Lots of factors affect how our skin looks: Stress, skin care, and yep, even food. No matter your skin type (and there really isn’t “good” skin vs. “bad” skin anyway), having healthy skin that you enjoy living in is a bonus.
We checked in with the science behind what foods affect skin and some common questions on how food affects your glow.
1. Salmon and other fatty fish
By now, you likely know that omega-3 fatty acids are the bomb. Not only do they protect from cancer and heart disease and boost brain power, but a small research review suggested that they are also good for your skin. These powerful nutrients are most commonly found in fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, or mackerel. Besides being a super tasty and great for simple dinners, omega-3-containing salmon may also play a role in the prevention of skin cancer.
2. Sunflower seeds
A 2014 research review suggested that eating a combination of vitamins E and C may protect your skin against UV damage. A tasty source of vitamin E is crunchy roasted sunflower seeds. Combine them with spinach, which is rich in vitamin C, in a skin-boosting salad. Then add some salmon on top!
3. Olive oil
Want another reason to start partaking in the Mediterranean diet all year round? A research review suggested that including olive oil in your diet may help in the prevention of skin cancer and slow some signs of skin aging. If you’re not ready to uproot to the Mediterranean just yet, you can get a head start by replacing processed oils and butter with olive oil to reap those benefits.
One study suggested that lycopene in fruits like tomatoes and watermelon may protect against the sun’s harsh UV rays. That doesn’t mean you should forego your daily sunscreen, though. Lycopene is more prevalent in processed tomatoes, like tomato paste or cooked tomato sauce. So, feel free to throw an Italian food dinner party ASAP. Or try these fish tacos with watermelon salsa to combine a whole lot of skin-happy foods at once.
5. Green tea
Green tea is already perfect for that afternoon relaxation hour, but it might also soothe your skin. A small research review suggested that green tea has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could aid in treating acne.
6. Red bell peppers
You may already know the benefits of topical vitamin C on your skin. But eating your vitamin C may have skin benefits, too. An old 2007 study showed that a higher intake of vitamin C is associated with fewer incidences of wrinkles. A more recent research review suggested that it may also help with skin conditions and cancer.
With 118 milligrams of vitamin C in just 1/2 cup, these sweet peppers are totally worth adding to your omelet, salad, or stir-fry.
7. Carrots and leafy green veggies
Beta-carotene, which can be found in both purple and orange carrots, gets turned into vitamin A, a super important nutrient for your skin. Pair those carrots with some leafy greens like spinach and kale to unlock the powers of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. It’s a combo that may help protect your skin from sun damage. Cut some carrots onto a leafy green salad for a punch of nutrition.
Staying properly hydrated contributes to the healthiness of your skin and pretty much every other function of your body. Science doesn’t even quite understand all of the ways water can aid in skin health and hydration, but it’s worth getting the amount you need on the daily. Not sure how much? Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much water you need.
Too many refined carbs
Refined carbohydrates have been known to be rapidly absorbed by your body, leading to higher levels of glucose and insulin. This combination of factors has been associated with acne, according to a research review. Try to focus your carbs on complex varieties like whole grains, quinoa, and oats that digest a bit more slowly.
Milk from cow’s has a lot of benefits such as calcium and protein, but there are some connections to acne, too. It seems that whole, part-skim, and skim milk may all increase issues with acne. Thankfully, no current studies have shown that dairy cheese or yogurt contributes to acne. *Turns to cheese to cope*
Smoking and excessive alcohol are commonly known as baddies to your skin and with good reason. A large study found that heavy alcohol use (or more than 8 drinks per week) was associated with increased facial lines, under-eye puffiness, and facial volume loss.
Alcohol can also cause what’s known as oxidative stress, which has been associated with worsened acne, according to a small study. Stick to only a moderate amount of alcohol per week or even less to keep the effects on your skin minimal.
Does eating chocolate really cause teenage zits?
We are sad to say that a small study pointed to the fact that eating too much chocolate may increase your likelihood of developing pimples. If you’re a milk chocolate lover, it may be even more bad-news-bears. Another small study suggested that a diet rich in sugar-packed foods is linked to acne.
In other words, stress-eating chocolate is probably not the best idea. If you need a daily chocolate fix, reach for the dark stuff, which typically contains less sugar than milk chocolate.
Will eating collagen reduce wrinkles?
Although the research is in the early stages, the answer is potentially, yes. Collagen is the main component in skin tissue, but only in recent years have people have started to ingest it so readily in powder form (News flash: It’s been around for ages. If you eat homemade chicken noodle soup, you’re consuming collagen.) A research review showed improved skin elasticity and reduced formation of wrinkles after taking collagen supplements for 6 weeks. Research is still ongoing in this area.
Can I eat processed foods?
A 2014 research review linked heavily processed foods with negative skin affects and inflammation. Dermatologists recommend aiming for whole, unprocessed foods as much as you can. Think fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Some foods, especially fruits and veggies, can help keep your skin at its best. But downing sunflower seeds, red peppers, and water won’t make up for excessive drinking, smoking, not using (and reapplying) sunscreen daily, or not sleeping enough.
It’s all about balancing the good with the bad, with just a little more good. Enjoy foods that make you feel good. If you stress too much about eating for your skin, well, we all know what stress can do.