Great skin is an inside job. All the moisturizers and serums in the world won’t compensate for a poor diet. The foods you eat, and their nutrient content, determine just how healthy your skin is. While many great foods can boost skin health and prevent skin conditions, here are some of the best skin-soothing superfoods.
Almonds contain high amounts of vitamin E, which may prevent skin damage, and ease UV-induced skin issues. Fortunately, just 1 ounce of almonds contains 37 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E. Almonds also help reduce skin-damaging free radicals. In a study of 60 male smokers who ate 3 ounces of almonds daily, researchers found that the subjects had a 23 to 34 percent reduction in oxidative stress biomarkers (markers of cellular damage) after only four weeks.
It’s easy to reap the skin health benefits of almonds. Snack on a handful of raw, unsalted almonds throughout the day; chop them up to add to salads; or use them as a topping for curries and stir-fries. Alternatively, add whole almonds to stir-fries as you cook. Grind almonds or purchase them pre-ground to use as a gluten-free flour substitute in your baking. Place slivered almonds atop vegetables while roasting or baking them, such as green beans with almonds.
Many people know that avocados provide healthful fats for great skin, but few know that one of the main reasons avocados boost skin health is that they boost the body’s absorption of carotenoids, which are a type of antioxidant and essential for healthy skin. By eating avocados alongside foods with carotenoids, you can increase the amount of those nutrients you absorb. That means extra skin health benefits for adding avocado to your leafy green salad or those sweet potatoes you’re eating.
Avocados are delicious in guacamole, but don’t let your avocado recipe repertoire stop there. Add avocado to your smoothies, salads, dips, sandwiches, and wraps, and top thick soups with avocado slices. And, of course, there’s the classic favorite: avocado toast. Blend avocado with cocoa and a sweetener of your choice for a delicious and healthy chocolate mousse. Avocados can also be added to other desserts as a cake ingredient (replacing some of the oil or butter in a recipe), or a frosting for cakes, cookies, or cupcakes (simply blend avocado, some icing sugar, and cocoa or other flavoring).
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are among the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, especially one called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These oils can improve skin health. According to research published in many scientific journals, including Nutrients, flaxseeds are natural anti-inflammatories, which makes them ideal for reducing skin inflammation and conditions such as eczema, hives, and rashes. In another study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that ingesting flaxseed oil on a daily basis helped treat the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema.
Because flaxseeds are sensitive to heat and light, both the seeds and the oil are best left uncooked and stored in the refrigerator. Add flaxseeds to cooked oatmeal or other breakfast cereals, or supplement your favorite smoothies. Flaxseed oil is delicious drizzled over baked, steamed, or roasted vegetables and potatoes; over organic popcorn; or into smoothies. Simply add a teaspoon or two at a time, a few times daily, for best results.
If your goal is to prevent serious skin conditions, such as cancer, consider turning to ginger, which has anti-cancer and tumor-destroying properties. According to researchers, ginger’s anti-cancer potency is due to several of its natural compounds — gingerol, paradol, shogaol, and zerumbone. Research in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that ginger may help treat skin cancers, as well as other cancers, including breast, colorectal, gastric, liver, and prostate.
Enjoy a cup of ginger tea with a touch of honey or a little of the naturally sweet herb stevia. Additionally, add freshly grated ginger to soups, stir-fries, vegetables, and other dishes to pack extra skin-healing compounds into your meals.
Green tea is popular for its anti-aging and other health-building properties, but now there’s one more reason to love the beverage: Exciting research in the medical journal Pharmaceutical Development and Technology found that drinking green tea can protect your skin from UV damage. Green tea really is a skin superfood extraordinaire, largely due to a potent plant nutrient called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which helps destroy skin-damaging free radicals. Free radicals react with healthy cells in the body, causing damage, so lessening their numbers can help reduce skin wrinkling and other damage.
Green tea isn’t everyone’s, well, cup of tea. If you’re not wild about the flavor, try a few different kinds. Try it iced or hot. Try it with the addition of mint. If you want a sweeter drink, add stevia. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a few drops of stevia and serve over ice, et voila: green tea lemonade. Most experts recommend 3 cups daily to reap green tea’s many health benefits.
Pomegranates may be another delicious defense against skin cancer. Research published in the medical journal Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry explored the anti-cancer effects of pomegranate and pomegranate juice. The scientists found that the fruit’s rich polyphenol content demonstrated an ability to inhibit skin cancer, as well as lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and leukemia.
Enjoy pomegranate seeds fresh from the fruit by cutting it in half and pulling the seeds from the off-white flesh of the fruit. The seeds, known as “arils,” are delicious on their own or added to your favorite brown rice or quinoa dish for an explosion of taste. They’re also excellent on top of Greek yogurt. Many grocery or health food stores now offer pomegranate juice, which is great on its own or mixed with orange juice and sparkling water for a spritzer. Mixing pomegranate juice with stevia-sweetened ginger ale or carbonated water makes a delicious nonalcoholic cocktail.
Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin is a rich source of beta carotene, which is essential for healthy skin, protects against sun damage, and is a potent antioxidant that may help protect against skin cancer. Plus, don’t throw out those pumpkin seeds. While some foods are higher in vitamin E than pumpkin seeds, few foods contain as many types of vitamin E as these seeds do, including: alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, and gamma-tocomonoenol. These many forms of vitamin E work together to promote healthy skin.
Pumpkin is versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Cut small pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds and set them aside, brush the flesh with a small amount of olive oil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until soft (usually 1 hour, depending on the size of the pumpkins you use). Purée the flesh to use in coffee beverages, smoothies, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. I also add puréed pumpkin to sweet potatoes for a delicious vegetable side dish. Add chopped pumpkin to soups, curries, or stews for a nutrient boost. For a delicious, skin-healing snack, place pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, and bake at 300 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for wound healing and the production of collagen to keep skin healthy and youthful. They’re also one of the best sources of beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A, and necessary for healthy skin and to guard against skin cancer.
Sweet potatoes are readily available, although stores often confuse sweet potatoes and yams and mislabel the two. Almost all the “yams” found in grocery stores are actually sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes can have red, orange, yellow, or even purple skin. They can also have orange, white, or purple flesh, adding to the confusion between these two distinct tubers. Enjoy them in soups, stews, curries, and sauces; baked and added to salads; or eaten all on their own.
People rarely give walnuts much consideration, favoring exotic superfoods from around the globe. Before you turn to foods with a massive environmental footprint that have traveled many miles to get to your local store, consider walnuts. Walnuts are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce skin inflammation. Just 1 ounce (about 14 walnut halves) contains 2,570 milligrams of omega-3s, making walnuts one of the richest sources of this natural, skin-friendly nutrient.
If you typically can’t stand walnuts, give the fresh walnuts in the refrigerator section of your health food store a chance. They lack the bitterness of packaged walnuts, and they have a sweet flavor and buttery texture. Fresh, raw walnuts make a great addition to salads, yogurt, and bowls of fruit. They can be chopped and added to quinoa or rice salads, or to previously cooked vegetable dishes. Add some to smoothies, snack on a handful on their own, toss them with a little walnut oil and spices, or eat them alongside dried fruit.