The expression “you are what you eat” may be more accurate than you think. There are many factors that contribute to the clear, glowing, blemish-free skin everyone strives for (including genetics). Some foods — depending on their vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content — can actually help promote healthy skin. We searched the web for meals that contain two or more foods with properties known to protect or repair skin. (But keep in mind, though studies suggest certain foods can protect or skin or repair damage, they're not a substitute for preventative measures like sunscreen.) From quinoa for breakfast to lots of dark chocolate for dessert, here are 27 ways to eat your way to better skin.
1. Blueberry and Walnut Smoothie
Blueberries, one of nature’s most potent antioxidant-containing fruits, provide the color for this simple, healthy smoothie. If you don’t have walnuts on hand to whip up homemade walnut milk, choose your favorite variety of milk (but keep in mind that some studies link whey-protein-based dairy to skin conditions, including acne, thanks to its insulin-boosting abilities). If you can’t make walnut milk, try throwing a few whole walnuts in there anyways — they contain a healthy dose of magnesium, which is important for healthy blood flow in the skin.
2.Quinoa Breakfast Cereal with Berries and Almonds
Your typical morning breakfast may feature oatmeal, but switch things up with quinoa for an extra dose of protein. Whole grains, including quinoa, are a rich source of selenium, which can improve skin elasticity. Blueberries are high in anthocyanins (one of many antioxidants, which fight off the damage in our bodies caused by free radicals). Almonds are a high source of vitamin E, known to protect our skin from the sun’s rays.
3. Kale, Apple, Raspberry, and Goji Green Smoothie
Sip your way to healthy skin with this superfood-packed smoothie. Leafy green kale contains high levels of vitamin K, an essential vitamin known to suppress inflammation (which can result in acne or wrinkles). Chewy, tangy, and sweet goji berries are a rich source of antioxidants, known to ward off the signs of photoaging (aging of the skin often caused by sun damage), including liver spots, freckles, and spider veins.
4. Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
This fall-friendly breakfast is warm and comforting, but it also features two healthy skin-promoting foods: oats and pumpkin. Foods high on the glycemic index (which measures how much a specific food raises blood sugar levels when consumed) can increase inflammation, and as a result, wreak havoc on our skin. High GI foods (like white bread, for instance) spike blood sugar levels because the body digests them very quickly, while low GI foods, like oatmeal digest slowly. Pumpkin, on the other hand, has loads of beta-carotene, a provitamin that converts to vitamin A (known to improve aged skin).
5. Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Perfect for a light lunch or side salad, this healthy skin medley features kale, avocado, quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, goat cheese, and a homemade Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Leafy greens, especially kale, are high in antioxidants and vitamin K — both of which help the skin look young (antioxidants because they help slow down the process of aging, and vitamin K because it protects the skin’s elasticity). Pomegranate seeds boast super high levels of polyphenols (an antioxidant also found in cranberries).
6. Nicoise Salad with Charred Fish
This hearty salad incorporates tons of Mediterranean staples, including fish, beans, green beans, olives, capers, and red bell pepper. Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet — composed primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, nuts, and olive oil — can protect against acne thanks to high fiber, antioxidant-rich, and Omega-3-packed foods.
7. Roasted Beet, Plum, and Kale Salad
Perfect for late summer or early fall, this colorful salad highlights beets, plums, and tomatoes. Beets contain the antioxidant betalain in a higher concentration than most vegetables, and research shows beets may also help reduce the risk for skin cancer. This salad also includes tomatoes, which are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant found to reduce skin roughness. And to round things off, the antioxidant kaempferol — found in kale — may be therapeutic to skin burns.
8. Orange Fennel Salad with Date Vinaigrette
Topped with just fennel, onion, oranges, and walnuts, this salad is a cinch. Quercetin, an antioxidant found in fennel, has been found to help treat psoriasis (an inflammatory skin condition) as well as diminish fine lines and wrinkles. The sweet and spicy homemade dressing is a little more involved, but it’s easy to make up a big batch and freeze some for later. The dressing uses dates for sweetness rather than refined sugar (a known trigger for acne).
9. Zucchini Chickpea Burgers
This burger, made up primarily of chickpeas, quinoa, and grated zucchini also features a hearty serving of sunflower seeds. Foods high in vitamin E, including sunflower seeds, help prevent acne development and may help acne-scarred skin heal. Plus, zucchini is 95 percent water, and hydrated skin makes for healthy, supple skin. The green veggie is also a great source of Vitamin C, a nutrient required for healing damaged skin.
10. Lemon Herb Salmon
This recipe, featuring omega-3-rich salmon, is a healthy skin superstar not just for its nutritional profile, but also for its low-grease preparation — baking instead of frying. While consuming certain foods can affect our skin from the inside out, greasy food causes problems the second it touches our mouths. Grease from fried food that touches our faces is a recipe for clogged pores. Opting for baked recipes versus fried can reduce all that grease.
11. Almond Crusted Chicken with Raspberry Sauce
Crushed nuts replace breading as a gluten-free alternative to coat chicken and create a crispy outer crust. The almond-based crust contains high levels of vitamin E, which helps protect the skin from sun damage. The sauce uses onions and cherries, both of which have high concentrations of polyphenols, which help protect the skin from free radicals. For an even healthier sauce that’s better for the skin, try a homemade cherry compote that uses less refined sugar (the sweet stuff has been linked to not-so-perfect skin).
12. Sesame-Soy Salmon with Carrots and Edamame
This flavorful meal is quick and simple. Feel free to serve it over a bed of greens like bok choy or spinach. Salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help keep inflammation (which can show as redness on our skin) under control. The dish also features edamame (soybeans), which research links to wrinkle reduction.
13. Flaxseed Crust Veggie Pizza
A cheese-less pizza with a crust made of seeds and vegetables may not be traditional take-out fare, but there are multiple reasons this meal is good for healthy skin. For starters, the omega-3 rich flaxseeds that make up the crust have been shown to reduce redness. The “cheese,” primarily made of pine nuts and nutritional yeast, is skin-friendly for two reasons: The nuts contain skin-renewing vitamin E and zinc, and the dairy-free topping won’t spike insulin levels (which have been linked to acne) the same way real cheese does.
14. Tuna Stuffed Bell Peppers
Though tuna is not the most typical main ingredient for stuffed peppers, it is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant that may protect skin from UV-induced damage. Plus, peppers have loads of Vitamin C, an antioxidant involved in the production of collagen, which helps maintain skin firmness.
15. Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
This colorful soup gets its hue from two veggies known for improving skin health. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a skin healthy antioxidant. And cooking tomatoes actually increases the concentration of lycopene. Red peppers, on the other hand, are loaded with vitamin C — which is associated with better skin-aging appearance.
16. Roasted Carrot Soup
The main ingredient of this comforting fall soup — carrots — is an excellent source of vitamin A, which prevents the overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer (That means there are fewer dead cells hanging around to clog pores.)
17. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
This non-traditional chili incorporates gluten-free and vegetarian ingredients, including pepper, black beans, sweet potatoes, and — of course — lots of spice. Sweet potatoes have tons of Vitamin C, which is known to smooth the appearance of wrinkles.
Snacks and Side Dishes
18. Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Garlic Spread
This simple but tasty spread features three good-for-the-skin ingredients: eggplant, garlic, and red pepper. Eggplant contains the antioxidant nasunin, known to protect cell membranes from damage, while garlic has been used as a remedy for skin diseases and dandruff. Finally, the veggie that gives this dip its bright red color, red pepper, staves off the effects of skin aging with high levels of vitamin C.
19. Quinoa with Roasted Squash, Dried Cranberries, and Pepitas
For a simple fall salad, all it takes are some dried cranberries, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and toasted pepitas. Also known as pumpkin seeds, pepitas are an excellent source of zinc, which helps maintain collagen strength and promotes skin renewal. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as quinoa or farro, is a cheap and easy way to maintain healthy skin since they too have free radical-fighting antioxidants. The third and final main ingredient, cranberries, ranks highly among other fruits for both antioxidant quality and quantity.
20. Oysters on the Half Shell
There’s not much to this hors d’oeuvre, but kicking back oysters can provide a healthy dose of zinc (a necessary mineral to stave off a variety of skin problems, including acne and the skin disorder inflammatory dermatosis)
21. Red Grape and Chicken Salad Wraps
This no-cook snack wrap is refreshing and easy to compile. The sweet ingredient — red grapes — is a good source of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which helps maintain good circulation in the body as well as strengthen collagen (the basis for the structure of skin).
22. Spinach Pumpkin Seed Energy Balls
No need for pricey pre-packaged energy bars when you can whip up your own nutritious, homemade version. These little bites combine mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, dates, spinach, and cocoa. While all of these ingredients have healthy skin properties, spinach contains high levels of folate (a vitamin that may protect the skin from skin cancer) and nuts are chock full of the antioxidant flavonoids.
23. Sauteed Spinach with Garlic, Figs, and Honey
For a sweet and savory side, this garlicky spinach will do the trick. One of the main components of this dish, figs, contains flavonoids (the powerful antioxidant that may play a significant role in cellular aging in human skin). The other sweet ingredient, honey, has antioxidants in the form of phenolic compounds. And to round things off at the antioxidant party, both spinach and garlic have tons of antioxidants.
24. Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles
This sneaky dessert features a secret ingredient — avocadoes. The creamy green fruit contains high levels of pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5). A number of B vitamins, including B5, promote healthy skin by decreasing oil production and reducing the size of pores.
25. Chocolate, Pomegranate, Ginger Bark
This super simple dessert melds sweet, tart, and spicy. The pomegranate seeds are a rich source of polyphenols, an antioxidant known to protect against the adverse effects of UV radiation. Look for dark chocolate with a cacao content above 70 percent for higher antioxidant power.
26. Granny Smith Apples with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts
Foods with high levels of fiber, like apples, can help the body flush out toxins, which can lead to inflammation and clogged pores. Constipation has also been linked to skin conditions like acne. But a high-fiber diet with adequate hydration will help keep things moving smoothly.
27. Dark Chocolate and Maca Fruit Bites
This sweet treat dresses up fruit with a maca-infused chocolate and nut coating. With zinc deficiency associated with a variety of skin problems (including acne), there’s no excuse not to eat zinc-rich dark chocolate. And studies show maca, a Peruvian root known for a host of health benefits, prevents ultraviolet induced skin damage.