Does the change in weather leave you with dry, itchy skin? Beat the winter—and tortured skin—with these nutrient-dense beauty foods.
Nothing says “winter” like alligator elbows, chapped lips, and a flaky face. If you’ve tried various beauty regimens and still find it difficult to lock in moisture, it might be time to switch things up with your diet. There’s a reason the trite-but-true saying goes, “You are what you eat.” What you put into your body affects its appearance. Here’s what you should stock up on to boost skin smoothness and avoid winter-battered skin. Your metabolism and waistline will thank you, too.
We usually hear about the benefits of applying coconut topically via coconut oil, but eating the fruit can be beneficial as well. “Coconut’s healthy fats and antibacterial nutritional make-up keep acne flare-ups away and help keep your skin moisturized, which is key for looking healthier and younger,” explains Brooke Alpert, registered dietitian and founder of B Nutritious.
There’s a good reason we can’t stop singing the praises of avocado (even if you’re sick of seeing it on your Instagram feed). The blend of healthy fats, proteins, and vitamins make it a powerhouse for your body inside and out. “The protein helps support the structures of collagen and elastin in your skin, while the fat keeps your skin moisturized,” says Alpert. Check out these avocado recipes for some tasty ways to add the superfood to your diet.
Oatmeal is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals but, most importantly, fiber. “Fiber is essential in helping prevent dead skin and alleviating redness,” says Alpert. The indigestible part of a carbohydrate that adds bulk to food, fiber also works to keep you feeling fuller longer (it swells in the stomach), meaning you’re less likely to snack on the sweets and salty foods that are often associated with dry skin and breakouts. Fiber also naturally boosts the metabolism, and a healthy gut is essential for clear skin. For more starchy goodness that can help you slim down don’t miss these 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss.
Sweet potatoes help lock in moisture, give your skin a healthy glow and protect it from damage thanks to their abundance of vitamin A. “Vitamin A can help with skin renewal and decrease dry, flaky skin. Sweet potatoes are a great option in the winter,” says Dr. Jennifer Lee, Board-certified Dermatologist, Medical Director REN Dermatology, and USANA Consultant. Alpert also recommends sweet potatoes to her clients because, aside from their nutritional and aesthetic benefits, their high vitamin C content helps fight off winter colds. Check out these sweet potato recipes for some yummy ways to add more of the root veggie to your weekly diet.
“Salmon is amazing for your skin as it’s full of omega-3 fats, which strengthen skin cells, can protect against cancer and help reduce inflammation,” says Alpert. “Certain fish like halibut and yellowfin tuna also contain selenium, which preserves elastin in the skin, helping your skin stay supple, smooth and tight.” If you’re not a fish eater, look for other foods that are rich in omega-3 (like chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, egg yolks) to help preserve collagen, fight inflammation, and keep skin firm.
The vitamin E and good fats of olive oil help moisturize skin, which is why it’s a popular skincare ingredient. Luckily, using the fat in your cooking will reap the same benefits.
“Carrots are loaded with vitamin C, which is a precursor to collagen production,” explains Alpert. Collagen is essential for skin elasticity. “In addition, the vitamin A found in carrots attacks free radicals and can prevent wrinkles and uneven skin tone.” Vitamin A also stimulates fibroblasts, the cells responsible for developing the tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy.
“While much of dry skin is affected by environmental factors (cold, dry, windy winter weather, long hot showers), there are foods that can help support your skin health. Foods high in Vitamin C help boost immunity as well as collagen production. Look for foods like kale. Foods high in antioxidants, like leafy greens, help fight free radical damage in the skin,” says Dr. Lee.
Nuts and seeds are power foods that host omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, and E, monounsaturated fats, minerals, and antioxidants. “Foods full of vitamin E … such as nuts help retain moisture and strengthen the skin barrier,” Rhonda Q. Klein, MD/MPH tells us. Alpert also recommends nuts and seeds because of their nutritional density, ability to hydrate the skin, promotes its elasticity, helps regenerate cells, and protects against pollutants and free radicals. If weight loss is your priority, be mindful of serving sizes, as nuts made our 30 Healthy Foods You Better Eat in Moderation.
Fruits are a great way to hydrate and protect your skin because they’re full of water. In fact, eating your water is just as effective — or more so — than drinking water, given the extra nutrient boost you get with fruit. “Most fruits contain high levels of vitamins A and C, and powerful antioxidants that replenish nutrients in the skin, promote collagen production and help keep your skin supple and firm,” says Alpert. While all fruits are a positive addition to most people’s diets, opt for low-sugar options like berries (raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries) and kiwis versus high-sugar ones such as figs, cherries, mangos, and grapes.
Eggs are high in protein, promote cell regeneration and supply sulfur and lutein, which hydrates skin and elasticity. Eggs are also low in fat. Studies have found that omitting the healthy fats found in foods like nuts and avocados, high-fat diets increase the chances of developing wrinkles.
Not only is green tea loaded with skin-nourishing antioxidants, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can heal damaged skin and prevent blemishes. “It may help increase blood flow to the skin since it’s rich in epicatechin, an antioxidant found in red wine,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. Oolong tea is also beneficial. “It has been shown to help eczema sufferers,” says Lauren Slayton MS, RD, director of Foodtrainers and author of The Little Book of Thin. “It’s also a slight metabolic booster.”
Tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene, an antioxidant which keeps skin fresh and has anti-aging properties. The nutrient’s levels are higher in canned and cooked tomatoes. “Lycopene in tomatoes gets absorbed more easily when tomatoes are cooked (as in the canned version), and when eaten with a little oil, meaning that winter is a good time to have pizza or pasta with marinara sauce,” says Taub-Dix.
Soy may be controversial, but as far as combating winter skin, it’s a winner. “It might be a good time to try some soy milk in your latte or go for a tofu scramble,” says Taub-Dix. “Soy is rich in isoflavones that may protect against sun exposure and preserve skin-firming collagen to curtail wrinkles and prevent skin dryness.”
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“Citrus fruits help provide vitamin C, which promotes collagen formation and slows the effects of free radicals, helping to maintain firm and youthful skin,” says Taub-Dix. “Pink grapefruits also provide lycopene, an antioxidant that helps skin stay resilient and smooth. “
“Collagen peptides contain the same amino acids as gelatin, which are identical to the protein found in skin, nails, hair, bones, cartilage, and joints,” says Slayton. “You can mix it into smoothies but also coffee, scrambled eggs, and more.” It’s versatile, tasteless and effective, according to Slayton, who recommends collagen powder from Vital Proteins.
Slayton singles out sea buckthorn as her favorite wintertime skin improver. “If you want luminous skin, think of this pretty orange berry that tastes like a Sour Patch Kid.” You can get shots of it at many juice purveyors like Juice Generation, or you can buy unsweetened Sibu puree. “It’s rich in omega-7 oil, beta-carotene and vitamin C, all of which help the skin conditions associated with winter.” For even more foods that will help your skin stay beautiful, don’t miss these 25 Healthy Foods That Give You Glowing Skin.
Vitamin A is considered one of the best anti-agers and skin moisturizers. It’s also been proven to help smooth roughness. Zinc helps vitamin A do its job, which is why Slayton recommends eating shellfish and pumpkin seeds to combat winter skin.
Don’t underestimate the power of water. Whether tap, bottled or sparkling, water hydrates the skin and helps prevent wrinkling to keep your skin from cracking and flaking. Hate the flavor of H20? Try making some of these refreshing detox water recipes!
“Eating foods high in Omega 3 EFAs (essential fatty acids) is one of the best choices to combat dry skin and to keep skin well-hydrated. Cold water fish that are wild-sourced are an excellent source of Omega 3s. Best choices include salmon; eat the skin which is packed full of nutrients; [as well as] sardines, herring, and mackerel. Farm-raised fish are generally fed grain instead of the small fish that normally eat plankton, hence the reason that farm-raised fish are generally not packed with the same nutrients as wild fish,” says Robin Evans, MD
“Flax oil has nutrients that can combat dry skin,” Dr. Evans tells us, referencing the oil’s high omega-3 content. “Take the pills or get the oil and sprinkle on salads, or mix in yogurt or smoothies.”