There’s no doubt about it: A good diet is essential for your overall health. The effects of a poor diet have a wide-ranging reach all throughout your body, damaging your metabolism which causing weight gain and affecting your vital organs like your liver and heart.
Vital organs like your skin, as well.
What you put in your mouth is even more important to your skin’s health than what you apply on your skin. If you really want to have fabulous skin, eating a good diet is probably the most important thing you could do.
Does Diet Really Affect Skin?
It certainly does! A poor diet can affect everything from acne to eczema to aging. Sometimes it may just take a while to show up, but it will. “You could have sallow skin, dry skin, older-looking skin. It’s not going to happen overnight, but starve your skin long enough, and it’s going to show,” says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center in New York City.
An unhealthy diet could land you with more serious problems. “You may find yourself suddenly breaking out in acne, eczema, psoriasis. Any number of chronic skin problems can be directly linked to diet,” says biochemist Elaine Linker, PhD and Co-founder of DDF skin care.
While there’s not one star ingredient that will guarantee your skin’s health, a very poor diet will lead to poor skin health. In fact, problems with your diet will often show up in your skin, hair and nails before you even see any evidence elsewhere.
How To Choose a Healthy Diet For Your Skin
“Everything you eat becomes a part of not only your inner being, but the outer fabric of your body as well. The healthier the foods are that you consume, the better your skin will look,” says Heller. The opposite is also true. The worse your diet, the more problems you’ll see with your skin.
Heidi Waldorf, MD, dermatologist with The Mount Sinai Health System, recommends a good variety. “I suggest my patients enjoy a varied diet containing antioxidants as well as important building blocks like protein and good fats. A daily multivitamin and a cup of green tea ensure vitamins and antioxidants.”
If you drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet that includes a lot of variety in plant and animal sources, chances are you’re getting what you need. If your idea of a healthy meal consists of nachos, wings and ice cream, you may have cause for concern. Vegetarians are at risk for imbalances in their vitamins, since many of these are obtained from animal sources.
Waldorf warns against overdoing any one particular thing. “Don’t overdo anything. For example, salmon and tuna are great sources of good omega fats, but too much can lead to a dangerous mercury level.”
Why These Nutrients Are Important for Skin Health
Ximena Jimenez, nutritionist with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that you look for certain nutrients like antioxidants. The following nutrients have been shown to be especially beneficial for healthy, glowing skin:
Vitamin A: This vitamin plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of the epithelial tissue (the lining of your skin). One of the main functions of the epithelial layer is to serve as a barrier to bacteria. Low levels of vitamin A can lead to a dry, flaky complexion.
What to eat: carrots, spinach, kale, apricots, and papaya
Vitamin E: This nutrient has been found to provide some skin protection. It is another important vitamin for the maintenance of epithelial tissue which helps to promote healthy looking skin. In a recent study published in the Annual Review of Nutrition, researchers explained that continuous exposure to ultraviolet rays is linked to skin disorders such as sunburn and skin cancer. The risk may be lessened by incorporating more foods rich in vitamin E into your daily diet.
What to eat: oranges, spinach, and almonds
Vitamin C: In addition to promoting a strong immune system, this water soluble vitamin has anti-aging properties according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin C also has an important role in the synthesis of collagen, a major protein of body tissues that include the skin.
What to eat: broccoli, green leafy vegetables, mango, watermelon, and red peppers.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This healthy fat nourishes your skin and promotes overall skin health. It has been found to protect the skin against damage from UV rays. Research has shown that Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties are responsible for having a protective effect against the incidence of skin cancer and aging. It protects against sunburn and helps to prevent premature aging. A symptom of Omega-3 deficiency includes dry skin.
What to eat: sardines, tuna, walnuts, canola oil, flaxseed, and salmon.