What's the biggest factor in getting healthy skin? Gut health.
Beauty comes from the inside. The old adage is true now more than ever.
There are vitamins and minerals found in all food types that are needed to build radiant skin. It's an inside job.
Protein, fats and carbs are all needed together in order to build different parts of your skin.
Our skin health declines for two reasons
- Aging: affects our skin the same way it affects our organs.
- Environment: external factors like sun exposure (UV radiation), smoking, pollution, poor nutrition and sleep issues.
Prevention is the best strategy for protecting our skin from environmental factors. Remove all stress, eat well, exercise. Basically live like a monk and have great skin.
This lifestyle may not be completely realistic for you and I. We have lives to lead, after all.
What you can control is the food you eat. Let’s get into a few of the most researched superfoods for healthy skin.
Maybe the single best food for your skin.
One serving of guavas offer 628% of your RDA for Vitamin C. That is over 4 times more than oranges!
Vitamin C is needed for collagen production in your skin. Collagen is the building block for all our connective tissues, including skin.
When combined with Vitamin E, Vitamin C also protects us from sun burns (Ex: UVB radiation) (1).
Guavas also have 21% of your daily vitamin A, which is important for maintaining healthy skin membranes.
They also have lycopene, which in pink guava is also shown to protect the skin against UV rays (2).
Some fun facts about Guava. It’s found in the south pacific, Hawaii, Fiji and India. There’s also some guava farmed in Northern California.
Guavas are great chopped on salads, or on their own.
Guavas ripen twice per year. They’re difficult to get where I live in Vancouver. I’d recommend trying guava leaf tea if you can find it.
Other foods super high in Vitamin C include: citrus fruits, chili pepper, parsley, blackcurrant and rose hip.
Omega-3s should be a staple for anyone wanting healthy skin. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s are crucial to building and maintaining the fats in our skin tissue.
Not just good for the fats in our skin, omega-3s hydrate the deep layers in our skin, lowering the likelihood of skin dryness and breakdown (3).
Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies are your best sources for omega-3, but you can also take a fish oil supplement.
Be careful about the quality of your fish oil supplement. Check your sourcing, store them in the fridge and regularly check that it has not gone rancid.
You can do this by breaking open the softgel and smelling / tasting the oil. It should not smell stale and rancid. If it does then throw it out.
Non-meat sources of omega-3s include chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Sunflower seeds are full of Vitamin E. What’s the deal with Vitamin E you ask?
It’s a naturally occurring potent antioxidant and one of the more highly researched vitamins. Vitamin E has the ability to help prevent and reverse the dangers of free radical damage.
Vitamin E’s high antioxidant status is shown to protect us against solar UV radiation.
It also reduced sunburn reactions and chronic UVB damaged skin cells. UVB is what gives us sun burns (6).
At the cellular level, Vitamin E protected against DNA damage associated with skin cancer (7).
Lastly, Vitamin E is important to the fats that line our skin cells. Here it helps against collagen cross linking: a hallmark of aging in your skin (8).
One serving of sunflower seeds gives you 66% of your daily recommended intake. They’re great sprinkled on salads, cereal or in smoothies.
Other foods high in Vitamin E include spinach and almonds.
Liver or Cod Liver Oil
Chances are you don’t know a ton about Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important to all aspects of skin health and function.
Our bodies don’t make it, so we have to get it from our food.
Vitamin A plays an important role in skin cell and tissue growth. Especially in the deep layers of your skin: the dermis.
You need Vitamin A to develop the underlying tissues that keep skin healthy and firm. It does this by preventing the breakdown of collagen in your skin.
Vitamin A is difficult to get in food sources. Thus the need to experiment with liver or cod liver oil.
One small (3 oz) serving of liver gives you between 450-750 percent of the DV for Vitamin A.
Learn a delicious liver recipe here. Egg yolks, cheese and fatty fish are also good sources of Vitamin A.
Spinach (Dark leafy greens)
Popeye was onto something! Spinach and other dark leafy greens help keep your skin supple and radiant. Why you ask? Beta carotene and prebiotics.
Beta carotene is in the carotenoid family. These are natural colours found in some foods like carrots, purple yams, red cabbage, etc.
Foods high in beta carotene, like spinach also provide nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight.
It’s time dependent, meaning you should eat lots of these foods in the spring and summer in order to get the protective effect against sunburn (11).
Our skin naturally has beta carotene in it.
What’s cool is that you can increase the levels of skin beta carotene by eating lots of it.
We’re not positive but this may be responsible for the protective effects against sun damage (12).
Much like your gut, your skin has its own microbiota (or bacterial network) that needs to be nourished.
Prebiotics found in leafy greens also benefit skin health by seeding your gut with beneficial bacteria.
If you’re not into dark greens then carrots, squash, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes your best options.
There’s lots of potential cosmetic skin health benefits from eating algae rich foods like astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin is an algae found in salmon, krill, shrimp and crustaceans. The fish upcycle the microalgae and phytoplankton they eat into more readily available algae that we can use for nutritional benefits.
You can also get it in supplement form or in other algae powders like chlorella.
It also improves age spots, wrinkles, elasticity, moisture and texture of our skin (15). Woah! The big issues with algae is the taste. Good luck with that one.
Properly made bone broth has 6-8 grams of collagen per cup. Collagen is the basis for all of the connective tissues in our body, including skin.
As we get older, collagen production slows leading to visible aging of our skin: wrinkles, age spots and crows feet. The stuff some that we don’t want.
Through a collagen rich diet you can improve your skin’s supple appearance by increasing collagen production.
Research shows an increase in skin elasticity from collagen after eight weeks (16).
Eating collagen rich foods helps repair damaged collagen fibers. Collagen makes your skin appear more smooth by restoring hydration status and helping you grow more connective tissue.
How does this happen?
Want for cool foods that are good for you? Read our list of 5 foods for great digestive health. It's a companion piece to this one!
What are your favourite foods for skin health?
I’d love to hear what works for you. Leave a comment and let me know!
Images by congerdesign, Gregory Culmer
Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your primary care physician for advise on any of this.