While there’s no simple formula guaranteed to deliver clear, frustration-free skin, powerhouse beauty nutrients found in our favorite whole foods can help reduce blemishes and keep skin looking youthful and radiant at any age.
“It’s not about specific foods,” says Jolene Hart, a health coach certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and author of Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out. “It’s more about the approach.”
The approach, Hart says, is in choosing the best fresh foods that pamper our bodies while providing major skin benefits. This means targeting nutrient-dense foods known for their ability to build collagen and elastin (which keep skin firm and supple), reduce inflammation, and protect against skin-damaging free radicals caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure, air pollution and everyday toxin buildup.
Thankfully, these beauty foods are likely already familiar—think nuts, leafy greens, and colorful fruits and veggies. Hart suggests looking at the foods you already love and boosting their potential by incorporating more anti-inflammatory spices such as cayenne, cinnamon and turmeric; using powerful preparation techniques such as fermenting and steaming; and taking a few high-quality supplements such as probiotics and fish oils to deliver deeper skin- and body-healing benefits.
“Get in touch with how your body feels before and after eating,” Hart says. “Does this make me feel good? Is this meal pampering me?”
If your answer is yes, then those foods are likely nourishing you from the inside out, and your skin will be the ultimate sign of it.
The result? Skin that’s soft, even-toned and free of irritation—a clear reflection of healthy, whole foods feeding your whole body everything it needs to look and feel healthy.
6 Nourishing Beauty Nutrients
Biotin: Found in almonds, avocados, chard, legumes and wild salmon
One of the most popular supplements for healthy hair and nails, biotin is a B vitamin that’s just as easy to get via whole foods. Instead of taking several biotin pills daily, why not munch on almonds or enjoy avocado toast topped with smoked wild-caught salmon?
Probiotics: Found in yogurt, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi
Scientists continue to learn more about the brain-gut-skin connection, so make adding a daily dose of fermented foods to your meals a regular habit. Yogurt is a delicious breakfast food. Sauerkraut and kimchi are excellent added to salads or sandwiches. And miso makes a simple appetizer in the form of soup or can be used to marinate fish. If you find it difficult to get in a serving of fermented foods every day, probiotics are one beauty nutrient Hart suggests we consider supplementing. American Health makes high-quality options.
Zinc: Found in chickpeas, mushrooms, oysters, pecans and quinoa
Fussy, problematic skin can benefit from a daily helping of zinc-rich foods, which are critical to the tissue healing process and encourage collagen formation. Zinc also helps calm redness and inflammation, and is especially effective at regulating oil production.
Omega Fatty Acids: Found in chia seeds, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, trout and walnuts
The hype around omega fatty acids is real—but the idea they only come from fish and supplements? Not so much. Get these anti-inflammatory, skin-strengthening nutrients from tasty seeds and nuts that can easily be blended into your morning smoothie or added to a daily salad.
Glutathione: Found in artichokes, beets, broccoli, grapefruit and spinach
A powerful antioxidant that regenerates free radical-fighting vitamins C and E, glutathione is one beauty nutrient Hart is most excited to see become part of our beauty lexicon. “It’s especially important for older people because it defends mitochondrial health and strengthens the immune system,” she says.
Vitamins A, C & E: Vitamin A is found in butternut squash, carrots, collard greens, kale and pumpkin; vitamin C is found in bell peppers, kiwi, papaya, pineapple and strawberries; and vitamin E is found in chard, olives, peaches, sunflower seeds and tomatoes
Considered the royal trio of vitamins for beautiful, healthy skin, vitamins A, C and E are the most highly sought topical treatments to slow skin damage—and are some of the easiest beauty nutrients to enjoy eating every day. Colorful salads of red, green and yellow almost always guarantee that you’re getting a shot of these vitamins essential to cell renewal and repair, production of collagen and elastin, and defense against free radical damage.
How Hydration Helps
Can’t imagine how you’re going to eat all these beauty nutrients every day? You don’t have to! Drinking them offers just as many skin benefits.
“A smoothie is a great way to get everything you need at once,” says Lina Hanson, founder of Lina Hanson Global Beauty and author of Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellness. She suggests starting with green smoothies, as they’re an efficient delivery system for loads of leafy greens. “Experiment with kale, arugula and Swiss chard blended with avocado to get mega doses of vitamins C and E,” Hanson says. “These greatly boost skin vitality and reduce inflammation.”
If you’re getting all the beauty foods you need but aren’t staying well-hydrated, Hanson recommends drinking a cup of hot or lukewarm lemon water every morning. Follow with green tea for a major shot of antioxidants, and then experiment with other herbal teas (Hanson loves holy basil tea; Alvita Teas makes a high-quality, organic version) to stay hydrated throughout the day.
• Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Outby Jolene Hart
• Eco Beauty: Scrubs, Rubs and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friendsby Lauren Cox and Janice Cox