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6 Ways to Eat and Drink Your Way to Healthier Skin

The best skin care doesn't always come in a jar. You can treat dullness, flaking, and early signs of aging by choosing the right foods and beverages.


By Anna Brooks, Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD, Everyday Health

It seems like every day there’s a new magic skin-care product out there promising to wash away all your wrinkles and make your skin glow like the sun. While the cosmetics aisle is often the first place we turn to in search of healthier skin, there’s a natural (and usually cheaper) option to consider first: food.

Our diet has everything to do with the health of our skin, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetics and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He says the nutrients, minerals, and proteins found in food support collagen production and healthy cell membranes, and protect skin from harmful stressors, such as UV exposure.

“The food we eat provides the building blocks for healthy functioning of our bodies,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Our diet directly influences our appearance and how we age.”

RELATED: 10 Things Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You — and How to Respond

So before you open another jar of skin cream, find out which foods can help your skin look younger, fresher, brighter, and just plain better. Keep reading to learn what the experts say you should eat for a glowing, youthful complexion.



1

Eat Healthy Fats, Like Nuts, Seeds, and Avocado

Not all fats are evil. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one example of healthy fats — and they're especially important for those who want to prevent fine lines and wrinkles. "Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation that can lead to wrinkles, and they prevent collagen breakdown," says Keri Glassman, RD, a nutritionist based in New York City. Good sources of these fats recommended by the National Institutes of Health include things like walnuts and flaxseed.

You can also enlist the help of avocados, which are packed with nutrients that benefit the skin. "Avocados are high in sterolins, which help soften and moisturize the skin," says Glassman. "They also have vitamin E, which enhances the skin's collagen production while sealing in vital moisture."

Collagen is a fibrous protein naturally produced in the body that helps repair connective tissue, and keeps our hair, nails, and skin strong, says Zeichner. Eating food rich in vitamins A and C, like blueberries and kale, has also been shown to increase collagen production, past research has shown.



2

Pick Proteins That Are Lean and Fat-Free

Aside from fish, eggs, chicken, and turkey breast, one of the best sources of protein is lean red meat, says Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the author of Feed Your Face.

Red meat contains the amino acids glycine and proline, previous research has shown, and per a study published in January 2018 in Amino Acids, these are components involved in the synthesis of collagen.

As the National Institutes of Health notes, red meat also offers zinc, and this nutrient is crucial for collagen building, according to past research.

But red meat is also high in saturated fat, and produces a chemical called TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) that may be linked to heart disease, according to a study published in December 2018 in the European Heart Journal. In the study, people whose diets were high in red meat had triple the levels of TMAO in their systems.

To keep your heart healthy, the American Heart Association recommends sticking to proteins with unsaturated fats, like fish, or choosing red meats that are lean, fat-free, and unprocessed.

Because of their zinc content, oysters are also effective in the fight against dry, aging skin, says Howard Murad, MD, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles and the author of The Water Secret. "Zinc is not only an essential component for collagen production and healing," he says, "it's a powerful anti-inflammatory."

Inflammation is how the body communicates to our immune systems to jump into action if we’re injured, but it can also cause flare-ups in our skin that come in the form of swelling, rashes, and redness, per an article published by InformedHealth.org. Zeichner says foods rich in vitamin A or zinc, like fortified cereal, beans, spinach, and oysters, can help reduce inflammation in the skin.

RELATED: A Comprehensive Guide to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

3

Include Power Plants Rich in Antioxidants, Like Blueberries

Fruits and vegetables contain the building blocks for soft, smooth, healthy skin. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, as well as pomegranates, are rich in skin-friendly antioxidants, which, says Dr. Murad, "assist in cellular renewal and help cells stay plump with water."

Antioxidants are molecules that help prevent damage to cells by neutralizing what are known as free radicals, which are byproducts harmful to tissue cells, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Experts also single out tomatoes as being effective in keeping fine lines and wrinkles in check. "Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to fight sunburn and sun damage that can lead to wrinkles and skin cancer,” Dr. Wu says.

Lycopene is thought to protect skin and potentially treat skin cancer by preventing tumorous cells from spreading. A recent study published in January 2019 in the Journal of Cancer found that while the role of lycopene in treating skin cancer is still unclear, the antioxidant did appear to stall or reverse cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.



4

Drink (Water, That Is) to Your Skin’s Health

Yes, water is good for your skin, but you don't have to go overboard. The goal is to avoid dehydration. (Hint: If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.) "If you're dehydrated," Wu explains, "your skin and mucous membranes will become dry, cracked, and crepey."

Water intake varies based on your age, gender, and other factors such as pregnancy, but in general, water recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest 15 cups of water per day for males age 19 and up, and 11 cups per day for females in the same age range.

Make sure you consume enough caffeine-free fluids, such as soups, juices, and herbal teas, to avoid dehydration. If you’re not a regular water drinker, aim to sip one glass of water (or other caffeine-free liquid) with each meal, and another glass between meals. Research has shown that unsweetened green tea, in particular, is beneficial because it contains antioxidants that fight sun damage, a major cause of aging skin and skin cancer, according to an article published in June 2012 in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.

RELATED: Which Teas Are Best for Your Health?

5

Turn Back the Clock With Fiber Found in Fruit and Vegetables

"Because fiber in the daily diet helps remove fat, waste, toxins, and free radicals — key factors in aging — from the body, it's a natural anti-aging element," says Murad. According to a review published in June 2012 in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, studies have shown good sources of fiber include foods like oatmeal, chickpeas, and fruits and vegetables.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends men and women should consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber daily, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Try your best to get fiber from food rather than supplements. Consult your healthcare team before taking a fiber supplement.



6

Stay Away From Processed Sugar and Carbs

Your sweet tooth can really sour your complexion. Sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as sodas, white bread, and pastries, can contribute to premature wrinkles and aging skin, according to a study published in the journal Clinics in Dermatology.

"Consuming large amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates can directly harm skin elasticity because these foods trigger inflammation and contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastic fibers," Murad says. Once sugars and carbs enter the body, they're converted into glucose, which attaches to healthy proteins and interferes with the production of collagen and elastin — thus leading to skin that's less firm and resilient, the aforementioned study notes.

For those with a sweet tooth, don’t worry, you can still have your cake and healthy skin, too. Zeichner’s recommends avoiding processed sugars and flour — stick to natural grains, and consume foods sweetened with honey or other natural sweeteners.

RELATED: The Skin-Care Glossary Every Woman Needs to Have
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