If we are what we eat, it follows logic that we wear those dietary decisions on our skin and not just our hips. Luckily, some of the best foods for us—and our skin—are delicious.
For anyone looking for (another) excuse to indulge in a dark chocolate treat after dinner, look no further. Cocoa flavanols, antioxidant-rich plant compounds, actually hydrate skin. Doctors recommend eating just one ounce of dark chocolate daily to enjoy the skin benefits without the high calorie intake. Perhaps this is where all those stories of chocolate causing acne got their footing: sugar and dairy fats have both been linked to problem skin, so sticking to dark chocolate is a must. If you’re looking for a lighter sweet treat that’s as good for your skin as your taste buds, consider the Kiwi. One medium kiwi has nearly 120% of your daily value of Vitamin C, which keeps skin taught and helps to smooth fine lines. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a diet high in Vitamin C was associated with less dryness and less noticeable wrinkles.
With so many tasty foods ripe with skin-healing benefits at the ready, you could practically plan whole meals around your skin-care regime. How about a warm salad of sautéed Tuscan kale and walnuts in olive oil? It’s long been believed that monounsaturated fatty acids have been linked to anti-aging. To test this idea, researches in a PLOS ONE 2012 study found “a higher intake of olive oil was significantly associated with a lower risk of severe photo aging.” High in Vitamin A and C, kale is lauded as a potent source of lutein and zeaxanthin—nutrients that absorb and neutralize UV wavelengths. According to an article from the BBC they stated that walnuts high in Omega-3 fat “encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help skin, particularly inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.” Need to add a protein to this side dish? The answer is fish. At 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, sardines are one of the best sources of the fat.
Not surprisingly, some of the richest skin benefits don’t just come from chocolate and oil. A study in the International Journal of Epidemiology found consuming herbs regularly to be associated with a reduced risk of melanoma. Because they’re packed with antioxidants, herbs are great at protecting the skin from the sun’s free radicals. Peppermint is especially good for the skin, and there’s a good reason a mug of peppermint tea, or a minty cleanser can be so relaxing. According to researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center: “Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, [and] anxiety associated with depression. In test tubes, peppermint kills some types of bacteria, fungus, and viruses, suggesting it may have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.”
If you’re at a loss for what to put those delicious herbs on, there are a million skin-benefitting options. Carrots offer a big beauty-boost with beta-carotene. Not only are they good for you, but a 2011 UK study found that people who ate carrots have more yellow tones in their skin that other found healthy-looking. Cooked pumpkin is another excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A—a vitamin essential for the healthy growth of skin cells.
Who knew eating your way to looking great could be so easy and delicious?