But what you eat also impacts another organ — your skin.
As scientists learn more about diet and the body, it's increasingly clear that what you eat can significantly affect the health and aging of your skin.
This article takes a look at 12 of the best foods for keeping your skin healthy.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are excellent foods for healthy skin. They're rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining skin health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to help keep skin thick, supple, and moisturized. In fact, an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can cause dry skin.
The omega-3 fats in fish reduce inflammation, which can cause redness and acne. They can even make your skin less sensitive to the sun's harmful UV rays.
Getting enough vitamin E is essential for helping to protect your skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation.
This type of seafood is also a source of high-quality protein, which is needed for maintaining the strength and integrity of your skin.
Lastly, fish provides zinc — a mineral vital for regulating:
- overall skin health
- the production of new skin cells
Zinc deficiency can lead to skin inflammation, lesions, and delayed wound healing.
Fatty types of fish, such as salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and keep skin moisturized. They're also a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin E, and zinc.
Avocados are high in healthy fats. These fats benefit many functions in your body, including the health of your skin.
Getting enough of these fats is essential to help keep skin flexible and moisturized.
One study involving over 700 women found that a high intake of total fat — specifically the types of healthy fats found in avocados — was associated with more supple, springy skin.
Preliminary evidence also shows that avocados contain compounds that may help protect your skin from sun damage. UV damage to your skin can cause wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps to protect your skin from oxidative damage. Most Americans don't get enough vitamin E through their diet.
Interestingly, vitamin E seems to be more effective when combined with vitamin C.
Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin. Your skin needs it to create collagen, which is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.
Vitamin C deficiency is rare these days, but common symptoms include dry, rough, and scaly skin that tends to bruise easily.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps to protect your skin from oxidative damage — caused by the sun and the environment — which can lead to signs of aging.
A 100-gram serving, or about 1/2 an avocado, provides 14% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E and 11% of the DV for vitamin C.
Avocados are high in beneficial fats and contain vitamins E and C, which are important for healthy skin. They also pack compounds that may protect your skin from sun damage.
Walnuts have many characteristics that make them an excellent food for healthy skin.
They're a good source of essential fatty acids, which are fats that your body cannot make itself.
In fact, they're richer than most other nuts in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
A diet too high in omega-6 fats may promote inflammation, including inflammatory conditions of your skin like psoriasis.
On the other hand, omega-3 fats reduce inflammation in your body — including in your skin.
While omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in the Western diet, sources of omega-3 fatty acids are rare.
Because walnuts contain a good ratio of these fatty acids, they may help fight the potential inflammatory response to excessive omega-6.
What's more, walnuts contain other nutrients that your skin needs to function properly and stay healthy.
One ounce (28 grams) of walnuts contains 8% of the DV for zinc.
Zinc is essential for your skin to function properly as a barrier. It's also necessary for wound healing and combating both bacteria and inflammation.
Walnuts also provide small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, in addition to 4–5 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams).
Walnuts are a good source of essential fats, zinc, vitamin E, selenium and protein — all of which are nutrients your skin needs to stay healthy.
4. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are an excellent example.
One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds packs 49% of the DV for vitamin E, 41% of the DV for selenium, 14% of the DV for zinc, and 5.5 grams of protein.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of nutrients, including vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant for the skin.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Beta-carotene is a nutrient found in plants.
It functions as provitamin A, which means it can be converted into vitamin A in your body.
Beta-carotene is found in oranges and vegetables such as carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source — one 1/2-cup serving (100 grams) of baked sweet potato contains enough beta-carotene to provide more than six times the DV of vitamin A.
Carotenoids like beta-carotene help keep your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock.
When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and helps to protect your skin cells from sun exposure. This may help prevent sunburn, cell death, and dry, wrinkled skin.
Interestingly, high amounts of beta-carotene may also add a warm, orange color to your skin, contributing to an overall healthier appearance.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which acts as a natural sunblock and may protect your skin from sun damage.
6. Red or Yellow Bell Peppers
Like sweet potatoes, bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.
One cup (149 grams) of chopped red bell pepper contains the equivalent of 156% of the DV for vitamin A.
A single cup (149 grams) of bell pepper provides an impressive 211% of the DV for vitamin C.
A large observational study involving women linked eating plenty of vitamin C to a reduced risk of wrinkled and dry skin with age.
Bell peppers contain plenty of beta-carotene and vitamin C — both of which are important antioxidants for your skin. Vitamin C is also necessary to create collagen, the structural protein that keeps your skin strong.
Broccoli is full of many vitamins and minerals important for skin health, including zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
It also contains lutein, a carotenoid that works like beta-carotene. Lutein helps protect your skin from oxidative damage, which can cause your skin to become dry and wrinkled.
Sulforaphane is also a powerful protective agent against sun damage. It works in two ways: neutralizing harmful free radicals and switching on other protective systems in your body.
In laboratory tests, sulforaphane reduced the number of skin cells UV light killed by as much as 29%, with protection lasting up to 48 hours.
Evidence suggests sulforaphane may also help maintain collagen levels in your skin.
Broccoli is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids that are important for skin health. It also contains sulforaphane, which may help prevent skin cancer and protect your skin from sunburn.
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C and contain all of the major carotenoids, including lycopene.
Beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene have been shown to protect your skin against damage from the sun. They may also help prevent wrinkling.
Because tomatoes are rich in carotenoids, they're an excellent food for maintaining healthy skin.
Consider pairing carotenoid-rich foods like tomatoes with a source of fat, such as cheese or olive oil. Fat increases your absorption of carotenoids.
Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and all of the major carotenoids, especially lycopene. These carotenoids protect your skin from sun damage and may help prevent wrinkling.
Soy contains isoflavones, a category of plant compounds that can either mimic or block estrogen in your body.
Isoflavones may benefit several parts of your body, including your skin.
One small study involving middle-aged women found that eating soy isoflavones every day for 8–12 weeks reduced fine wrinkles and improved skin elasticity.
In postmenopausal women, soy may also improve skin dryness and increase collagen, which helps keep your skin smooth and strong.
These isoflavones not only help to protect the cells inside your body from damage but also your skin from UV radiation — which may reduce the risk of some skin cancers.
Soy contains isoflavones, which have been shown to improve wrinkles, collagen, skin elasticity, and skin dryness, as well as protect your skin from UV damage.
10. Dark Chocolate
If you need one more reason to eat chocolate, here it is: The effects of cocoa on your skin are pretty phenomenal.
After 6–12 weeks of consuming a cocoa powder high in antioxidants each day, participants in one study experienced thicker, more hydrated skin.
Their skin was also less rough and scaly, less sensitive to sunburn and had better blood flow — which brings more nutrients to your skin.
Another study found that eating 20 grams of high-antioxidant dark chocolate per day could allow your skin to withstand over twice as much UV radiation before burning versus eating low-antioxidant chocolate.
Several other studies have produced similar results, including improvements in the appearance of wrinkles. However, keep in mind that at least one study didn't find significant effects.
Make sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa in order to maximize the benefits and keep added sugar to a minimum.
Cocoa contains antioxidants that may protect your skin against sunburn. These antioxidants may also improve wrinkles, skin thickness, hydration, blood flow, and skin texture.
11. Green Tea
Green tea may help to protect your skin from damage and aging.
The powerful compounds found in green tea are called catechins and work to improve the health of your skin in several ways.
Like several other antioxidant-containing foods, green tea can help protect your skin against sun damage.
One 12-week study involving 60 women found that drinking green tea daily could reduce redness from sun exposure by up to 25%.
Green tea also improved the moisture, roughness, thickness, and elasticity of their skin.
While green tea is a great choice for healthy skin, you may want to avoid drinking your tea with milk. There's evidence that milk could reduce the effect of green tea's antioxidants.
The catechins found in green tea are powerful antioxidants that can protect your skin against sun damage and reduce redness as well as improve its hydration, thickness and elasticity.
12. Red Grapes
Red grapes are famous for containing resveratrol, a compound that comes from the skin of red grapes.
Resveratrol is credited with a wide range of health benefits, among them is reducing the effects of aging.
Test-tube studies suggest it may also help to slow the production of harmful free radicals, which damage skin cells and cause signs of aging.
This beneficial compound is also found in red wine. Unfortunately, there's not much evidence that the amount of resveratrol you get from a glass of red wine is enough to impact your skin.
And since red wine is an alcoholic beverage, there are negative effects to drinking it in excess.
It's not recommended to start drinking red wine just because of its potential health benefits. Instead, you should increase your intake of red grapes and berries.
Resveratrol, the famous antioxidant found in red grapes, may slow your skin's aging process by impairing harmful free radicals that damage your skin.
The Bottom Line
What you eat can have a big impact on your skin health.
Make sure you're getting enough essential nutrients to protect your skin. The foods on this list are great options to keep your skin healthy, strong, and attractive.
By Melissa Gaskill
Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.
Restored seagrass beds in Virginia now provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of scallops. Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science / CC BY 2.0<p>The paper is part of a growing trend of evidence suggesting seagrass meadows can be easier to restore than other coastal habitats.</p><p>Successful seagrass-restoration methods include <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304377099000078?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">transplanting shoots</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mechanized planting</a> and, more recently, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17438-4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodegradable mats</a>. Removing threats, proximity to donor seagrass beds, planting techniques, project size and site selection all play roles in a restoration effort's success.</p><p>Human assistance isn't always necessary, though. In areas where some beds remain, seagrass can even recover on its own when stressors are reduced or removed. For example, seagrass began to recover when Tampa Bay improved its water quality by reducing nitrogen loads from runoff by roughly 90%.</p><p>But more and more, seagrass meadows struggle to hang on.</p><p>The marine flowering plants have declined globally since the 1930s and currently disappear at a rate equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes, according to the <a href="https://www.unep.org/resources/report/out-blue-value-seagrasses-environment-and-people" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Environment Programme</a>. And research published in 2018 found the rate of decline is <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018GB005941" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">accelerating</a> in many regions.</p><p>The causes of decline vary and overlap, depending on the region. They include thermal stress from climate change; human activities such as dredging, anchoring and coastal infrastructure; and intentional removal in tourist areas. In addition, increased runoff from land carries sediment that clouds the water, blocking sunlight the plants need for photosynthesis. Runoff can also carry contaminants and nutrients from fertilizer that disrupt habitats and cause algal blooms.</p><p>All that damage comes with a cost.</p>
The Value of Seagrass<p>As with ecosystems like rainforests and <a href="https://therevelator.org/mangroves-climate-change/" target="_blank">mangroves</a>, loss of seagrass increases carbon dioxide emissions. And that spells trouble not just for certain habitats but for the whole planet.</p><p>Although seagrass covers at most 0.2% of the seabed, it <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">accounts for 10%</a> of the ocean's capacity to store carbon and soils, and these meadows store carbon dioxide an estimated 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests. Slow decomposition rates in seagrass sediments contribute to their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238506081_Assessing_the_capacity_of_seagrass_meadows_for_carbon_burial_Current_limitations_and_future_strategies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high carbon burial rates</a>. In Australia, according to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15204" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> by scientists at Edith Cowan University, loss of seagrass meadows since the 1950s has increased carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to 5 million cars a year. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that a 29% decline in seagrass in Chesapeake Bay between 1991 and 2006 resulted in an estimated loss of up to 1.8 million tons of carbon.</p>
Eelgrass in the river delta at Prince William Sound, Alaska. Alaska ShoreZone Program NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC; Courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg / NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC<p>Seagrasses also protect costal habitats. A healthy meadow slows wave energy, reduces erosion and lowers the risk of flooding. In Morro Bay, California, a 90% decline in the seagrass species known as eelgrass caused extensive erosion, according to a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272771420303528?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> from researchers at California Polytechnic State University.</p><p>"Right away, we noticed big patterns in sediment loss or erosion," said lead author Ryan Walter. "Many studies have shown this on individual eelgrass beds, but very few studies looked at it on a systemwide scale."</p><p>In the tropics, seagrass's natural protection can reduce the need for expensive and often-environmentally unfriendly <a href="https://www.nioz.nl/en/news/zeegras-spaart-stranden-en-geld" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">beach nourishments</a> regularly conducted in tourism areas.</p><p>Seagrass ecosystems improve water quality and clarity, filtering particles out of the water column and preventing resuspension of sediment. This role could be even more important in the future. By producing oxygen through photosynthesis, meadows could help offset decreased oxygen levels caused by warmer water temperatures (oxygen is less soluble in warm than in cold water).</p><p>The meadows also provide vital habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, sea turtles, birds, marine mammals such as manatees, invertebrates and algae. They provide nursery habitat for <a href="https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32636/seagrass.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly 20%</a> of the world's largest fisheries — an <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/seagrass-meadows-harbor-wildlife-for-centuries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated 70%</a> of fish habitats in Florida alone.</p><p>Conversely, their disappearance can contribute to die-offs of marine life. The loss of more than 20 square miles of seagrass in Florida's Biscayne Bay may have helped set the stage for a widespread <a href="https://www.wlrn.org/2020-08-14/the-seagrass-died-that-may-have-triggered-a-widespread-fish-kill-in-biscayne-bay" target="_blank">fish kill</a> in summer 2020. Lack of grasses to produce oxygen left the basin more vulnerable when temperatures rose and oxygen levels dropped as a result, says Florida International University professor Piero Gardinali.</p>
Damaged Systems, a Changing Climate<p>Governments and conservationists around the world have already put a lot of effort into coastal restoration efforts. And that's helped some seagrass populations.</p><p>Where stressors remain, though, restoration grows more complicated. <a href="https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/en/publications/the-future-of-seagrass-ecosystem-services-in-a-changing-world(3a8c56db-7bed-4c9e-ac7f-c72453e2a102).html" target="_blank">Research</a> published this September found that only 37% of seagrass restorations have survived. Newly restored meadows remain vulnerable to the original stressors that depleted them, as well as to storms — and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis">climate change</a>.</p>
Seagrass in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Alicia Wellman / Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>In Chesapeake Bay a cold-water species of seagrass is currently hitting its heat limit, especially in summer, according to Alexander Challen Hyman of University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment. As waters continue to warm due to climate change, the species likely will disappear there.</p><p>Climate-driven sea-level rise complicates the problem as well. Seagrasses thrive at specific depths — too shallow and they dry out or are eaten, too deep and there isn't enough light for photosynthesis.</p>
But There’s Good News, Too<p>Luckily, left to its own devices, a seagrass meadow can flourish for hundreds of years, according to a <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1861" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> published last year by Hyman and other researchers from the University of Florida. The researchers arrived at their conclusion by looking at shells of living mollusks and fossil shells to estimate the ages of meadows in Florida's Big Bend region on the Gulf Coast.</p><p>That area has extensive, relatively pristine seagrass meadows. "Our motivation was to understand the past history of these systems, and shells store a lot of history," said co-author Michal Kowalewski.</p><p>A high degree of similarity between living and dead shells indicates a stable area, while a mismatch suggests an area shifted from seagrass to barren sand. The researchers found that long-term accumulations of shells resembled living ones, suggesting that the seagrass habitats have been stable over time.</p><p>That stability allows biodiversity to thrive, creating conditions where specialist species can survive and flourish, according to Hyman.</p><p>Discovering the long-term stability of seagrass meadows has implications for choosing restoration sites, Kowalewski notes.</p><p>"There must be reasons they thrive in one place, while a mile away they don't and fossil data says they probably never did," he said. "If we remove a seagrass patch, we cannot hope to plant it somewhere else. It's not just the seagrass that is special. The location at which it's found is special, too."</p><p>A better approach is conserving these habitats in the first place, but we're not doing enough of that right now. The UN reports that marine protected areas safeguard just 26% of recorded seagrass meadows, compared with 40% of coral reefs and 43% of mangroves.</p>
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