The Epidermis – the largest organ of the human body – is the external representation of everything that’s going on on the inside. While it is common practice for many people to apply moisturizers and other products to the surface of their skin, the key to keeping this vital organ healthy lies within – your diet, that is. But with so much conflicting information out there about what to eat and what not to eat, how’s anybody to know the real right answer?
While everyone is different, fortunately there are a few basic guidelines to follow when it comes to picking the right foods for your skin. Read on as we break down the top ten foods for achieving clear, soft, supple, glowing skin and give you the ins and outs of exactly why we picked them.
1. Peppers (Sweet Bell)
Why we picked it: Vitamin C + Hydration
It’s a widely over-looked fact that those brightly-colored sweet bell peppers which are such a common sight in our grocery stores and produce markets are actually the most concentrated source of Vitamin C in the plant kingdom. Just 1 ounce of Sweet Yellow Bell Pepper (uncooked) contains over 50 mg (85% DV) of all-natural Vitamin C. (Red and green sweet bell peppers have around 35.8 and 22.5 mg, respectively. Oranges, the current figurehead of all things Vitamin C-related boast only about 12.6 mg per ounce.)
Vitamin C is crucial for repair and growth of healthy tissue throughout the human body, including regeneration of skin cells. Vitamin C also boosts collagen production, provides antioxidant protection, and helps to reverse sun damage. As with most nutrients, our bodies absorb them better if they come from our food, so a potent source of “C” like sweet bell peppers belongs at the top of the list when it comes to foods for healthy skin.
If that weren’t reason enough to write these beautiful vegetables into the top line of your ‘Healthy Skin’ Shopping List, here’s another: Sweet peppers are about 94% water (that’s 3% higher than watermelon!) which will help to moisturize, nourish, and strengthen skin cells from the inside out. So pick up a sweet bell pepper or two the next time you walk past the produce stand. Your skin will thank you.
Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
Why we picked it: Vitamin E + Monounsaturated Fats
There may be some controversy over which oils are healthy and which ones are not, but few people will dispute the statement that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is just plain good for you. Olive oil is a potent natural source of Vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant which promotes the growth of healthy skin, hair, and nails. Olive oil is also packed full of phytosterols which are known to help jump-start collagen production, slow down the aging process, and restore skin’s youthful elasticity.
While topical olive oil-based beauty products are becoming more and more popular around the globe, remember that you can reap the skin-healing benefits of this incredible oil by putting it inside your body, too. Now of course olive oil has calories and, like everything else, it should be used in moderation. About 2 tablespoons (240 calories) is considered a good amount for cooking or dressing a salad and provides around 40% of your daily recommended calories from fat.
(Nutrition Notes: 1 ounce (2 tbsp) of Extra Virgin Olive Oil also provides 16.9 mcg of Vitamin K or about 21% DV – the highest of any natural oil!)
By now, if you’ve read this article, you’ve already tried Bragg Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, but have you experienced Bragg Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil? It’s certified organic, Kosher, and 100% pure (no olive oil fraud here!)
Salmon (Wild Caught)
In their article, Nutrients for Healthy Skin, WebMD suggests to “…stock your grocery cart with foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids,” while Natural News elaborates that “EFAs are responsible for skin repair, moisture content, and overall flexibility…” Omega-3 fatty acids are also well-known for their ability to combat and prevent many chronic skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and keratosis pilaris, as well as to slow or reverse the signs of premature aging. While there are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is at the top of the list; and wild-caught salmon possess a higher concentration of EFA’s than their farm raised cousins.
Dark Berries (Red, Black, & Blue)
Why we picked it: Antioxidants + Hydration
Dark Berries – Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Cranberries, and other similarly-coloured fruits – are all concentrated sources of antioxidants including Anthocyanins, Quercetin (a natural anti-histamine), and Vitamin C whose praise we just finished singing. These fruits are excellent sources of fiber which means they promote heart health; and thus indirectly, they’re good for your skin as well. Most dark berries are relatively low in sugar (blueberries are highest at 15g per cup while the others range between 7 – 4g per cup) so they’re still fairly safe to eat even if you have a sugar-sensitivity or must adhere to a carb-controlled diet.
Probably the most impressive trait of these colorful fruits, however, is their water content. Believe it or not, most dark berries contain around 85% water which not only helps to keep skin moisturized, but also helps to transport those skin-healthy water-soluble nutrients (like Vitamin C) throughout your entire body.
Chocolate (70% or Darker)
Why we picked it: Antioxidants + Minerals – (Magnesium, Iron, Manganese)
You probably already know that dark chocolate contains antioxidants (and I shamelessly admit that I’ve used this knowledge on more than one occasion to justify “one more piece.”) But did you know that pure cocoa is actually one of the highest-ranking foods on the ORAC scale of antioxidant power? As if that (and the taste) weren’t enough to put dark chocolate on your shopping list, it’s also loaded with trace minerals like Magnesium, Iron, and Manganese which your body uses for things like cellular regeneration, oxygen transport, and stress reduction. (Yes, it really does help.)
Just be sure that the chocolate you buy is at least 70% cocoa to get a good ratio of health benefits versus sugar content. I also recommend choosing certified organic, fair trade chocolate like these Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate Bars or these Exotic Dark Chocolates from Dagoba (a member of The Rainforest Alliance.)
Liver (Grass-fed Beef)
Why we picked it: Iron + Amino Acids + Vitamin A
“Ounce per ounce, grass-fed beef liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the entire world“, according to Perfect Supplements.com. It contains a good amount of Iron which promotes healthy circulation and transport of oxygen and nutrients to the dermis. The high concentration of amino acids and Vitamin A found in liver helps the body to regenerate faster and build stronger skin cells.
Oysters (Cold Wate”R” Rule)
Why we picked it: Zinc
Zinc is one of the most important minerals in the human body. This one element plays a role in over 300 enzymatic processes including cell division, immune function, wound healing, reproduction, digestion, and all of the five senses. Fortunately, most people get enough zinc from their food that deficiencies of this vital mineral are rare.
Still, if you’d like to boost your skin-health (especially if you have a chronic condition like psoriasis, eczema, or severe acne) enjoy a plate of raw oysters. Just remember: While there is no real danger in eating oysters in the summertime, shellfish collected from cooler waters do tend to taste better. (Personally, I always follow the Cold Wate”R” Rule: If the current month doesn’t have an “R” in it, don’t buy fresh shellfish. One batch of really bad-tasting oysters is one batch too many…)
Tomato Paste (Certified Organic)
Why we picked it: Lycopene
The antioxident carotenoid known as Lycopene protects skin from sun damage and helps to prevent signs of aging. While there are several good sources of Lycopene at the produce stand (watermelon, guava, grapefruit, and red tomatoes), there is a much more efficient way to get this skin-healthy nutrient. Tomato paste contains over 10x more Lycopene than ripe red tomatoes and is widely-recognized as the best food source of this powerful antioxidant. (Though sun-dried tomatoes are actually higher.)
Because tomato paste is a super-condensed food, try to avoid big commercial labels or any of the “cheap” store-brands. (Mmmm… super-concentrated pesticides!) Instead, seek out a high-quality certified organic product that you know you can trust. This way you aren’t inadvertently pumping your skin cells full of new toxins to negate all of the progress we’ve made so far with this list.
(Personally, I love the flavour and texture of all of Muir Glen’s Organic tomato products.)
Green Tea (Matcha)
Why we picked it: Antioxidants + Hydration
Despite the fact that it’s a drink, Green Tea is one of the most unanimous choices for skin-healthy “foods.” The powerful antioxidants in green tea are known to protect against sun damage and skin cancer. Green tea also slows the onset of visible aging by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for age-related weakening of the skin’s structure.
Of all of the green teas, Matcha (powdered green tea) is revered as the most beneficial, containing a higher concentration of vitamins and antioxidants.
Also, if you’ve never purchased Matcha before, I recommend DoMatcha Organic 2nd Harvest for consistent quality and flavor!
Further Reading: 10 Reasons You Should Start Drinking Matcha Green Tea Daily
(Nutrition Notes: As I’m sure you’ve noticed, hydration has become a recurring theme within this list. The reason for that: It’s almost impossible to have truly healthy skin without it. So last, but definitely not least – we come to…)
Water (Pure Mineral)
Why we picked it: Hydration + Trace Minerals
By now, hopefully you understand how important water is for your skin. So although it’s not technically a food (even less so than green tea) it had to be added to the list.
(If you’re lucky enough to have well water at your home, your tap water is perfect. Go ahead and skip the next two paragraphs if you want.)
Assuming you don’t have the luxury of Mother Earth’s perfect mineral water flowing out of your kitchen spigot, here’s a little information on picking the healthiest water for your body: All bottled water isn’t the same – as you may have already figured out – and some of what’s inside these deceptive little containers can actually cause subtle harm to your body that won’t manifest until years, maybe even decades later in your life. So which one do we pick?
First off, walk right past anything that says “Distilled”, “Reverse Osmosis”, and/or “Deionized” as these waters have been stripped of all of their healthy minerals. Also, ignore water kept in plastic containers whenever possible. (Certain respectable organizations will tell you that plastic bottles aren’t dangerous, however I have a friend with M.S. who would suggest reading this article.) Instead of going for plastic, look for glass bottles and try to find products labeled “Natural Spring”, “Artesian”, and/or “Mineral” as these are more likely to contain all of the natural skin-healthy trace nutrients that water is supposed to have in it.
Alternately, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run by investing in an At-Home Water Filtration system to remove potentially-dangerous chemicals and micro-organisms from your household tap water while preserving any natural minerals it contains.
(Recommended setup: Dual-filter system consisting of two 20” Filter Housings – the first containing a 5 Micron Sediment Cartridge followed by a second containing an Absolute 1 Micron Cartridge. In this configuration, the 5 micron filter does most of the work, thus prolonging the life of the more expensive 1 micron filter.)