What you put into your body is as important as what you put on it. Whether you’re interested in clearing acne, preventing premature aging, or protecting your skin from environmental damage, the first step to attaining beautiful skin is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Plant foods support overall health and nourish your skin all the way to the outer layer.
Make sure you’re consuming the nutrients listed below, and it’s likely your skin will improve significantly. It worked for me!
1. Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy balance in the body. Water plays an important role in detoxification, a natural occurrence in the body, and is very important for maintaining healthy skin and reducing inflammation.
2. Anti-inflammatory foods heal internal inflammation as well as that which is present on the skin, such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seed, chia seed, even green vegetables) and healing spices like turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon.
3. Beta-carotene is the phytonutrient that provides the beautiful orange color in carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. In the body, beta-carotene works as an antioxidant and encourages healthy cell growth and turnover, glowing skin, and healthy collagen production (for firmness and strength). It also helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and protects skin from the sun.
4. Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in sunflower seeds, avocado, almonds, and even sweet potatoes. This antioxidant protects skin from sun damage, supports healthy cell communication, and is also essential for collagen formation.
5. Vitamin C is a very easy nutrient to get with a plant-based diet. This is good news because your body doesn’t store vitamin C, it must be replenished daily. The antioxidant is key in the production of collagen and protects skin—vitamin C can also be used topically to treat skin conditions. Citrus fruits aren’t the only foods high in vitamin C, fennel, bell peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, and greens are also excellent sources. I often take a liquid vitamin C supplement in the winter for extra protection.
6. Probiotics are incredibly important for healthy skin. Eating a diet with ample exposure to probiotics will ensure that the bacteria in your gut is the friendly kind. Healthy intestinal flora promotes proper digestion, elimination, and absorption of nutrients. It also supports a healthy immune system, which affects every part of your body, including the skin. My favorite probiotic-rich foods include kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut kefir, and miso.
7. Zinc is an essential mineral that can be difficult to absorb in ample amounts from a plant-based diet. It helps support a healthy immune system and balances hormones that may be responsible for acne. It can be found in cashews, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, and oats. I also take a zinc supplement.
8. Healthy whole fats are very important for beautiful skin—skin cell membranes are made from fatty acids. I recommend whole fats over extracted oils because you also receive the other nutrients in the whole food. For example, instead of relying on hemp seed oil for my omega-3 fatty acids, I eat the seed and also consume its protein, fiber, and other minerals and vitamins. Load up on avocados, olives, and nuts for a natural, beneficial glow.
Jenné Claiborne is passionate about helping women adopt and maintain a plant-based diet so they can improve their energy, lose weight, and feel their very best. She is the founder of The Nourishing Vegan, a New York–based personal chef service. She is also the creator of Sweet Potato Soul, a vegan food blog that features recipes, tips, and cooking videos. In 2013, Jenné launched the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint, an interactive online program that takes the guess work out of becoming vegan. Follow Jenné on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.