Since your skin is ultimately connected to everything else in your body, that means that what you eat also plays a role. If you’re wondering which are the best foods for healthy skin, keep on reading!

Remember that to rebuild and support healthy skin, a varied diet rich in nutrients is best.

That’s why I want to share my favorite healthy skin “superfoods.” They are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. And they contain critical hydrating, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory compounds. They are very important to help reduce dryness, itching, redness, cracking, and pain.(1)

So here are the top six superfoods I recommend for rebuilding healthy skin…

 

Ground Flax

1) Ground Flax

One of flax’s claims to fame is being a rich source of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are important parts of cellular membranes and are also known for their anti-inflammatory effects.

Not only is flax one of the best sources of the essential omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (which makes up >50% of flax oil), but it contains the essential omega-6 fatty acid as well.(2)

In one double-blind placebo-controlled (A.K.A. high quality) study, women with sensitive and dry skin took supplemental flaxseed oil for 12-weeks.(2)

As you’d expect, researchers found increased blood levels of the essential fatty acids.

But most importantly, they also found marked skin improvement! Their skin had less roughness and scaling. It also was more hydrated and lost less water (decrease in transepidermal water loss (TEWL)).

And yes, almost all of these results were significantly better than the women taking the placebo (which was medium-chain fatty acids).

This is clear evidence of the power that ingesting flax oil has to improve sensitive and dry skin and why flax is one of the best foods for healthy skin.

Flaxseeds, sometimes known as linseeds (Linum usitatissimum), are small nutritious seeds that you can find in most grocery stores. It’s critical that you eat them ground because your digestive system can’t break down the tough outer shell (which is an edible dietary fiber, especially great if you’re more constipated).

If you eat the seeds whole, you will poop them out whole. Grinding the seeds (or purchasing them ground) means that your body can access the omega-3s found inside the seeds.

You only need about 1-2 tbsp/day. And the great thing about flax is that you can easily add it to just about anything you eat including baked goods, and even a daily protein shake.

Click here to download my seven skin-soothing smoothie recipes!

 

Pork soup with lots of collagen

2) Collagen

Collagen is a protein found in our skin, joints, and bones. In fact, it’s the most abundant part of our skin cells’ “extracellular matrix.” This matrix essentially holds the skin cells together; that’s why it’s considered a “connective tissue”.

The other two parts of the matrix are elastin and hyaluronic acid.

Over the years, the collagen fibers in our skin get damaged and this is associated with signs of “aging.”(3,4) One of the main causes of skin aging is from UV light.(4) Ingesting collagen hydrosylates can help protect skin from this damage and reduce wrinkle formation, water loss (TEWL), and increase skin hydration.(5,6)

In fact, several randomized control trials show that several weeks of daily supplementation with collagen improves the skin’s elasticity, wrinkling, hydration, and the amount of collagen found in the skin, compared to placebo.(4,7,8,9)

Not all collagen products on the market are the same.

First of all, there is no such thing as a vegan or plant-based version of collagen. This is something that is only derived from animals, poultry, or fish.

Secondly, there are different types of collagen. The most beneficial forms for the skin (and your gut, coincidentally) are Types 1 and 3.(10)

I recommend about 1-4 tbsp/day of collagen. It can be added to both hot and cold beverages, baked goods, yogurt, etc. I typically recommend either of these beef-derived or fish-derived collagen products.

Be aware that if you have an intolerance to histamine-rich foods, collagen (including bone broth) may not work for you.

 

Bowl of Ghee

3) Ghee

Your skin’s health is intimately linked to your gut health. And if we go a step further, research shows that your gut microbiota (your “friendly” gut microbes) is intimately linked with three common skin disorders: acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.(11)

Your gut microbes do a ton of things that affect your skin, from breaking down the food you eat (via fermentation), to producing vitamins and interacting with your immune system.

One of the key products made by fermenting resistant starches and dietary fibers is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs protect against several inflammatory disorders like arthritis, allergy, and colitis.(11)

In fact, one SCFA called butyrate is the main energy source for the cells that line your digestive tract and is thought to play a pivotal role in some of the skin’s microbiota. Butyrate is also anti-inflammatory because it inhibits some functions of inflammatory cells.(11,12) This makes it good for your gut, your skin, and your entire body.

What do these have to do with ghee (and what even is ghee)?

Ghee is clarified butter where the milk proteins and sugars have been removed. The process that creates ghee makes it more shelf stable, hypoallergenic, and has a higher smoke point than butter (without losing that rich buttery flavor).(13)

What makes ghee one of the best foods for healthy skin is that it contains the coveted gut- and skin-food butyrate.(14)

I typically suggest 1-4 tbsp of ghee daily.  You can use it as a tasty spread (as you would butter), cook and bake with it, and even include it as your fat source in protein shakes (as I personally do).

Look for ghee that’s from grass-fed cows to get the richest source of nutrients. There’s also harder to find versions from goat’s milk and even yak milk!

 

Freshly Picked Beets

4) Beets

Vitamin C helps maintain healthy skin and prevent damage in several ways. It promotes collagen formation in the skin. It also helps skin cells mature into the outer layer of keratin (keratinocyte differentiation).

Plus, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes damaging free radicals that are created from exposure to UV light and environmental pollutants. And, vitamin C is needed for effective wound healing to regenerate healthy skin after injury.(1)

All of these roles make vitamin C-rich foods like beets some of the best foods for healthy skin.

In fact, inflamed, aged, or photodamaged skin tends to be lower in vitamin C.(1) And, studies show that vitamin C supplements not only increase the vitamin C in the skin, but also improves the skin’s hydration and signs of aging.(15,16)

Beets (Beta vulgaris rubra) contain almost 5 g of vitamin C per 100 g and their richly-colored pigmentation called betalain is another potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound.(17,18)

As an aside, beets contain high levels of salicylates. If you have a known issue with salicylates, you can try other great sources of Vitamin C like apples or pears.(19,20) Or you can try increasing your intake of magnesium and glycine to help your liver process the salicylates in them.

CAUTION: If you have psoriasis and you’re taking methotrexate, avoid beets as they may interact with the medication and cause unwanted side effects.(21)

 

Raw Salmon with Skin and Herbs

5) Salmon

When it comes to eczema and other allergy-related issues, the omega-3s EPA and DHA are key. These two fatty acids are impressively anti-inflammatory.(22)

One small study gave people with acne fish oil supplements. After 12-weeks all participants had significantly reduced inflammatory acne lesion count. Also, those who started the study with moderate or severe acne showed improvement.(23)

Salmon contains the omega-3s EPA and DHA. When it comes to these fatty acids, getting them from food like salmon is even better than taking the fish oil supplements which is why salmon is one of the best foods for healthy skin. In fact, one researcher says:

“The ideal “anti-acne diet” will be paleolithic-like with accentuated intake of vegetables and fruits with low glycemic index and sea fish enriched in anti-inflammatory ω3-fatty acids.”(24)

When it comes to salmon, don’t forget to eat the skin! Salmon skin contains collagen, so eating salmon gives you several critical nutrients for healthy skin.(6,9)

Adding wild-caught sources of salmon to your diet 2 to 3 times per week can be really helpful! Here’s a favorite recipe of mine that oven-steams salmon, and a delicious salad using it that you can try!

 

Gluten-Free Oats

6) Gluten-free oats

There is one food that is successfully used for a number of skin conditions: itching, irritation, atopic dermatitis, and acne. It’s also great to put on sensitive skin to moisturize it.(25)

The food?

Oatmeal.

You’ve probably seen or tried many skin products with oatmeal–and for good reason.

Oatmeal’s starches and beta-glucans are responsible for its protective and moisturizing abilities. And it also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds like “avenanthramides.”(25)

You can grind oats up for a soothing skin rash bath, and I also recommend eating oatmeal as one of the best foods for healthy skin. You can easily make a dairy-free bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, bake with it, or add oats to your smoothies.

I prefer people use certified gluten-free oats. The reason is that gluten can increase gut permeability which is not helpful if you have underlying or hidden gut issues. Ninety-five percent of my chronic skin clients have gut issues, even if they have NO gut symptoms that are connected to their rashes.

 

Reishi Mushrooms and Supplements

Keeping our eyes on another food for healthy skin…

Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum)

These dark, shiny mushrooms have a history of medicinal use in China, Japan, and other Asian countries for over 2,000 years.(26)

Reishi mushrooms have the potential to help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce oxidation and inflammation, and modulate the immune system.(27)

They are considered a complete protein, contain several vitamins and minerals, and they have a wide variety of bioactive molecules (e.g. terpenoids, steroids, phenols, nucleotides and their derivatives, glycoproteins, and polysaccharides).(27)

Having traditionally been used for skin problems like eczema in Chinese medicine, reishi mushrooms show potential for helping modulate the immune system.(28)

One case reported in the scientific literature is of a person with cutaneous sarcoidosis on his scalp. He used a goat’s milk soap that included reishi extract. After a few days of prolonged use (i.e. keeping the suds on his scalp for 1-hour), his skin lesions almost completely disappeared.(26)

Several studies in animals and test tubes in a laboratory setting have shown promise. Future human studies will shed more light on the potential skin benefits of using reishi mushrooms. This is why I’m keeping an eye on it.

Remember…

Your skin needs to be nourished from the inside. By getting all your essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, etc., from these “skin superfoods,” you’ll be sure to give your body what it needs to rebuild healthy skin.

This is especially important considering the massive push towards elimination diets that often end up restricting critical nutrients and become difficult to get off of.

And as a final word to the wise, keep in mind that your skin and body are different from other people’s.

It is certainly possible that you could find one of these superfoods a problem. If you’re struggling to figure out how to be less reactive to food so that you can get relief, ask for help.

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW — I’d love to hear your experience with these foods, how they helped your skin, and what other ones you'll add into your diet!

 

References

1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/

2 – https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/BBCCBB4F29A6E5DCA6C7B9513C7AFA37/S0007114508020321a.pdf/div-class-title-intervention-with-flaxseed-and-borage-oil-supplements-modulates-skin-condition-in-women-div.pdf

3 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29144022

4 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073484/

5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30698876

6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30739561

7 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208

8 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24131075

9 –  http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961619P0009X

10 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/

11 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/

12 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/

13 – https://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/ghee

14 – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284481060_Butter_Ghee_and_Cream_Products

15 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12419467/

16 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26170708/

17 – https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/11080?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=raw+beet&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=

18 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425174/

19 – https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d560/07dc44d40b9f4ea04df92f129600665f4319.pdf

20 – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b04313

21 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27859605

22 – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/ddg.12780

23 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543297/

24 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507494/

25 – http://www.ijdvl.com/article.asp?issn=0378-6323;year=2012;volume=78;issue=2;spage=142;epage=145;aulast=Pazyar

26 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4799037/

27 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/

28 – https://www.mycomedica.eu/reishi.html


Jennifer Fugo

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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