What to Eat for Gorgeous Skin

Certain food and nutrients keep your skin healthy and protect against sun damage and premature aging. Find out what to eat to keep your skin looking its best.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #285

The skin is not only the largest organ of the body, it’s also the most visible.

Not surprisingly, many of us think of skin health primarily in cosmetic terms: Does my skin make me look older or younger than my years?

But the health of your skin affects far more than your appearance. As with any organ, good nutrition helps your skin function at its best. As a bonus, the right nutrients can help keep your skin looking younger and fresher as well. 


Fats for Your Face

One of your skin’s most important functions is to keep the outside out and the insides in. To that end, it needs to be highly elastic yet extremely durable. It needs to be breathable yet waterproof. It needs to allow nutrients in but keep pathogens out. All of these functions depend on the integrity of the cell membranes and healthy fats keep your cell membranes in good condition.  In fact, people on extremely low fat diets often have a lot of skin problems. 

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are needed for healthy skin but too much omega-6 (or too little omega-3) can create inflammation and accelerate aging.

See also: Does the Ratio of Omega-6 Fats Really Matter?


Because most of us get plenty of omega-6 already, focus on eating some foods rich in omega-3s each day. Flax, hemp, chia, and, of course, fish are all good sources of omega-3s.

Monounsaturated fats, the type found in olives, almonds, and avocados, also help keep your skin healthy and youthful looking. As a bonus, they also protect against heart disease and weight gain.

See also: Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet 


Nutrients for UV Protection

The skin also needs to withstand daily doses of UV radiation from the sun, which accelerates aging and can lead to skin cancer. Antioxidants help out on both counts, shielding the skin from damage and helping to repair any damage that does occur. The easiest way to increase your intake of antioxidants is to focus on upping your intake of fruits and vegetables.

The healthy fats I discussed earlier also play a role here, both by protecting the skin from UV damage and also by helping you absorb more protective nutrients from vegetables. So be sure to enjoy some guacamole with those carrot sticks or a few olives on your salad, or some almond butter on your apple slices.  

See also: Getting More Nutrition from Vegetables and Foods That Can Prevent a Sunburn


Objective studies show that people who get more antioxidant nutrients and healthy fats from their diets show less wrinkling, thinning, and drying out of the skin as they age.

Sunscreen and Vitamin D

Even if your diet is high in natural photo-protective foods, a topical sunscreen is a good idea if you are out in the sun a lot. But applying sunscreen also blocks your skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Ironically, vitamin D is important for healthy skin as well as bone health. One reasonable strategy is to get a small dose of sunshine without sunscreen to top off your vitamin D stores and then apply sunscreen to protect your skin from damage.

See also: How Much Sunshine Do You Need to Get Your D? and 10 All-Natural Sunburn Remedies 


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.