The ABCs of a Healthy Skin Diet
What you put on your plate is even more important than what you put on your skin.
By Colette Bouchez
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson
Want truly fabulous skin -- glowing, vibrant, and, yes, younger-looking skin? Make sure you're drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy skin diet.
"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 Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center in New York City.
The reverse is true as well, Heller tells WebMD. The less attention we pay to eating a healthy skin diet, the more problems we may see cropping up with our skin.
"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," she says.
What's more, some health experts believe that when your diet is missing certain foods for healthy skin, other, even more serious skin problems can result.
"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, co-founder of DDF skin care.
What Foods Are Included in a Healthy Skin Diet?
Most experts say paying attention to balanced nutrition is the best way to make sure you're eating a healthy skin diet. Still, a number of specific skin treats are more likely than others to give a boost of glowing good health to your complexion. Here's what experts told WebMD are the most important:
Low-Fat Dairy Products
One the most important components of a healthy skin diet is vitamin A. One of the best places to get it is low-fat dairy products. In fact, experts say that the health of our skin cells is dependent on dietary vitamin A.
Nutrition expert Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN, says it's doubly important to eat A-rich dairy foods if you have either diabetes or a thyroid condition.
"Many people who have these problems can't convert the beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is the form found in many foods that we normally associate with this vitamin, such as carrots," says Lipski, the founder and director of InnovativeHealing.com and the author of Digestive Wellness.
The A in dairy products, she says, is "true A," so everyone's skin can use it.
Lipski says low-fat yogurt is not only high in vitamin A, but also acidophilus, the "live" bacteria that is good for intestinal health. Turns out, it may also have an impact on the skin.
"Anything that helps keep digestion normal, any live bacteria or enzymes, is also going to be reflected in healthy-looking skin," says Lipski.
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plums
The common link between these four foods is their high antioxidant content. In a study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, these four fruits weighed in with the highest "total antioxidant capacity" of any food. The benefits of these foods for a healthy skin diet are plentiful.
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plums continued...
"Free radicals -- like the kind formed from sun exposure -- damage the membrane of skin cells, potentially allowing damage to the DNA of that cell," says Heller. The antioxidants and other phytochemicals in these fruits can protect the cell, she says, so there is less chance for damage.
"When you help protect the cells from damage and disintegration, you also guard against premature aging. In this respect, these fruits may very well help keep your skin younger looking longer," says Heller.
According to the new study, other fruits and vegetables with a "high antioxidant capacity" include artichokes, beans (the study cited black, red, and pinto), prunes, and pecans.
Salmon, Walnuts, Canola Oil, and Flaxseed
These seemingly unrelated foods all deliver essential fatty acids, and thus are key elements in a healthy skin diet.
"Essential fatty acids are responsible for healthy cell membranes, which is not only what act as barriers to harmful things but also as the passageway for nutrients to cross in and out and for waste products to get in and out of the cell," says Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, a nutritionist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.