You know the old saying that we are what we eat? Glowing skin really does start from within and the foods we eat play a HUGE role in creating a beautiful complexion. Add these eight nutrients to your diet for more youthful, radiant skin.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Consuming more omega-3s can improve your skin because of their anti-inflammatory abilities. This is especially good for those who are prone to acne, dry skin or other inflammatory skin issues. The body doesn’t produce omega 3s, so you must find ways to add this essential fatty acid (EFA) into your diet.
While omega 6s are another common type of EFA, most Americans actually consume more than enough omega 6s in things like processed foods and baked treats. (Too much omega 6 in your diet can cause inflammation and that can exasperate skin issues.) Omega 3s, however, are a little less common in the standard American diet.
Best Sources: Cold water or wild caught fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines, etc.), grass-fed beef, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and eggs are all ways to add omega-3s to your diet. Oily fish like wild caught salmon contain the highest amounts of EPA and DHA, which are crucial not only for healthy skin but for brain health.
2. Vitamin D
Although technically a hormone, Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory so it can help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis, acne and rosacea. Unfortunately, most Americans have vitamin D deficiency even though there are a few easy ways to get it through sunlight and our diet.
Best Sources: Of course, sun exposure is one way to increase your vitamin D intake and it helps our bodies release feel-good endorphins. But keep in mind since too much UV ray exposure can damage your skin, you’ll want to limit your time outdoors without sunscreen. The Spa Doctor, Trevor Cates, recommends in her book “Clean Skin Starts from Within” up to 30 minutes of sun exposure for your arms and legs twice a week. Other sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms and vitamin D supplements.
Note: If your levels are too low your medical doctor may suggest boosting your Vitamin D through monitored supplementation.
3. Vitamin C
You’ll want to add the powerhouse antioxidant vitamin C to your wellness routine to keep your skin looking young and firm. This nutrient is important because it aids in the production of collagen, a protein that gives our skin its elasticity. (Much like the springs inside a mattress.) As we age, collagen naturally starts to decline, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. Along with its anti-aging benefits, vitamin C is also known to decrease skin dryness and improve the formation of scar tissue.
Best Sources: Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, cantaloupe, bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli and kale.
Zinc helps the skin heal itself, whether you get a cut or need reduced inflammation from acne. It has also been known to treat conditions like dandruff, rosacea and dermatitis. Zinc protects the skin from UV radiation too, making it a common ingredient in sunscreens.
Best Sources: The best way to get more zinc in your diet is through shellfish, grass-fed red meat, and free range poultry. If those options don’t work for you, try pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Pro Tip: One of the most cost-effective ways to purchase grass-fed meat and free-range poultry is through your local farmers.
5. Vitamin E
One of the most important nutrients to your skin’s health is vitamin E. This antioxidant not only aids in healing, it also helps prevent premature aging. Another major benefit is that vitamin E helps protect your skin from free radical damage and it helps support collagen production.
Best Sources: Applying vitamin E oil externally to your skin is a great way to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, stretch marks, fine lines and brown spots. You can also add vitamin E to your diet with olive oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, leafy greens and avocados.
6. Vitamin A
This powerful antioxidant is crucial for glowing skin. Also known as retinol, this is one of the nutrients that is a popular ingredient in many acne products on the market. It promotes cell turnover, which helps prevent breakouts. Without enough vitamin A, your skin is likely to become more prone to acne along with feeling dry and scaly. Vitamin A can also help heal eczema, cold sores, burns and sunburns.
Note: If you’re pregnant or nursing it’s important not to consume too much vitamin A through your diet, supplements or skincare products.
Best Sources: Vitamin A-rich foods include egg yolks, liver, dark leafy greens, carrots and sweet potatoes.
7. B Vitamins
Biotin (vitamin B7), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and niacin (vitamin B3) are vitamin B options that can help improve your complexion. You’ve likely heard of biotin, as it’s found in many multivitamins that support healthy hair, skin and nails. Vitamin B5 can help promote softer skin and less inflammation while vitamin B3 helps banish acne. The other huge benefit to adding more B-group vitamins to your diet (including B12) is these nutrients boost our energy levels, according to Dr. Libby Weaver.
Best Sources: You’ll find vitamins B3, B5 and B12 in meats, fish, chicken and eggs. Add vitamin B7 to your diet by eating more egg yolks, bananas, liver, mushrooms, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce and walnuts.
Did you know our gut microbiome has a direct connection to our overall health, immune system, mood and skin? Probiotics help keep our digestive tract in balance by boosting healthy, “friendly” bacteria our bodies need to thrive. Skin-related benefits to probiotics in our diets include reduced redness, pimples and dryness. Probiotics can also improve collagen production, keeping skin looking youthful and healthy.
Best Sources: Add probiotics to your diet with naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, Greek style yogurt that’s low in sugar and contains “live active cultures”, kimchi, kefir and kombucha. You can also make delicious fermented foods at home.
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As an Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Duke Integrative Medicine trained health and wellness coach, I love helping women create sustainable long-term changes with their health so they can feel their best inside and out.
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