Just 100g of blueberries contain the same amount of age-defying antioxidants as five servings of other fruit and vegetables. [Photo: Bigstock]

Skin foods – eat your way to beautiful skin

2 April, 2015

Our skin is our largest organ, and the most visible indicator of our health and our age.

Skin aging can happen more subtly over time and many people rely on cosmetic products to cover up what they see as this inevitable aging process and the loss of skin vitality. While you can’t stop the aging process entirely – you delay it by nourishing your skin from the inside out by eating the right kinds of food.

By eating the right foods you can easily reduce fine lines and wrinkles, protect it from sun damage and enhance your skin’s natural beauty and even fight acne. There are many foods with skin-friendly vitamins that will not only benefit your health but also your skin. There are so many skin healthy foods it’s hard to choose just a few, but below are just 10 our favourites. As a bonus, many of the foods that are good for you on the inside, also have benefits when applied externally.


Blueberries are one of the richest plant sources of key antioxidants which have anti-ageing and are high in skin-toning vitamins C and A. Just 100g (4oz) of blueberries contain the same amount of age-defying antioxidants as five servings of other fruit and vegetables. The vitamin C and fibre in blueberries can aid detox and help keep arteries and veins healthy – which contributes to healthier skin and fewer problems like spider veins and blotchiness while an array of other nutrients in blueberries help normalise oil levels in your skin, making clogged pores and acne breakouts less likely.

Antioxidant anthocyanins in blueberries reduce the production of substances in the body that accelerate the breakdown of collagen while vitamin C supports the production of collagen – helping to maintain skin’s elasticity and tone.

Obviously they are great to eat, but new science is showing extracts from the blueberry plant can bring benefits when applied to the skin. Research has shown that a 4% blueberry extract, applied daily for 3 months, significantly improved cracking, creping, and thinning of mature skin (women aged 45-61 years).

Get the best from it

Blueberries belong to a “dirty dozen” list of fruits that generally have the most pesticide residues, so always buy organic.


Oily fish like salmon, contain a broad spectrum of fats, but are particularly high in the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which protects the skin and tissues as well as the heart and nervous systems. Fat soluble vitamins, particularly vitamins A and D, but also vitamins E and K, are abundant in oily fish, making them beneficial for bone, joint, muscle, skin and eye health.

Among the oily fish, salmon can boast being relatively low in the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, which are already overabundant in the modern diet while being uniquely rich in EPA and DHA which can help keep skin healthy. As a bonus omega 3s in combination with abundant selenium in salmon lower blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. They also protect the eyes and joints and feed the brain helping to prevent dementia and loss of mental functions making salmon a beautiful and smart choice.

Get the best from it

Salmon is delicious hot or cold. Grill quickly on a high heat to seal in nutrients. Opt for wild and sustainably caught fish as opposed to farmed salmon.


Kale is an ancient member of the cabbage family. Its popularity has grown in recent years as science has revealed it to be is rich in skin protecting beta carotene, vitamins C and K and folic acid. It is also an exceptional source of detoxifying chlorophyll, as well as highly bioavailable calcium and iron and fibre that helps remove toxins from the body.  A combination of antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acids give kale strong anti-inflammatory properties as well. Kale contains dozens of over flavonoids with kaempferol and quercetin topping the list. These antioxidants are responsible for kale’s anti-inflammatory skin benefits but also are protective against diseases like diabetes, arthritis, stroke and heart disease. Like all brassicas kale contains indoles, natural substances which boost DNA  repair and have an anti-estrogen effect that can protect against and arrest the spread of estrogen-dependent cancers, for instance of the breast and ovary.

Get the best from it

Steam lightly to preserve the nutrients and serving with a lemon dressing or in the same meal as another acidic citrus fruit to boost absorption of its iron and calcium.


Flax seeds are also known as linseeds. They are rich in plant hormones called lignans, which support healthy hormone balance as well as having antioxidant qualities. The omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) has a powerful anti-inflammatory action whether taken internally or applied to the skin

Pressed from the tiny seeds of the flax plant, this oil is nourishing and reviving especially for very dry skin. The omega-3 protein found in flaxseed oil helps protect and rejuvenate skin cells, brightening dull looking skin and smoothing the appearance of wrinkles. It’s also suitable for cleansing and conditioning oily or acne prone skin and rosacea. Applying the oil to skin helps seal in, making a great treatment for dry skin conditions. Its anti-inflammatory action is helpful for problems like eczema and psoriasis.

Get the best from it

Whether taking internally as a supplement or applying externally look for organic oil that has been cold-pressed and unfiltered. Add raw flax seeds to salads, soups to get more skin loving essential fats in your diet – but remember to grind them first to get the best out of them.


Tomatoes are one of the most widely used and popular of all vegetables. They’re versatility and numerous health benefits mean that every diet should include them as a matter of course.  Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, all of which can help protect the skin from environmental and free radical damage. Tomatoes are abundant in potassium which reduces water retention and puffiness. They are also a good source of glutathione which helps the body remove fat-soluble toxins. One glass of tomato juice can contain 74% of your daily recommended skin supporting vitamin C intake as well as many other key vitamins such as K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and mineral such as potassium, manganese and iron. In addition to being skin healthy, lycopene has been found to reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer among others, lower cholesterol and boost immunity.

Get the best from it

Keep the skin on. The highest concentration of carotenoids is found in the tomato skin and studies show that the amount absorbed in the human gut is greater with tomato paste enriched with tomato skin compared to tomato paste made without the skin.


Yoghurt, which is simply milk that has been colonised or cultured by certain types of ‘good’ bacteria, can help keep things, including your skin, in balance. Good bacteria have specific benefits for our health; they help turn organic acids into glucose the body’s primary energy source, lower cholesterol, metabolise nutrients, break down the enzymes, proteins and fibres in food, and help kick-start the immune system.

Many people with problem skin avoid dairy products. There may be some wisdom in this but the exception to the rule is live yoghurt. Gut health is inseparable from the health of the rest of the body and research has shown that the good bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus in these products can prevent ‘bad’ bacteria from colonising skin and causing breakouts. Other good bacteria have other benefits; Lactobacillus casei is immune boosting, and Bifidobacterium animalis and help speed the transit of food through the gut. Consuming more probiotics has also shown potential in preventing allergies such as eczema particularly in children. In older or immune-compromised people yoghurt may help increase resistance bacterial and viral diseases.

Get the best from it

Avoid yogurts with artificial colours, flavourings, thickeners and sweeteners. Better to buy a good quality organic, plain, live yoghurt and customise how much and what type of sweetener or fruit or other ingredients you add.

Sweet potatoes

They may look a bit lumpy and uninteresting but sweet potatoes are definitely ‘superfood’. Because of their high level of slow release carbohydrates they can help maintain steady blood sugar levels. A single sweet potato contains more than a day’s worth of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory beta-carotene and nearly all your vitamin C (necessary to help maintain the collagen that supports skin structure). This makes sweet potatoes a skin loving superfood that everyone should include in their diets.

High potassium levels in sweet potatoes regulate heart rate and help combat the effects of stress. Because they are high in beta-carotene and vitamin C regular consumption can also strengthen the immune system and help develop resistance to infection and may have anti-cancer benefits. The skins of sweet potatoes are healthy and contain nutrients similar to that of the flesh underneath.

Get the best from it

Lightly steam to preserve nutrients. To get you full complement of nutrients eat them with the skins on. Add a little oil or butter to help absorb the beneficial carotenoids.


Avocado is actually a fruit and is high in antioxidants as well as being rich in vitamins A, B1, B2 pantothenic acid, vitamin D, E, protein and in healthy fats, lecithin and phytosterols (plant hormones), which have a healing, balancing effect inside and out. The oil, sometimes called the ‘olive oil of the Americas’, is highly moisturising and revitalising. Avocados can nourish from the inside out to help fight the free radicals that cause disease and skin aging. They are also a good source of biotin, deficiency of which can lead to dry skin and brittle hair and nails.

Whether you eat them or use them on your skin (for instance as a quick facial mask or as avocado oil), avocado is deeply nourishing helping to hydrate parched skin and aid the regeneration of skin cells. The oil in the fruit can be of particular benefit in replenishing and revitalising mature or weather-damaged skin.

Get the best from it

Adding the fruit or the oil to a salad will significantly increase the absorption of two skin protecting antioxidants – lycopene and beta-carotene – by 200-400% from other salad vegetables like tomatoes and greens.


We need to stop thinking of dandelions as weeds and started thinking of them as superfoods.  Dandelion greens provide all of the major antioxidant vitamins to help protect skin from premature aging.  In particular they provide a good amount of vitamin C, which aids wound healing, promotes skin elasticity, fights infection, and promotes healthy gums. They are also rich in antioxidant vitamin E, which further adds to dandelions’ immunity-bolstering properties and help keep skin looking younger.

Dandelion flowers contain useful amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and other beneficial nutrients. The colourful petals contain antioxidant flavonoids the benefits of which include including lowering blood pressure and boosting immunity and fighting skin damaging free-radicals.

Dried root of the dandelion plant can be dried and used as a caffeine free coffee substitute. It has a mild laxative and diuretic effect as well as antiviral properties.  The root also contains inulin, a pre-biotic that encourages healthy gut flora.

Get the best from it

Collect leaves before the familiar yellow flowers emerge to ensure the least bitter taste, and gather flowers when they are yellow. Never collect wild foods from chemically treated lawns or gardens. Try adding the leaves and/or yellow petals to salads and stir fries. Dandelion coffee is a healthful substitute for regular coffee.

Green tea

Tea, particularly green and white tea extracts, are common cosmetic ingredients. But drinking green tea has multiple benefits too. Tea leaves are rich in nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C as well as antioxidant polyphenols, which help stimulate circulation. The antioxidants in green tea possess anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties that can help protect against sun and environmental damage and which give it anti-aging effects too.

Low levels of caffeine in green tea can also help boost circulation, improving both the tone and structure of the skin, while antioxidant catechins in green tea can help make skin more resistant to ultraviolet radiation and therefore premature skin aging. Green tea also has a mild astringent and diuretic effect that can help reduce puffiness and excess water.

Simply drinking a cup of white tea a day, say researchers, could help reduce an individual’s risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or even just age-associated wrinkles.

Get the best from it

Tea is routinely treated with a vast number of pesticides. To avoid a toxic cup of tea, always choose organic.