Beauty From The Inside Out: The 22 Best Foods For Glowing, Healthy Skin
BY JOLENE HART
the best foods for skin health are rich in naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that all work together synergistically to create beauty from the inside out.
The Eat Pretty Pantry
Not making time to cook for myself was one of my biggest beauty blunders. Learning to cook daily meals helped me truly care about my diet, and it became the core of my Eat Pretty transformation. Even though I always loved to cook, preparing a meal for one felt like a wasted effort, and I was exhausted every day after work anyway. I also never had the beauty food pantry staples I needed to build a beautifying meal—and that’s half the battle. Don’t you fall prey to an empty-pantry takeout binge, too!
1. Almond Milk: Healthy Skin Drink
Coconut and hemp non-dairy milks also nourish your skin and are good beauty foods for glowing skin, but in my book unsweetened almond milk wins for flavor and skin benefits. Plain almond milk found in your supermarket is usually fortified, so when you pour a cup or so over your oatmeal, you get about half of your daily dose of vitamin E, the beauty vitamin that keeps skin moisturized and protected from the sun, plus about 45 percent of your calcium and 25 percent of your vitamin D. As one of the best foods for skin health, unsweetened almond milk is low in both sugar and calories, and it’s free of the hormones and antibiotics found in conventional dairy.
Almond milk (unsweetened) Benefits: Vitamin E, Boosts Skin Moisture
2. Apple Cider Vinegar: pH Balancer
Apple cider vinegar may taste acidic on your tongue, but it’s highly alkaline, so it balances acidic foods in your body to maintain a healthy pH, which is important for healthy, glowing skin. Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful digestive tonic that prevents constipation (easing the waste-eliminating burden on your skin) and wards off bad bacteria. It also increases the acidity of the stomach, important since many of us have digestive troubles from low stomach acid. Apple cider vinegar also contains potassium and a detoxifying fiber called pectin. Vinegar of all types steadies your blood sugar by slowing the digestion of carbs, thanks to acetic acid. Buy the raw, unrefined version of apple cider vinegar (I love it in homemade dressings) to get the most potent beauty benefits of one of the best beauty foods for good skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits: Potassium, Maintains Body and Skin Ph Balance
Where to Get It:
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Hands down the highest quality apple cider vinegar on the planet, Bragg’s ACV is 100% raw, unpasteurized and highly biologically active, making it an incredible food for beauty and fortifying overall health and wellness.
3. Bee Pollen: Buzz-worthy Beauty Food
These tiny pollen granules are packed with nutrients that support your beauty and your energy. In addition to being one of the best foods for your skin, bee pollen is a complete protein source, with twenty-two amino acids that are essential for the production of new skin cells, not to mention keratin, for gorgeous hair and nails. Bee pollen is also a concentrated source of energy-boosting B complex vitamins. Bee pollen is used as a remedy for allergies, since it contains the anti-histaminic phytochemical quercetin, as well as for digestive issues, since it’s rich in enzymes that ease the digestive burden on our bodies. To easily incorporate it into your diet for healthy skin, sprinkle a small amount of bee pollen into smoothies and onto salads and desserts.
Note: You should avoid eating bee pollen if you have allergies to pollen or bee stings.
Bee Pollen Benefits: Enzymes, Supports Healthy Digestion
Where to Get It:
Greenbow Organic Bee Pollen
Harvested from bees that feed exclusively on organic, wild, non-gmo, pesticide, herbicide and completely chemical-free plants and flowers. Greenbow bee pollen is one of the best foods for skin available and is harvested and kept at low temperatures throughout the bottling process to ensure heat-sensitive, beauty-promoting medicinal compounds and nutrient remain intact.
4. Buckwheat: Youthful Skin Protector
Nutty, savory buckwheat is not wheat at all—it’s a member of the rhubarb family. I love cooking with both buckwheat flour and the whole grains, called groats, which are amazing foods for skin health. Buckwheat’s main phytochemical, rutin, decreases the formation of wrinkle-promoting AGEs in the body, making it a major anti-aging beauty food and one of the best foods for healthy skin. Buckwheat flour is gluten-free and a nutritious alternative to white flour, thanks to its lower glycemic index and high levels of iron, magnesium, protein (including essential amino acids), and fiber. Store your buckwheat flour in the fridge or freezer to keep its high content of healthy oils at peak freshness.
Buckwheat Benefits: Rutin, Decreases Wrinkle-forming Ages
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5. Chia Seeds: Omega Powerhouse
If you haven’t caught on to the powerful benefits of chia seeds as a food for glowing skin, it’s time to add this tiny, beauty superfood to your beauty cabinet. Chia seeds are a great source of cell-strengthening omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and protect the skin from sun damage. Chia seeds are a complete protein (those amino acids are crucial for healthy skin, hair, and nails) and they’re a good source of bone-building calcium and zinc, for blemish-free skin. Chia seeds are packed with soluble fiber that improves elimination and reduces bloating while making you feel fuller with fewer calories. With all of this, it’s easy to see why they are one of the best foods for skin. Create your own chia-seed pudding by combining a scoop of chia seeds and enough almond milk to cover until the seeds form a gelatinous outer layer—it’s an easy detox recipe to add to your diet for glowing skin!
Chia Seeds Benefits: Omega-3’s, Strengthen Skin Cells
Where to Get It:
Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds
Nutiva offers highly nutrient-dense chia seeds sustainably sourced from fair trade farms in central and south america. Non-GMO, organic and packaged in a light and heat resistant bag for maximum freshness and potency.
6. Chickpeas: Clear Skin Secrets
Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are antioxidant-rich legumes full of phytochemicals that boost immunity and aid in the absorption of other important beauty minerals. As one of the best foods for skin beauty, they pack in the protein, fiber, folate, and trace minerals like zinc, the antioxidant beauty mineral that keeps skin clear and scalp healthy and promotes hair growth and strong nails. Chickpeas also contain copper and manganese, two important minerals for healthy, energetic, and youthful cells. Chickpeas are a fiber-rich source of complex carbohydrates that stabilize your blood sugar levels, staving off wrinkles and hormonal imbalance, making them an awesome beauty food to include in your diet for glowing, healthy skin.
Chickpeas Benefits: Zinc, Supports Clear Healthy Skin
7. Coconut Oil: Metabolism Booster
Coconut oil, one of the best foods for skin, will change what you think about fats. It’s made of anti-inflammatory, medium-chain fatty acids that burn quickly and easily in the body without being broken down by the liver, providing instant energy and a metabolism boost that actually helps us burn stored fat. Of course that doesn’t give you a pass to overindulge in this beauty food for good skin. Use a teaspoon or two in a stir-fry (it’s stable at high heat and won’t produce free radicals) or baked goods, and add a little to smoothies, since coconut oil actually boosts your absorption of other nutrients.
kills bacteria, viruses, and yeast (it’s also found in breast milk!). Coconut oil is saturated, so it’s solid at room temperature, but this food for glowing skin won’t harm your cholesterol—it actually lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and raises HDL (good cholesterol) in the body. Saturated fats like coconut oil are essential for healthy cell membranes and gorgeous skin, so they should be added to your diet for glowing skin.
Coconut Oil Benefits: Lauric Acid, Supports Metabolism And Fat Burning
Where to Get It:
Ojio Organic Coconut Oil
Ultra-high quality, delicious organic coconut oil sustainably harvested and low temperature extracted for maximum medicinal benefit. Ojio uses a special centrifuge extraction process which gently extracts the oil from the coconut milk producing a delicious and lauric acid rich beauty enhancing food.
8. Flaxseed: Omega Wonder
Flaxseed, another one of the best foods for skin is full of phytochemicals called lignans that aid digestion and may help prevent breast cancer, thanks to their ability to mimic estrogens in the body. Ground flaxseed is an excellent plant source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s, especially alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that the body converts to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—the same fat-burning, collagen-boosting omega-3 found in fish oil. Omega-3s decrease levels of a hormone that can be a factor in clogged pores and breakouts, and they ensure that your skin is healthy enough to retain moisture. Add ground flaxseed to your meals on your diet for healthy skin for extra fiber that supports healthy elimination, and protein for skin-damage repair.
Flaxseed Benefits: Alpha-linolenic Acid, Reduces Inflammation
Where to Get It:
Spectrum Organic Ground Flaxseed
Spectrum offers a cold processed, finely ground flaxseed powder packaged in an airtight resealable bag for maximum freshness and protection of omega-3 fatty acids. Easy to add to smoothies and meals for its skin health promoting effects.
9. Goji Berries: The Youth Fruit
These little red berries are sometimes called the “longevity fruit,” and with good reason: The amino acid glutamine in goji berries stimulates the body’s production of HGH, a hormone partially responsible for the youthful appearance and fast healing ability that declines with age. Glutamine in gojis also aids in the production of glutathione, the body’s master anti-aging nutrient. Goji berries have the exceptional ability to defend mitochondrial health and protect against DNA damage, making them one of the all-time best foods for skin health and beauty. They also contain eighteen amino acids, as well as beauty minerals like iron, zinc, and copper, for gorgeous skin, hair, and nails. Try them in trail mix or hot cereal as part of the healthy skin diet.
Goji Berries Benefits: Glutamine, Supports Anti-aging, HGH And Glutathione Production
Where to Get It:
Navitas Organic Goji Berries
Navitas offers high-quality, organic goji berries sourced from their native growing regions and vine ripened during warm summer months for maximum nutrient density. A delicious beauty food that makes a great snack or topping for deserts and breakfast.
10. Hemp Seeds: Omega Beauty Love
Shelled hemp seeds are a complete source of protein that support cell building and repair, for enviable skin, hair, and nails. They are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory, anti-aging omega fatty acids, including gamma-linolenic acid, an important fat for good, healthy skin and the healing of eczema. Hemp seeds have lots of fiber for healthy elimination, as well as iron and zinc—more good news for your beauty. I love adding this beauty food for good skin to smoothies, hot cereals, salads, and desserts for a soft, nutty crunch.
Hemp Seeds Benefits: Gamma-linolenic Acid, Helps Heal Eczema
Where to Get It:
Nutiva Organic Hemp Seeds
Nutiva offers a sustainably grown and harvested organic hemp seed sourced from Canadian farms, one of the premiere growing regions for healthy, highly nutritious hemp seeds in the world. These delicious, skin health promoting hemp seeds make a great addition to almost any meal.
11. Lentils: Protein Powerhouses
Lentils are my favorite beautifying legumes, for their excellent protein content and blood sugar-stabilizing energy. Both protein and blood sugar stability are key for healthy, wrinkle-free, clear skin. Lentils are incredibly rich in folate, an important nutrient for DNA synthesis and cell repair, as well as iron for strong nails.
Lentils Benefits: Folate, Supports Cellular Repair
12. Millet: Seed Of Happiness
This light, fluffy, gluten-free seed (we cook it like a grain) is rich in amino acids that support cell maintenance and repair, which is why it’s one of the best foods for skin. Millet is an alkaline seed that’s a rich source of beauty minerals, including iron for healthy skin, hair and nails, magnesium for gorgeous teeth and bones, manganese to protect the mitochondria, and phosphorus for DNA repair. The amino acid tryptophan in millet gets converted to feel-good serotonin in the body, keeping you happy and calm. Millet is also full of fiber that fills you up, maintains blood sugar stability, and feeds healthy bacteria in your digestive system, making it an essential part of any beauty diet.
Millet Benefits: Tryptophan, Supports Mood-boosting Serotonin
13. Nuts: Beauty Builders
Nuts are little nuggets of healthy fats, protein, and beauty minerals that fill you up, sustain you, and travel easily, making them ideal beauty foods for our busy lives. The selection of nuts in your pantry might change with your mood or with the seasons, so let your taste buds guide you. Nuts are one of the best foods for skin for many reasons. For instance, almonds are rich in vitamin E, for strong cell membranes and wrinkle prevention. Cashews are full of copper, which contributes to radiant hair pigmentation. Pistachios pack in the B6 for healthy, oxygenated blood. Brazil nuts are major sources of selenium, which helps maintain skin elasticity and the body’s production of glutathione.
Always buy your nuts organic and raw, since roasted nuts often contain oxidized oils that create age-advancing free radicals and AGEs, while the healthy fats in raw nuts reduce inflammation in the body, making them a great food for healthy skin. Before you snack on raw nuts, it’s best to soak them for a couple of hours or up to overnight to release their enzyme inhibitors and make them more easily digestible. Store them in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator or freezer if you won’t use them quickly.
Raw Nuts Benefits: Healthy Fats, Reduce Inflammation
14. Oats: Morning Dose Of Beauty Minerals
Oats are mineral-rich breakfast staples and another one of the best foods for skin elasticity. They’re extremely high in manganese, which helps maintain healthy hair and hair color and supports mitochondrial health. They’re also rich in the beauty mineral iron, good for strong hair and nails. Oats are high in anti-aging selenium—a powerful nutrient for skin elasticity and production of champion antioxidant glutathione—and vitamin B1, instrumental in healthy nervous system function. For the most beauty benefits, buy gluten-free oats to add to your healthy skin diet. If not specifically labeled “gluten-free,” oats usually pick up gluten during processing in the same facilities as wheat.
Oats Benefits: Manganese, Supports Healthy Hair And Hair Color
15. Olive Oil: Sensitive Skin Secret
Stock your kitchen with extra-virgin olive oil for a major dose of antioxidants that keep your skin looking supple and youthful. A moderate amount of olive oil in your healthy skin diet can help maintain a trimmer waistline, reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and raise good HDL cholesterol levels. In addition to being a great beauty food for glowing skin, olive oil is anti-inflammatory (great for calming sensitive skin) and rich in vitamin E, a UV-protective vitamin that strengthens cell membranes and works in tandem with vitamin C to provide a fantastic defense against aging. For the biggest skin beauty benefits, it’s best to save olive oil for topping salads, dips, and vegetables after they’re cooked; use coconut oil (another one of the best foods for skin) for your high-heat cooking to avoid forming free radicals.
Olive Oil Benefits: Vitamin E, Defends Against UV Damage
16. Popcorn: Antioxidant-rich Snack
Organic popcorn hulls are packed with free radical–fighting phytochemicals, but before you dive into a bowl, there’s one caveat: you need to toss out your microwave popcorn bags (they’re loaded with artificial flavors and chemicals) and stick to plain popcorn kernels, which you can pop easily on the stovetop or in a brown paper bag in the microwave. Air-popped popcorn is a beautifying snack and one of the best foods for your skin because it fills you up with minimal calories (about 15 in one handful) and lots of fiber. To make air-popped popcorn even more a part of your diet for healthy skin, add a topping like nutritional yeast, melted dark chocolate, or antioxidant spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, or cayenne.
Popcorn Benefits: Fiber, Promotes Healthy Elimination
17. Water: The Forgotten Beauty Nutrient
There is one health essential that isn’t actually a food for good skin, but still has tons of beauty power: water. Water makes up 60 to 70 percent of our body weight and 70 percent of our skin, but it’s usually pretty low on our list of health priorities. Having interviewed my share of models through the years, I’d say that “Drink water” is their quintessential skin secret. Plenty of people shrug off hydration as obvious, but there’s some real science to pay attention to here. Dehydration releases stress hormones, which in turn leads to an increase in aging inflammation in the body. Water is also essential for bodily functions from metabolism and nutrient absorption (key for water-soluble nutrients like vitamin B complex and vitamin C) to detoxification, circulation, and temperature regulation. The body hydrates more efficiently when we eat (rather than drink) some of our water, too, which is why water-rich skin-healthy beauty foods like watermelon, cucumber, apple, and celery that slowly hydrate as they make their way through our digestive system are some of the best foods for skin beauty and health.
18. Quinoa: Complete Beauty Protein
A complete protein that’s not animal based? Meet quinoa, your new beauty BFF for healthy, glowing skin. Quinoa has all nine essential amino acids, which build strong, youthful skin, hair, and nails and repair daily damage. Quinoa is actually a seed, one that’s gluten-free and nutrition-packed like its relative, spinach. In addition to its powerful protein content, quinoa is full of trace beauty minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, which help make it one of the best foods for skin. Its complex carbohydrates and low glycemic index steady your blood sugar and keep you full, yet free of bloating. Quinoa also supports healthy digestion with fiber that feeds healthy bacteria in your intestines. It’s a worthwhile beauty food to add to your diet for healthy, glowing skin.
Quinoa Benefits: Protein, Aids In Cell Growth And Repair
Where to Get It:
Alter Eco Organic Red Quinoa
Alter Eco offers a fair trade, sustainably sourced quinoa grown and harvested by local tribes in one of its native growing regions in Bolivia. This is a high-quality, highly nutrient dense superfood that has powerful beauty and skin health enhancing effects.
19. Sardines: Small Fish, Big Beauty
Sardines, while small, are one of the biggest fish in the sea when it comes to beauty. They’re full of anti-inflammatory, beauty-boosting omega-3s like EPA, one of the omega-3 fats in fish that has been shown to preserve collagen and amp up fat burning. Omega-3s decrease the levels of a hormone that has been linked to excess sebum and clogged pores—two big blemish-causers. As one of the best foods for beautiful skin, sardines are high in selenium, an essential mineral that keeps skin firm and repairs damage. They contain vitamin D to maintain strong bones and prevent sagging and wrinkling skin caused by bone loss. In the fish world, where levels of metals and other toxins can be a concern, sardines rank high on the list of the cleanest fish to eat. Try protein-packed sardines as part of your diet for glowing skin in the morning to keep your energy and blood sugar steady for hours.
Sardines Benefits: Omega-3’s, Reduce Inflammation
20. Sea Vegetables: Beauty Mineral Magic
Sea vegetables are simply incredible for beauty, making them some of the very best foods for skin. Take nori, the humble sushi sheet: it’s packed with omega-3s (more than olive oil or a whole avocado) and trace minerals that feed your skin, hair, and nails, plus it’s more than 50 percent pure protein. But nori’s just the starter sea veggie. Sea plants like wakame, spirulina, kelp, dulse, and kombu also deserve a place in your Eat Pretty pantry. As part of a healthy skin diet, try kelp flakes on your salads and veggies, or spirulina powder for extra protein and minerals in smoothies. The beauty mineral benefits of sea veggies are potent, even in very small doses.
Note: Iodine in sea vegetables can help support healthy thyroid function, but talk to your doctor about eating iodine-rich beauty foods if you already have a thyroid condition.
Sea Vegetables: Iodine, Regulates Metabolism
Where to Get It:
Premium Roasted Organic Nori Sheets
Packed with rare, hard to get vitamins, minerals and amino acids, this ultra-high quality organic Nori is one of the best foods for skin health and beauty. Can be eaten by itself or sprinkled onto other foods and dishes as a savory flavor enhancer.
21. Eat Pretty Sweeteners: Sweet And Skin-friendly
In addition to the best foods for skin health and beauty already mentioned, stock your Eat Pretty pantry with healthier sweeteners to reduce your intake of refined sugar, a big beauty betrayer. My favorite sweeteners are stevia, maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, and blackstrap molasses, which have beauty benefits and a lower glycemic index than refined sugar (but should still be eaten in moderation!).
Stevia is several hundred times sweeter than sugar, has no calories, and may actually improve insulin sensitivity—take about an amazing beauty food to add to your healthy skin diet! It does leave a bit of an aftertaste, so I combine it with other sweeteners to amplify their sweetness. Maple syrup contains trace minerals like zinc, iron, and manganese, plus it’s anti-inflammatory. Raw honey is filled with active enzymes, B vitamins, minerals, and antibacterial properties—but it must stay unheated to retain these properties (so don’t add it to boiling hot tea). Coconut sugar is minimally processed and low glycemic, and it contains B vitamins and potassium. Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, and it imparts great flavor to holiday sweets and savory dishes. Try one, or all of these top foods for healthy skin in your kitchen as a replacement for table sugar.
Stevia, Maple Syrup, Raw Honey, Coconut Sugar, Blackstrap Molasses Skin Health Benefits: Unrefined Sugar Prevents The High Insulin Spike Of Refined White Sugar
Where to Get It:
22. Tahini: Skin and Hair Booster
Tahini, a thick, oily paste of ground sesame seeds, is a Middle Eastern staple and a beautifying food that adds an earthy flavor to dressings, dips, and smoothies. It’s rich in essential beauty minerals like zinc and calcium that keep scalp, hair, nails and skin healthy, and it contains essential omega-3 fats that nourish healthy cell membranes, making it one of the best foods for skin. Another major beauty benefit of tahini: its stress-busting B vitamins keep our nerves at ease.
The less we stress, the more we lessen the aging burden on our body.
Tahini Benefits: Zinc, Supports Clear Skin
Where to Get It:
Kevala Organic Tahini
Delicious rich and healthy, this creamy tahini is made with organic, lightly roasted traditionally stone ground sesame seeds. A powerful beauty food perfect to slather on veggies and your favorite bread.
This article on the best foods for health skin is excerpted with permission from Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out by Jolene Hart Chronicle Books, 2017..
About The Author
Jolene Hart, CHC, AADP is a health coach certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a former magazine beauty editor, and founder of the pioneering beauty coaching practice Beauty Is Wellness. She is the author of Eat Pretty, a seasonal guide to looking and feeling beautiful using nutrition and self-care, as well as the companion journal Eat Pretty, Live Well, and the new book of daily inspirations Eat Pretty Every Day. At the heart of Jolene’s work is her desire to empower women with knowledge of their own ability to shape their lifelong beauty and health with the healing powers of food and self-care. Her private coaching looks at many areas of life, from stress and hormones to diet, digestion and safe personal care products, to help women build a lifestyle of beauty that enables them look and feel their best from the inside. Visit her website: jolenehart.com