Mind-Body Health

5 Foods and Herbs for Radiant Skin

Three ripe tomatoes on green branch.
Three ripe tomatoes on green branch. Home grown tomato vegetables growing on vine in greenhouse. Autumn vegetable harvest on organic farm.

Contrary to what the billion-dollar skin care industry would have you believe, the health of your skin actually starts on the inside. And while spa days and facials are a wonderful way to treat yourself, you don't need to be spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on your skincare routine.

In fact, the health of your skin depends largely on what you put in your body, as opposed to what you put on it. The nutrients encompassed in the foods you eat are eventually transformed into the cells and tissues that comprise your physical body. Therefore, for radiant skin, you must consume a radiant diet.

Lotions, serums, and creams are excellent add-ons, but if you want to take care of your skin for the long run, your diet is what's going to build the foundation.

In this article, we'll explore some of the most nutrient-rich foods and herbs for radiant, glowing skin.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of the phytonutrient lycopene, which is a type of carotenoid that gives tomatoes their rich, red color.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that acts as a natural sunscreen, protecting your skin cells from UV damage and potentially even protecting against skin cancer.

When it comes to youthful, radiant skin, protection from UV rays is vital. In fact, sun exposure is one of the leading factors contributing to fine lines and wrinkles.

Unfortunately, as we age, levels of lycopene in our skin tend to decline, leaving us more vulnerable to the unwanted side effects of UV damage. Luckily, research shows that consuming lycopene-rich foods can increase skin concentrations at any age.

Along with tomatoes, you can also find lycopene in other red-pigmented fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapefruits, papayas, and red bell peppers.

2. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are famously high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient involved in the synthesis of collagen.

Collagen is a protein found in the connective tissue of your skin, playing an important role in the integrity of your extracellular matrix (ECM). You can think of your ECM as the scaffolding that holds up your skin. With weak scaffolding, skin starts to sag and lose its vibrancy. Conversely, when your ECM is strong, it provides the elasticity and structure that gives your skin a youthful appearance.

Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, acting as yet another defense system against UV-induced damage.

3. Turmeric

Keeping inflammation in check is vital for healthy-looking skin. Along with oxidation stress, inflammation is behind many common skin conditions, including (but not limited to) acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.

Finding ways to enhance your inflammatory defenses is vital not only for skin health, but for the overall longevity and well-being of your body and mind. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is known as one of the most prized anti-inflammatory herbs, helping to treat a range of conditions spanning from anxiety to heart disease to arthritis.

Studies show that among its therapeutic properties, turmeric, due to the active compound curcumin, can help calm inflammatory skin conditions.

What's more, aside from its anti-inflammation activity, curcumin also appears to play a role in collagen deposition and the synthesis of your skin's extracellular matrix – the scaffolding that keeps your skin taut and elastic.

4. Berries

As mentioned, sun exposure is one of the top culprits behind damaged and aging skin due to the detrimental impact of UV rays on skin cells.

Specifically, one of the ways in which sun exposure leads to skin damage is via the production of enzymes called metalloproteinases (MMPs). MMPs are actually necessary enzymes that carry out a range of important functions, but when they're produced in excess, they can degrade skin collagen and elastin, resulting in wrinkles.

Luckily, mother nature has a cure for everything. In the case of MMPs, her answer is berries. Specifically, berries with deep red, purple, and blue colors like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries – all of which are rich in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant compound.

Studies show that these antioxidants are able to combat the impact of MMPs and reduce their production, shielding your collagen and elastin from assault and mitigating UV-induced wrinkle formation.

5. Almonds

Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, which plays several roles in maintaining healthy skin due to its fat-soluble nature.

First, vitamin E helps to mitigate the oxidation of the fatty acids in your cell membrane. If you're unfamiliar, every cell in your body is encased within a membrane that's made up primarily of fatty acids. When these membranes become damaged by free radicals, it can lead to a host of issues within the cell, ultimately leading to cell death.

In this way, vitamin E can support the integrity of your skin by quite literally helping to keep your cells alive and happy.

Second, vitamin E is found in your skin's sebum, which forms a protective layer on your skin, helping to keep moisture in. Adequately hydrated skin is vital for a healthy, radiant glow.

And finally, vitamin E is yet another nutrient that can act as a natural sunscreen by absorbing rays from the sun – specifically UVB rays.

Along with almonds, other potent sources of vitamin E include avocados, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Takeaway

Your skin is your largest organ and one of the only organs you wear on the outside of your body. Therefore when it's off-balance, it's often a sign that something deeper is happening internally. Although you may be able to find the perfect skincare regimen to tame your inflammation or produce a "glow" that lasts for several hours, a more holistic way to look at skin issues is to address the root cause.

There are certainly fantastic topical treatments out there, but for lasting results, always couple your skincare routine with a healthy diet consisting of nutrient-rich whole foods while enjoying sweets and processed foods in moderation. Most people are surprised how their need for expensive lotion and serums falls away once they start nourishing their skin from the inside out.


Cool off and find calm this summer with Pitta-balancing practices to nourish mind, body, and spirit in Summer Renewal, a four-part Ayurveda series with Dr. Sheila Patel, available now in the Chopra App under For You.