You know the age-old saying: you are what you eat—and if we’re talking prevalent skin ailments like wrinkles, acne, and dryness amongst others, the anecdote holds some truth. “When we have skin-based disorders they are very often outside manifestations of toxicity, mineral imbalances, oxidative stress, and inflammatory processes that are taking place within the body,” explains Nikki Ostrower, Integrative Nutritionist & Founder of NAO Nutrition in New York.
Regular meals containing nutrient-filled super foods can help eradicate the problems that are giving your complexion grief. InStyle spoke with Ostrower for advice on what foods you should add to your diet to help improve common skin issues causing you woe.
Flaky skin is just as unwelcome as the frigid temperatures winter brings. Ostrower suggests upping your intake of foods that are high in healthy fats like avocados, olive oil and coconut oil, which are all great for adding moisture to the skin and a lustrous glow inside and out. For bonus hydration, you can also get these superfoods’ benefits by applying a DIY mask.
Calm red, angry skin by incorporating foods high in omega-3s—like salmon, spinach, and flax, hemp, and chia seeds—into your meals. “Omega-3s have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and are known to quell redness and swelling associated with eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis as well as heal those conditions for good,” says Ostrower. For the best results, she recommends trying to include at least two of these omega-3 foods into your diet per day.
Whether or not you actually had a late night, puffy skin will make you appear tired. “Puffiness can be attributed to water retention or indigestion,” says Ostrower. Wake up and deflate skin with foods that are natural diuretics and digestive aids like asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, and celeriac.
During the colder months, many of us find our skin’s luminosity has disappeared along with the daylight. To get your glow back, give your diet a boost of vitamin C, which helps firm skin, fades sunspots, and reduces damage from pollution, which can all make skin look flat and lifeless. Ostrower recommends getting your daily dose from oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, lemons, and broccoli.
Acne is one of life’s most prevalent—and annoying—skin issues. Help minimize breakouts by increasing how much zinc your body is getting. “Zinc is one of the most important minerals for skin health and acne sufferers. Zinc controls the production of oil and the hormones that create acne, and often, acne sufferers are zinc deficient,” explains Ostrower. Pumpkin seeds, ginger, pecans, eggs, and oysters, are zinc-rich foods that you can eat your way to clearer skin.
We all want youthful skin forever, but unfortunately time is not on our side when it comes to signs of aging. Fight wrinkles and lines by loading up on foods like coconut oil and those that contain silica—like leeks, garbanzo beans, mango, and celery—to help strengthen and rebuild skin’s connective tissues, which can cause wrinkles when damaged.
Ostrower says that vitamin E will also help delay skin’s aging because it is a fat-soluble antioxidant that speeds up cell regeneration, which makes skin look younger. Tomatoes, sunflower seeds, almonds, peaches, and prunes all contain vitamin E, or you can take a supplement to get your daily dose.