When it comes to your skin, there’s one thing we know for sure: What you eat can have a direct impact on how you look. If you’re not chowing down on superfoods for glowing skin specifically, and instead are constantly noshing on processed foods or those high in sugar and fat and devoid of fiber, it can show up in the form of dull skin, perhaps along with other issues like acne, dryness, oiliness, or dark under-eye circles. (Which we’ve been preaching at you for years.)
“A diet focused on high-quality lean proteins, fiber, healthy oils, raw fruits and vegetables, and spices is best for supporting healthy skin,” Paula Simpson, nutritionist and co-founder of ZSS tells Allure. “These foods tend to contain high-quality amino acids—the building blocks for firm skin—plus anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich ingredients that promote optimal skin metabolism and defense against environmental stressors.”
One of those stressors is free-radical damage, “which can weaken your skin’s immunity and break down its metabolic functions,” says Simpson. This causes skin to eventually become uneven, and it loses that effervescent glow we’re always seeking out. “It can also trigger inflammatory reactions that destroy collagen, resulting in thin, wrinkled, and blotchy skin,” she continues.
Now, let’s get started on that grocery list. Below, we’ve highlighted the superfoods for glowing skin that belong in your kitchen, stat. Not only will they fuel a healthy body and mind, but they’ll also help solve your biggest skin concerns and lead you to your most glowing look yet.
No matter what your skin is like…
Ginger: Ginger is best known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are found in the root of the spice, says Simpson. Not to mention studies showginger can have a soothing effect on skin, so don’t be surprised when you see it on facial menus, too.
Chia seeds: A top-notch smoothie ingredient, sprinkling these little guys into your morning meal means you’re netting one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3 fatty acids help provide building blocks for healthy skin cell function and new collagen production to keep the skin foundation strong and wrinkle free, Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City tells Allure.
Tomatoes: The salad fave is one of the best sources of lycopene, an anti-aging antioxidant that may also help prevent heart disease. But some research suggests that lycopene is more easily absorbed by your body when it’s cooked, so go nuts on those comforting stews and soups this season.
If you have…acne.
Oatmeal: Swap sugary cereal (sorry, Lucky Charms) for a bowl of plain oats in the a.m. and your skin will thank you. This food is low on the glycemic index, a scale that rates foods containing carbohydrates according to how much each food increases blood sugar (high-glycemic foods cause a fast, drastic spike and subsequent crash, whereas low-glycemic options provide a slow, steady increase and decline). “Foods with a low glycemic index [are better] because starchy foods [that are high-glycemic] increase blood sugar, promote inflammation, and have been shown to be associated with acne breakouts,” says Zeichner.
Miso: We could be boring and tell you to have yogurt because it has a lot of probiotics, and probiotics are great for your skin, digestive system, and bloat control. But you’ve heard that a billion times before, and it’s not exactly helpful if you’re lactose intolerant. Instead, try miso, which Simpson says has all of the same gut-friendly bugs. Did someone say sushi with miso soup for lunch? Count us in.
Artichokes: It’s time to quit passing by this oft-misunderstood green in the veggie section. Artichokes contain the flavonoid silymarin, a an antioxidant that can protect the liver and help clear blemish-prone skin, says Simpson. And since it’s often paired with spinach, another acne-fighting food (see below), we say it’s okay to enjoy that famous football dip every once in a while.
If you have…oily skin.
Sweet potatoes: There’s no reason to go carb-free just because you’re after perfect skin. Zeichner says sweet potatoes are a great option because of their high levels of vitamin A. “Vitamin A derivatives have been shown to help reduce oil production in the skin, and are used to treat acne,” he says. Carrots are another solid vitamin A option, but he warns against taking a supplement. “Overdosing on them can have side effects that are harmful to your health,” he says. Some research has shown those side effects could include blurry vision, bone pain, and dizziness.
Cinnamon: Perhaps your skin always looks great in the fall and winter seasons isn’t the soft glow of your Christmas lights, but instead it’s all the cinnamon in the season’s goodies. The basic spice is great for stimulating circulation and blood flow, which Simpson says brings oxygen and nutrients directly to the skin. Plus, some studies have shown that cinnamon could help to stabilize and balance blood sugar levels, which is important, she says, when a diet heavy in sugar and refined carbs (ahem, holiday cookies) can stimulate oil production. She suggests adding a dash of the spice to your coffee or tea to start your day off right, or blending some into a morning smoothie.
If you have…dry skin.
Avocados: Bring on the guac! “High levels of healthy oils and vitamin E, both of which are found in avocados, provide the building blocks for healthy skin cell function,” says Zeichner. “They may also help improve barrier function and hydration.”
Sardines: Don’t rule out the fish in a can just yet. “Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12 and selenium,” says Simpson. Why’s that matter? B12 plays a major role in skin cell reproduction, she says, and when you’re lacking the vitamin, it often causes dry, patchy skin. Selenium is necessary if you want your body to produce an antioxidant called glutathione, which Simpson says helps the skin’s barrier function. Lastly, sardines are packed with phosphorus, protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which play important roles in keeping your skin hydrated and glowing, according to Simpson. So, anyone ready to crack open a can?
If you have…wrinkles and fine lines.
Salmon: Nutritionists (and Victoria Beckham) love salmon for its myriad of health benefits—lower risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure, to name a couple—but when it comes to your skin, dermatologist Joshua Zeichner says it’s the omega-3 fatty acids that are key. Sure, it’s good for heart health, but those fatty acids also contribute to the production of collagen, a protein that “helps keep the skin foundation strong and wrinkle-free,” he explains. The American Heart Association recommends eating 3.5 ounces at least two times per week, so use that as your benchmark.
Egg whites: Another reason not to skip breakfast: “In addition to giving your body a dose of healthy protein that it needs, egg whites are high in both the lysine and proline (amino acids), as well as collagen itself. So adding egg whites to your diet could help support your body’s natural production of collagen to help fight fine lines” says Simpson. Vegans and vegetarians can also try nuts—peanuts, in particular—since serve up a hefty dose of lysine.
Quinoa: This protein-packed grain is well-known in the kitchen, but its high levels of riboflavin make it a superstar for your skin. Riboflavin lends a hand to your skin’s elasticity and the production of connective tissue, which helps even things out and makes fine lines and wrinkles look less prominent.
If you have…dark under-eye circles.
Spinach: Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens, along with broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are rich in vitamin K, a powerhouse nutrient when it comes to improving blood circulation and coagulation. Spinach is also loaded with zinc, “which has been shown to help reduce inflammation and help prevent acne breakouts,” says Zeichner. Simpson adds that spinach (as well as collard greens and kale) contains zeaxanthin, “a naturally-occurring antioxidant that protects skin and helps even out skin tone.”
More skin-friendly rules to live by:
If you have…dark spots.
Citrus fruits: “Dark spots are caused by extra pigment production due to UV light exposure,” says Zeichner. “Topical antioxidants like vitamin C have been shown to help calm inflammation, brighten dark spots, and even your skin complexion.” Eating citrus may also help, he notes, so foods like oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits should be your top snacks.
Bell peppers: Another food high in vitamin C, these veggies can help smooth out your skin and lighten the appearance of any dark spots caused by the over-production of pigmentation. Not a big fan of peppers? Broccoli, cauliflower, and berries are also high on the vitamin C list and make for a less-spicy snack.
If you have…a dull complexion.
Paprika: If your skin is looking a little drab in those Insta-snaps, it’s time to spice things up in the kitchen—literally. “Paprika provides a great source of antioxidants, including vitamin C and E, and beneficial carotenoids like zeaxanthin,” says Simpson. Try sprinkling it onto sweet potatoes with olive oil before roasting, or use it as a rub on chicken breast with garlic powder and cayenne.
Turmeric: All the top chefs are cooking with this trendy spice (and beauty gurus are DIY masking with it), and for good reason. It contains curcumin, an antioxidant that combats free radicals that are seriously dulling your skin, says Simpson. It also promotes collagen synthesis, and when used topically it can help renew the skin by acting as a stimulator for skin elasticity and firmness, in turn fighting any wrinkles and fine lines. Enjoy it sprinkled in an egg scramble or frittata, or blend it straight into a smoothie—we promise you won’t even notice it!