We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat,” and, in many ways, it’s true. After all, the foods we eat are broken down into the very nutrients that end up forming and repairing our cells and tissues and carrying out necessary processes in our bodies. Perhaps a more surprising, but true, modification of this adage could be, “your skin reflects what you eat.” That’s right — the health of your skin is a direct reflection of your gut health, which is affected by your dietary habits. Due to something called the gut-skin axis, the skin and the digestive tract are in constant communication and inextricably linked. The trillions of bacterial and fungal cells that reside in your gut microbiome digesting your food and providing immune protection by warding off pathogens keep your body and skin healthy.
However, when things like a chronically poor diet or antibiotic use disrupt and damage these microbes, the lining of your digestive tract gets damaged, and it can becoming leaky. This leads to chronic, low-level inflammation that has been shown to cause acne, atopic dermatitis, rosacea, and other skin conditions. It can also lead to dull, unhealthy, red, or inflamed-looking skin. Therefore, what you eat significantly impacts the health of your gut and skin.
Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that protect your skin from sun damage, wrinkles, inflammatory conditions, acne, and fine lines by nourishing your skin cells, protecting your gut microbiome, and combating cellular damage. Keep scrolling for the best foods to eat for healthy, vibrant, glowing skin.
Vitamin C is one of the key antioxidants shown to inhibit the free radicals from UV sun exposure that age our skin by damaging the collagen and elastin fibers that normally give our skin a healthy, firm, supple structure. As these structural components are damaged by free radicals, our skin becomes prone to wrinkles, sagging, and fine lines. Fruits like kiwi, citrus, and blackberries provide a potent dose of this powerful antioxidant.
Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts, as well as wheat germ, are great sources of vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin. Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that combats free-radical damage from the sun and helps provide an anti-angling benefit to your skin. It’s also hydrating and prevents excessive dryness. Vitamin E also helps encourage skin growth. Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of selenium, a key immuno-supportive mineral that can protect against skin cancer, age spots, and sun damage. The fats in nuts nourish the skin and keep the cell membranes supple and supportive.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that protects against sun damage and sunburn. They also contain selenium and antioxidants. Tomatoes also contain lots of water, which hydrates your skin cells and prevents excessive sagging and dryness.
Salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects in the body. They reduce redness and irritation, and provide essential fats for cell membranes. Evidence suggests these essential fatty acids also encourage collagen production, helping maintain skin firmness and prevent wrinkles. Omega fatty acids also hydrate and nourish the skin, which helps it remain supple. There is evidence to suggest these oils can be effective against psoriasis and eczema. Fatty fish is also a source of CoenzymeQ10, which is a powerful enzyme that combats cellular damage and promotes healing and cell turnover.
Whole eggs are nutrition powerhouses because their protein offers all essential amino acids and the yolks are rich in vitamins and minerals, many of which are in higher concentrations than most other food sources. Eggs offer many nutrients important for skin health. For example, the yolks are a great source of biotin, which has anti-aging properties for the skin because it reduces inflammation and prevents peeling and itching. They also have vitamin D, which is especially important for our skin as we age because it acts as a precursor for the hormones that help repair and regenerate cells. Yolks also contain the mineral selenium, which combats sun damage by increasing elastin production to keep your skin supple and flexible. They are also one of the best natural sources of retinol, a compound found in many anti-aging skincare serums because it is vital for the regeneration of skin cells, and it prevents hyperpigmentation and collagen breakdown, helping keep your skin tone even and your skin firm. Protein in eggs also provides the amino acid building blocks necessary to produce the structural collagen in skin.
Yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha contain probiotics, which are live microorganisms that support your healthy gut microbiome. Keeping these helpful bacteria and fungi healthy will maintain the integrity of your gut lining, inhibit pathogenic invasion, and keep inflammation at bay. This will keep your skin clear and prevent inflammatory dermatological conditions. Milk and kefir also contain vitamin D, which is can provide protection against wrinkles.
Seeds provide a bounty of essential nutrients, many of which support the health and appearance of your skin. For example, chia seeds and flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great option for vegan or vegetarian men who don’t consume fatty fish. Seeds help keep your skin supple, prevent inflammation, and encourage cell turnover. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, a mineral important in skin repair and regeneration. It also is critical in sebaceous (oil) gland regulation, helping avoid clogged pores and breakouts.
Carrots (and sweet potatoes and pumpkins) are packed with beta carotene and vitamin A, a fat-soluble nutrient vital for skin tissue regeneration. It helps prevent the skin from becoming overly dry, rough, and flakey, and clinical studies show it has a protective effect against UV damage. It can also help control oil production, and may help prevent acne breakouts.
Green tea contains polyphenols, which have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic effects and reduce inflammation. Research indicates these powerful compounds can also combat acne. Green tea also contains vitamin K, which prevents blood coagulation and can reduce the appearance of dark circles under your eyes.
Green leafy vegetables make almost every list of the healthiest foods, so it should come as no surprise that they earn a spot on a list for beneficial foods for your skin. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which boost your overall health and they contain prebiotics, which feed the beneficial bacteria in your body residing in your microbiome. Dark leafy greens are a good source of B vitamins like niacin, which has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing effects for the skin. They also have lutein, which is necessary for normal skin turnover. Spinach contains alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant that acts as a free radical scavenger. It’s added to many skincare products because it improves the integrity of the cell membranes, smooths the skin, inhibits hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and combats sun damage and skin aging.
Turmeric and ginger are power anti-inflammatories, and they can help protect against oxidative damage to the skin. They are thought to provide anti-aging benefits and to even your complexion.
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