Your skin is your largest organ and makes up around one-seventh of your total body weight. The major function of your skin is to act as a barrier, protecting the rest of your body from the sun’s rays, hot and cold temperatures, germs, pathogens, and toxic substances.1
Though most people focus on taking care of their skin from the outside by applying moisturizer, sunscreen, and other skincare products, following a nutritious, well-rounded diet is one of the most important factors in maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin.
Certain nutrients, such as selenium, zinc, omega-3 fats, and vitamins A, C, and E, help protect the skin from dehydration, loss of elasticity, and oxidative and sun-induced damage.
Regularly consuming foods rich in nutrients known to support and protect the skin may help slow signs of aging, reduce the risk of skin-related conditions, and improve skin moisture and elasticity.2
Here are the best foods for skin health.
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are excellent foods for healthy skin. They’re rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining skin health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to help keep skin thick, supple, and moisturized. In fact, an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can cause dry skin.
The omega-3 fats in fish reduce inflammation, which can cause redness and acne. They can even make your skin less sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Some studies show that fish oil supplements may help fight inflammatory and autoimmune conditions affecting your skin, such as psoriasis and lupus.
Fatty fish is also a source of vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants for your skin.
Getting enough vitamin E is essential for helping protect your skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation.
This type of seafood is also a source of high quality protein, which is needed for maintaining the strength and integrity of your skin.
Lastly, fish provides zinc — a mineral vital for regulating the following:
- overall skin health
- the production of new skin cells
Zinc deficiency can lead to skin inflammation, lesions, and delayed wound healing.
Avocados are high in healthy fats. These fats benefit many functions in your body, including the health of your skin.
Getting enough of these fats is essential to help keep skin flexible and moisturized.
One study involving over 700 women found that a high intake of total fat — specifically the types of healthy fats found in avocados — was associated with more supple, springy skin.
Preliminary evidence also shows that avocados contain compounds that may help protect your skin from sun damage. UV damage to your skin can cause wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidative damage. Most Americans don’t get enough vitamin E through their diet.
Interestingly, vitamin E seems to be more effective when combined with vitamin C.
Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin. Your skin needs it to create collagen, which is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.
Vitamin C deficiency is rare these days, but common symptoms include dry, rough, and scaly skin that tends to bruise easily.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidative damage caused by the sun and the environment, which can lead to signs of aging.
A 100-gram serving, or about 1/2 an avocado, provides 14% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E and 11% of the DV for vitamin C.
Walnuts have many characteristics that make them an excellent food for healthy skin.
They’re a good source of essential fatty acids, which are fats that your body cannot make itself.
In fact, they’re richer than most other nuts in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
A diet too high in omega-6 fats may promote inflammation, including inflammatory conditions of your skin like psoriasis.
On the other hand, omega-3 fats reduce inflammation in your body — including in your skin.
While omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in the Western diet, sources of omega-3 fatty acids are rare.
Because walnuts contain a good ratio of these fatty acids, they may help fight the potential inflammatory response to excessive omega-6.
What’s more, walnuts contain other nutrients that your skin needs to function properly and stay healthy.
One ounce (28 grams) of walnuts contains 8% of the DV for zinc.
Zinc is essential for your skin to function properly as a barrier. It’s also necessary for wound healing and combating both bacteria and inflammation.
Walnuts also provide small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, in addition to 4–5 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams).
4. Sunflower seeds
In general, nuts and seeds are good sources of skin-boosting nutrients.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent example.
One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds packs 49% of the DV for vitamin E, 41% of the DV for selenium, 14% of the DV for zinc, and 5.5 grams of protein.
5. Sweet potatoes
Beta carotene is a nutrient found in plants.
It functions as provitamin A, which means it can be converted into vitamin A in your body.
Beta carotene is found in oranges and vegetables such as carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source — one 1/2-cup (100-gram) serving of baked sweet potato contains enough beta carotene to provide more than six times the DV of vitamin A.
Carotenoids like beta carotene help keep your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock.
When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and helps protect your skin cells from sun exposure. This may help prevent sunburn, cell death, and dry, wrinkled skin.
Interestingly, high amounts of beta carotene may also add a warm, orange color to your skin, contributing to an overall healthier appearance.