit the skin, including chia seeds. They are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and soluble fibre.
The benefits of chia seed for your skin include:
- Reduce inflammation
- Help treat eczema and hyperpigmentation.
- Healthy guts from soluble fibre, which helps promote the production of healthy probiotic balance in the gut and skin.
- Hydrating the skin
You can use chia seeds to replace eggs while baking, as they are a great thickening agent. Chia seeds can also be used to make overnight puddings, salad toppings, or fresh drinks with coconut water and lime.
10. Dark chocolate
One more reason to love chocolate is that cocoa has remarkable effects on your skin as it is high in antioxidants.
In several studies, participants who consumed cocoa powder witnessed remarkable changes in the quality of their skin. These include:
- Increased skin firmness and hydration
- Reduced sensitivity to sunburn
- Reduced wrinkles and roughness
- Improved blood flow
To fully optimise its benefits, consume dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa with little to no added sugar.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to clear skin, incorporating these 10 foods into your diet can be a great place to start. Remember that a healthy diet is just one part of a comprehensive skincare routine, so be sure to also stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and practise good skincare habits.