Many of us turn to “quick fix” skin solutions, such as spot treatments, skin creams, and gels. But the truth is, there’s nothing more effective in keeping your skin flawless than your diet.
Let’s take a look at four of the best foods to eat — and the foods to avoid — when it comes to having beautiful skin.
What to Eat for Healthy Skin
Once thought of as a boring or hipster concoction, bone broth’s high collagen content has now made it one of the most sought-after foods for skin health.
Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, is best known for keeping our skin plump, smooth, and supple. Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but it’s believed that we begin to produce less once we hit our mid-twenties — which means that eating a diet rich in nutrients that support collagen production can help fight signs of aging.
Now, certain nutrients such as vitamin C help stimulate the body to produce collagen— but bone broth is one of the only foods to actually contain collagen itself. Best of all, the collagen in bone broth is easily absorbed by the body because the bones simmer so long (18-24 hours), which makes all of the nutrients from the bones more bioavailable.
Many health food stores now carry pre-prepared bone broth and sell bones from grass-fed animals in case you want to make your own at home. Bone broth is surprisingly easy to make: all you need are bones, water, a few splashes of apple cider vinegar, and the veggies and seasonings of your choice.
If your skin is acne-prone or has just lost its oomph, the first nutrient you’ll want to increase in your diet is omega-3 essential fatty acids.
These healthy fats are the building blocks of healthy skin cells (which promote younger, brighter-looking skin) and they moisturize skin from the inside out. Omega-3s are also natural anti-inflammatories, which means they can help fight inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, acne, rashes, and psoriasis.
Wild salmon and other fatty fish, like mackerel and sardines, are amongst the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, you can also get omega-3s from plant sources such as chia seeds, hemp, algae, and macadamia nuts.
Dark Leafy Greens
Alternative medicine suggests your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside your body — especially your digestive system.
Breakouts, rashes, fine lines, wrinkles, and bags under our eyes are all signs of toxins in our bodies, which come at us from all directions in our environment and food supply. This is why eating foods that help detox your body is crucial for clear skin: they prevent toxins from accumulating in your digestive system and overburdening your liver.
Dark leafy greens are rich in the antioxidant vitamins A and C, but they also contain one the most powerful detoxifying nutrients on the planet: chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants their green color. The darker the shade of green, the more chlorophyll — so arugula, spinach, swiss chard, and kale are all great choices for improving detoxification and skin health.
Chlorella is single-celled green algae that grow abundantly in Japan. While it’s known as a superfood for boosting immunity and improving energy, chlorella also has countless properties to improve skin health.
One of the unique benefits of chlorella is that it’s a natural chelator, which means it can bind to and safely eliminate heavy metals in the body, such as mercury and lead.
Heavy metals are toxic to the body and tend to accumulate in our tissues, which makes them extremely difficult to eliminate. Some research suggests heavy metals contribute to skin conditions such as acne.
As dark green algae, chlorella is also rich in chlorophyll, the powerful detoxifying nutrient mentioned above. Chlorella also contains beta-carotene, the antioxidant precursor to vitamin A, which helps give skin a healthy glow, as well as the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, which promote healthy cells (including skin cells).
Chlorella can be found in tablets or powders. There are two different strains of chlorella used in supplements: chlorella pyrenoidosa and chlorella vulgaris. Out of the two, pyrenoidosa is believed to have the strongest detoxification properties.
Worst Foods for Your Skin (And What to Eat Instead)
Good news: You can still have chocolate! That is, as long as it’s at least 70% dark, organic, and dairy-free.
The 3 worst foods for your skin are processed sugar, dairy products, and refined vegetable oils. Here’s why they can damage your skin, and what you can replace them with.
Table sugar, glucose-fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar— processed or refined sugar hides under many names. Processed sugar causes rapid blood sugar fluctuations, which are linked to excess sebum (oil) production.
An increase in oil production in the skin is linked to skin lesions such as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cystic acne.
What to Eat Instead: Small amounts of natural sweeteners such as pure maple syrup, raw honey, green leaf stevia, and coconut nectar.
Oftentimes, skin conditions are linked to food sensitivities. Because dairy products are among the most common food sensitivities (approximately 75% of Americans are affected), it’s worth removing it from your diet for at least three weeks to see if you notice an improvement in your skin.
Research suggests most of us are sensitive to lactose (the protein found in dairy) because we stop producing enough lactase (the enzyme needed to digest dairy) beyond the ages of 4–5.
What to Eat Instead: Unsweetened nut or grain milks, such as almond, coconut, cashew, hemp, and rice milk. Camel milk is also tolerated well by those who are lactose intolerant.
Refined Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Canola, Safflower)
Vegetable oils sound healthy because of the word “vegetable”, but most are extremely high in omega-6 essential fatty acids and low in omega-3s.
While we need omega-6s for hormonal balance and brain function, having too many of them in our diet causes inflammation and damages our health. As a pro-inflammatory nutrient, omega-6s must be balanced with omega-3s, the natural anti-inflammatories that help keep skin problems at bay.
In today’s western diet, processed foods and fast foods are loaded with refined vegetable oils such as soybean oil, canola, peanut, and sunflower oil.
When we’re frequently eating processed foods instead of whole foods (which are higher in omega-3s), you can see why inflammatory health conditions, including skin problems, are the result of having a processed foods diet.
What to Eat Instead: Unrefined expeller oils such as coconut oil and olive oil are treated without chemicals and contain little to no omega-6s.
The Bottom Line: Glowing skin is the result of eating whole, unprocessed foods. Increasing your vegetable, fruit, healthy fat, and lean protein intake, while avoiding boxed and processed foods, will do wonders for your skin and for your overall health.
Dark leafy greens, wild fish, chlorella, and bone broth are just a few of the most powerful foods for skin health. Let us know what foods you try to avoid for healthier skin!