There are many products out there claiming to defy the process of aging or, better yet, reverse the clock. While there is no cure for aging, there are ways to keep your skin strong and healthy. You can start by changing perspective to look at what causes initial signs of aging. I am referring specifically to wrinkles, dark spots, inflammation, and overall dullness. Bioactive compounds found in foods are able to help combat aging through oxidative defense, lowering inflammation, increasing collagen production, and protecting against UV-ray damage.
The damage begins at the cellular level with free radical damage, also known as “oxidative stress,” which is the root cause of many diseases. Therefore, it is no surprise this oxidative damage can also affect our body's biggest organ - our skin! Plants are a great source of antioxidants, which combat this damage. Typically, the more vibrance and color, the greater the benefits.
Bioactive compounds found in foods such as carotenoids, vitamins C and E, phenolic acids, and polyphenols have been shown to have positive impacts on skin health. These compounds play a role in skin health by:
Top 5 Foods to Add to Your Diet for Skin Health:
Blueberries are known for being one of the richest sources of antioxidants.
Blueberries are versatile and can be added to many dishes like yogurt parfaits, salads, or even a blueberry balsamic dressing.
2. Citrus Fruits
Oranges and tomatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C, which is important for collagen production. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, an antioxidant important for protecting the skin from sun damage.
Have oranges ready on your countertop for a quick snack on the go. It is almost peak season for tomatoes, consider homemade marinara sauce in batches, so you can freeze them and eliminate some prep later in the month.
3. Leafy Greens
Kale is another reputable veggie known for its skin benefits. Kale’s composition includes the antioxidant vitamin K, which is important for cell hydration and overall firmness. Vitamin K may also reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
Oh, Kale-ya! Try out some homemade Kale chips; they are easy to make and are mild in flavor. Be creative and try different toppings such as red chili flakes, sea salt, nutritional yeast, or even garlic powder.
4. Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
You drive me nuts but in a good way! Nuts and legumes are not only a good source of plant-based protein, but they also provide a positive skin aesthetic. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), polyphenols, and alpha tocopherols (an abundant form of vitamin E found in human tissues). Alpha tocopherols are the only form of Vitamin E that has an active effect on the body. It is involved in forming antioxidants and, therefore, reducing the amount of free radical damage.
Create some trail mix with a combination of your favorite nuts, and include seeds such as pepitas and sunflower seeds. If you are looking for a sweeter flavor profile, toss the nuts and seeds in a bit of honey, sprinkle some cinnamon, and bake in the oven at 350° until lightly toasted. Nuts and seeds are also great toppers for salads, yogurts, and oatmeal.
5. Decaffeinated Green Tea
While the hydration component of green tea is important, the antioxidants are the stars. The flavanols in green tea, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), may offer some UV protection, increased elasticity, and overall bounce to your skin.
The bottom line regarding the information on food and skin health is a diet higher in whole foods is known to show significant changes in skin health and aesthetics. The best foods for our skin are those packed with nutrients, vibrance and are plant-based. An abundance of fruits and vegetables will not only benefit your skin but will also support overall health.
Julie Allocco, Dietetic Intern
Fam VW, Charoenwoodhipong P, Sivamani RK, Holt RR, Keen CL, Hackman RM. Plant-Based Foods for Skin Health: A Narrative Review. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. 2022;122(3):614-629. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2021.10.024
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