Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Our skin is the largest organ in the human body. Not only does it protect us from external elements, but it also protects our internal organs and cells. Because our skin is extremely valuable to our health and wellness, keeping it in tip-top shape is key as we age. And there’s an easy solution: Choose foods that feed glowing skin.
More research is pinpointing how nutrition affects skin health, suggesting that the food we put into our bodies can decrease wrinkles, increase elasticity and reduce sun damage. So, what are the best foods to include for radiant skin? Try these nine picks.
Take yourself to the tropics with this delicious fruit packed with vitamin C and rich in carotenoids like beta-carotene that optimize skin health. One ½-cup serving of mango provides 143% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and 16% of your daily beta-carotene needs.
Research shows post-menopausal women who consumed one portion of mangoes four times a week for 16 weeks significantly reduced their wrinkles. However, portions do matter. Eating too much fruit can up your sugar intake – and excessive sugar can potentially increase wrinkles. Moderation is key; just half a cup of mango is recommended for luscious skin.
2. Goji berries
If you haven’t tried the ancient Chinese goji berry yet, this is one fruit you need to add to your shopping list. These tiny ruby-red berries are chock-full of antioxidants, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, plus vitamins A and C. Women in China have been consuming goji berries for over 4,000 years for good reason – the antioxidants and carotenoids that color the berries help protect the body from inflammation, oxidative stress and the effects of aging.
Vitamin C, meanwhile, helps promote collagen and elastin production, keeping skin plump and firm. The antioxidants, carotenoids and beta-carotene found in goji berries can protect the skin from the sun and improve skin tone, which can prevent and reduce discoloration.
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, tomatoes are perfect for bringing a glow to your skin as if you were relaxing on a yacht in the Med. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful skin-protective carotenoid. Since the skin contains the most lycopene (in comparison to other body tissues), eating a tomato can replenish lycopene stores.
Studies show cooked tomatoes, from canned tomato products, increase collagen production and decrease erythema, or superficial reddening of the skin. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, which helps make collagen.
How to eat more tomatoes
You can eat raw, cooked, or canned tomatoes – all forms are beneficial to shining skin health. Raw tomatoes still provide lycopene; it’s just less bioavailable compared to cooked tomatoes. Eating 2.5 cups of fresh tomatoes will satisfy your skin’s needs.
4. Passion fruit
Passion fruit originally comes from the tropical countries of South America, like Brazil and Northern Argentina, but it’s now grown all over the world. Passion fruits are beautiful yellow and purple fruits with tough outer rinds and juicy, seed-filled insides. The seeds contain amazing polyphenols, known as piceatannols, that are incredible for skin health.
Just one passion fruit a day provides 5 milligrams of piceatannols, which can increase skin’s hydration and reduce dry skin, according to research. The polyphenols in passion fruit also increase skin elasticity, further promoting optimal skin health.
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Rich in carotenoids, vitamin C and glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate that can decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, kale is a powerful super green for skin health.
Collagen and elastin levels were significantly improved in a group of middle-aged women who took a carotenoid-rich curly kale extract. The study even compared kale to olive oil and found that kale provided more improved collagen and elastin levels after 10 months than olive oil, making this veggie a power-packed green machine. One cup of boiled kale will provide the same antioxidants as the extract used in the study.
How to eat more kale
Quick tip: stir-frying and steaming kale can preserve even more of its glucosinolates than boiling it.
Let’s get nuts over almonds! With benefits including glowing skin and heart health, almonds are a food rich in alpha-tocopherols, the most abundant type of vitamin E found in the body, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyphenols. Vitamin E is found in our skin oil and helps protect cells from damage by creating a barrier to lock in moisture.
Multiple studies have shown a significant decrease in wrinkles in postmenopausal women who consumed about 10% to 20% of their daily calories from almonds. And the women also reduced their hyperpigmentation and had better skin coloring as a result of the almonds’ alpha-tocopherols and polyphenols. If consuming a 2,000 calorie diet, 10% of your daily calories would equal about 1.2 ounces of almonds per day. This recommendation is very similar to the American Heart Association, which recommends getting about 10% to 15% of total calories from MUFA and polyunsaturated fat sources.
How to eat more almonds
For a savory on-the-go snack, make your own trail mix by combining almonds and dried goji berries. It’s a win-win combo for glowing skin.
Cacao makes delicious cocoa and is perfect for getting your chocolate fix. Native to Central and South America, cacao is grown worldwide – and it not only tastes amazing, but it’s also rich in flavanols and theobromine. Flavanols are antioxidants that help protect the body from oxidative stress; theobromine is a stimulant that’s similar to caffeine, but without the same intensity.
And these food-based nutrients are great for glowing skin. Women who drank one cup of a cacao beverage containing about 320 milligrams of flavanols daily for 24 weeks significantly improved skin hydration and elasticity while reducing roughness, wrinkle, and redness. Another study showed similar results; women who consumed a cacao beverage saw an increase in skin density and thickness, creating more luscious and vibrant skin.
How to get more cacao
Both studies mentioned above used cacao powders mixed with water. Cacao powder is readily available and easy to use! Different brands will have different levels of flavanols, so pick one that provides about 300 milligrams of flavanols per serving. You can also enjoy cacao nibs as a crunchy topping over a smoothie bowl or added to a trail mix.
8. Green tea
Not all caffeine is created equally; green tea can satisfy caffeine cravings without giving you the jitters. It also provides a number of nourishing flavanols, such as EGCG, that are beneficial to skin health.
According to research, drinking one liter of green tea daily over the course of 12 weeks may increase skin hydration, elasticity, and density, while decreasing skin roughness and redness. The significant increase in hydration was also due to drinking at least one liter of water daily, along with the 980 milligrams of EGCG present in the green tea.
Depending on the quality and processing of the green tea, levels of flavanols can differ. Most people use about 1.8 to 3 grams of green tea leaves to brew one 8-ounce cup. How many flavanols are present in that cup of tea will vary; they can range up to about 500 milligrams.
Edamame are tasty, plant-based, complete proteins packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and isoflavones. One cup of the edamame beans provides 18 grams of protein, making it a nourishing superfood.
And these little green machines are wonderful for skin health. Their isoflavones provide an increase in skin elasticity and hydration. Research shows isoflavones significantly decreased fine wrinkles and increased elasticity within the cheeks of women over the course of 12 weeks. Isoflavones help prevent the breakdown of collagen, which is key for plump, wrinkle-free skin.
Final tips for glowing skin
All of these foods support skin health – many contain multiple nutrients that contribute to glowing skin. One of the best benefits of eating whole foods? You’ll get a plethora of positive nutrients combined within a single food versus taking a supplement with one isolated nutrient. Whole foods incorporate all kinds of properties needed for exquisite skin.
Here’s a simple tip: Pick one of the foods listed above and start to incorporate it into your weekly meals. The following week, add in another food. Soon, you’ll be enjoying multiple foods that feed healthy, glowing skin (and you’ll radiate brilliance!).