Medically reviewed by Taylor Jones, RD
Nutrition is important for health. An unhealthy diet can damage your metabolism, cause weight gain and even hurt organs, such as your heart and liver.
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
Some studies show that fish oil supplements may fight inflammatory and autoimmune conditions affecting your skin, such as psoriasis and lupus (4).
Fatty fish is also a source of vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants for your skin. Getting enough vitamin E is essential for protecting your skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation (5).
This type of seafood is also a source of high-quality protein, which is needed for maintaining the strength and integrity of your skin (5).
Lastly, fish provides zinc — a mineral vital for regulating inflammation, the production of new skin cells and overall skin health. Zinc deficiency can lead to skin inflammation, lesions and delayed wound healing (6).
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 (7).
Getting enough of these fats is essential to keep skin flexible and moisturized.
Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps 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 (5).
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 (10).
A deficiency in vitamin C 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 protects your skin from oxidative damage — caused by the sun and the environment — which can lead to signs of aging (10).
A 100-gram serving, or about 1/2 an avocado, provides 10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin E and 17% of the RDI for vitamin C (11).
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 are a good source of essential fatty acids, which are fats that your body cannot make itself.
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 (13).
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 fight the 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 6% of the RDI for zinc, which is essential for your skin to function properly as a barrier, as well as necessary for wound healing and combatting both bacteria and inflammation (14).
Walnuts also provide small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium, in addition to 4–5 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams) (12).
Walnuts are a good source of essential fats, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, 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 37% of the RDI for vitamin E, 32% of the RDI for selenium, 10% of the RDI for zinc and 5.4 grams of protein (15).
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.
Carotenoids like beta-carotene keep your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock.
When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and protects 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 (5).
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 92% of the RDI for vitamin A (18).
They're also one of the best sources of vitamin C, necessary for creating the protein collagenwhich keeps skin firm and strong. A single cup (149 grams) of bell pepper provides an impressive 317% of the RDI for vitamin C (18).
A large observational study in women linked eating plenty of vitamin C to a reduced risk of wrinkled and dry skin with age (19).
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.
It also contains lutein, a carotenoid that works like beta-carotene. Lutein protects your skin from oxidative damage, which can cause your skin to become dry and wrinkled.
But broccoli florets also pack a special compound called sulforaphane, which boasts some impressive potential benefits. It may even have anti-cancer effects, including on some types of skin cancer (21, 22).
In laboratory tests, sulforaphane reduced the number of skin cells killed by UV light by as much as 29%, with protection lasting up to 48 hours. Evidence suggests sulforaphane may also maintain collagen levels in your skin (23).
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.
Because tomatoes contain all of the major carotenoids, they're an excellent food for maintaining healthy skin.
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 in middle-aged women found that eating soy isoflavones every day for 8–12 weeks reduced fine wrinkles and improved skin elasticity (28).
In postmenopausal women, soy may also improve skin dryness and increase collagen, which helps keep your skin smooth and strong (29).
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 experience 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 (33).
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 (34).
Several other studies have produced similar results, including improvements in the appearance of wrinkles. However, keep in mind that at least one study did not find significant effects (34, 35, 36, 37).
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 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.
One 12-week study in 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 (41).
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 Wine
Red wine is 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 reducing the effects of aging.
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. However, if you already drink in moderation, you might enjoy red wine as your alcoholic beverage of choice.
Resveratrol, the famous antioxidant found in red wine, may slow your skin's aging process by impairing harmful free radicals that damage your skin.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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