Healthy skin starts from within. Research shows that your skin reflects the state of your general internal health. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to keep your skin looking vibrant and prevent the appearance of visible signs of aging.
To keep your skin looking vibrant and youthful as you age, eat whole foods loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. Some of the most important nutrients for skin health are vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin D. To get more of these nutrients, try adding more of these foods to your diet.
Blueberries are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin, which gives color to blue, red, or purple foods. Other sources of anthocyanin include raspberries, acai, elderberries, grapes, and pomegranates. Anthocyanins in the skin have been shown to increase levels of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, all of which help maintain skin elasticity and prevent wrinkles.
Try fresh berries as a snack, or add them to a breakfast smoothie or fruit bowl to start your day with a burst of powerful antioxidants.
2. Orange Foods
Orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and papaya are good sources of beta carotene, a type of carotenoid. Carotenoids are pigments that the body converts into vitamin A.
Carotenoids, which include beta carotene, lycopene, and retinol, are highly effective antioxidants that have been shown to help protect the skin from sun damage.
Papaya also contains an enzyme known as papain, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is being studied for possible use in cancer treatments.
Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a plant nutrient with antioxidant properties. Lycopene is an important component of human blood and tissue and can help protect the skin from sun damage when ingested. Diets high in lycopene are also associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
Cooking tomatoes can make the lycopene more bioavailable, which means it's easier for your body to absorb. Pureeing or juicing raw tomatoes has the same effect. However, cooking tomatoes can reduce their vitamin C content. To get the most nutrients out of your tomatoes, use them in a variety of dishes that require cooked and fresh tomatoes.
4. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are another good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and carotenoids. Try them raw with some hummus, or add them to a salad or stir fry.
5. Green Tea
Green tea is an excellent source of polyphenols, micronutrients that are loaded with antioxidants. In particular, green tea polyphenols have been shown to help protect against sun damage, and also possess anti-inflammatory properties.
The most powerful antioxidant in green tea is a catechin known as epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which is believed to have cancer-fighting properties. EGCG is especially high in matcha, a type of green tea made from powdered tea leaves. Unlike regular green tea, which is steeped in hot water and then removed, matcha is dissolved in water. Because you're drinking the whole tea leaves rather than an infusion, matcha contains more nutrients.
Green tea can also be used topically and is a popular ingredient in many skincare products.
Turmeric is an Indian spice related to ginger that is frequently used in rice dishes. Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound known as curcumin, which has been widely studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin has been found to reduce oxidative stress from free radicals, which can contribute to fine lines and wrinkles.
Combining turmeric with black pepper and a healthy source of fat, such as olive oil, can help improve the body's absorption of curcumin.
While turmeric is traditionally used in Indian dishes such as curries, it can also easily be added to other dishes, such as scrambled eggs, soups, or macaroni and cheese. Try making a comforting golden milk beverage with turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut milk.
Foods to Avoid
In addition to including these nutrient-dense foods in your diet, you can improve the appearance of your skin by cutting back on certain foods, most notably sugar. Sugar attaches to collagen and elastin in a process known as glycation, which can create stiffer skin fibers and lead to the formation of wrinkles.
Cut back on your sugar intake by swapping sugary desserts for fresh berries and a small piece of dark chocolate. Your skin will thank you for it!
Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.