We love spoiling ourselves with masks and lotions that promise to deliver new levels of skin amazingness, but there's only so much they can do if we don't take care of our bodies from the inside out. That means making sure our meals include as many naturally skin-boosting ingredients as possible.
Here are the top 12 foods to incorporate into your daily diet for radiant, glowing — and most importantly — healthy skin.
Consuming yogurt does more than just provide calcium for strong bones. Also rich in riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and protein, a daily serving of the plain, unflavored variety will help to detoxify your skin. "You need to be consuming greek yogurt to see the benefits," says Great Neck, N.Y.-based dermatologist Jeannette Graf, M.D. "Milk dairy yogurt can enhance breakouts, but greek yogurt contains probiotics that assists our colon in eliminating waste, putting less stress on our skin to do the same."
If you are an acne sufferer, consider adding anti-bacterial Manuka Honey to your yogurt, since it's high in hydrogen peroxide, a key ingredient in acne-fighting formulations, and beneficial for wound healing. "The mix can be a really good treatment because the honey is stable and doesn't get eaten away by the acids in your stomach."
Rich in vitamins A, D and E, avocados are one of those wonder foods that do everything. "The avocado is rich in good fats, phytonutrients and full of Vitamin E for hydration. It gets to the skin cells in the basal (deepest) layer of the skin," says Dr. Graf. Avocado oil has also been proven to increase collagen levels in rat studies. We're not rats, and no word on whether it has the same effect on humans, but it's worth noting.
"Avocado oil is close in composition to the natural oils in our skin and the essential fatty acids contained are great for sunburn or to soothe skin," explains Graf. Guacamole anyone?
This particular leafy green isn't a regular go-to for most of us, but watercress is mineral- and antioxidant-rich (packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and K) and can beautify the complexion. "It's an aquatic plant and full of antioxidants, iron, calcium and minerals like iodine that are great for the skin." Studies have associated a daily consumption of watercress with an increase in antioxidant levels that assist with overall body and skin health.
As we age, our skin looses its bounce-back ability, thanks to supplies of collagen slowly dwindling. Packed with calcium, vitamin E and protein (which creates skin cells), tofu has the ability to slow down the loss of collagen and maintain skin elasticity. Exactly the excuse you needed to take down this tofu chocolate mousse dessert, right?
You've got some choices here, and they're all delicious. Try strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or goji berries. "You can't go wrong with a berry, but the darker the better," says Dr. Graf. Darker berries contain more antioxidants (which attack free radicals produced by things like UV damage and pollution) and they also load you up on healthy vitamin C to reboot the collagen supply.
Good news for salmon-eaters: new research suggests that twice-weekly consumption of salmon could protect against skin cancer. The high levels of omega-3 fat found in this oily fish are also great for overall skin health: Salmon "reduces inflammation as opposed to meat, which increases it," explains Dr. Graf.
We know tomatoes are good for your heart and blood, but studies show that they also help shield against sun damage and aging skin. Researchers have observed that lycopene, the phytochemical in tomatoes that makes them red, increases the skin's sun protection and reduces damage from exposure. It's also said to stimulate circulation and the production of collagen for a soft, youthful face. "Tomato has to be cooked, however, for the antioxidant boost," notes Dr. Graf. "Look for tomato sauces or ketchup. Eating raw tomatoes won't give you a lycopene benefit."
Here’s why you should be adding a handful to your next salad: The humble nut, whether it's an almond, pine nut, hazelnut or walnut, contains a big dose of vitamin E, selenium (an antioxidant with a high mineral count), omega-3 fats and zinc, which amps up your collagen levels to keep skin taut and protect skin against cell damage. Nuts "are also high in fiber, which keeps the colon moving," says Graf. "The better the colon is working, the less pressure our skin is going to be to release waste, which clogs it."
As with berries and nuts, there’s a variety to choose from, and all — flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds — have skin-boosting properties. They’re bursting with the aforementioned vitamin E and selenium and will help achieve a radiant complexion. "Seeds are loaded up with omegas, protein and really powerful antioxidants," says Graf.
Mix up a few of your favorite seeds into a container to sprinkle over salads, soups and any dish you can.
There are loads of “miracle” teas promising to help us with weight loss and glowing skin, but the humble green tea actually works. "It's full of antioxidants and studies have shown that this does minimize the UV treatment on skin," notes Graf. "The more you drink, the higher your levels are. There is evidence of lower skin cancer rates in countries like Japan, where people have higher levels of green tea in their skin."
Additionally, peppermint tea has been shown to normalize the hormone levels that contribute to problematic skin.
Is there anything kale can’t do? "Kale is a major powerhouse food — it's the most alkaline producing vegetable there is, which is great for giving nutrients to the inner basal layer of our skin," says Graf. It also makes a surprisingly delicious smoothie ingredient.
Before kale stepped in, it was all about the broccoli. When it comes to your skin, don't discount this old friend. Broccoli does it all, too: detoxifies, is an anti-inflammatory, contains Vitamins A, C and K and also is packed with sulforaphane. "Bottom line — we need this ingredient for healthy skin and hair growth," says Graf.