A plant – based diet is touted for many things, including a reduced risk of heart disease and some type of cancer. But did you know that plant – based foods, such as vegetables and fruits, can also improve the health of your skin?
‘Epidemiological studies have shown that people who generally consume a higher amount of fruits and vegetables tend to have better skin outcomes than those who consume less’, says Vivien W.Fam, PhD, RDN, a clinical research scientist in Sacramento, California.
Dr. Fam is one of the authors of a new narrative review study on nutrition and skin health published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
About The Study
Dr. Fam and fellow researchers reviewed 20 previous studies that investigated skin health and the effect of plant – based foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, soybeans, coffee, tea and cocoa. The results were pooled together for a narrative review with some interesting findings.
”I don’t think there is ‘one’ magic food to do the trick but a whole foods diet rich in antioxidants and healthy fats can help over time’ – Lisa Young, PHD, RDN
Plant based foods are rich in bioactive compounds, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta – carotene, polyphenols, and phenolic acids, which function as antioxidants to reduce inflammation and promote structural support of the skin. Studies also found that nuts contain essential fatty acids, which are also important for skin.
‘I don’t think there is ‘one’ magic food to do the trick, but a whole foods diet rich in antioxidants and healthy fats can help over time’, says Lisa Yound PhD, RDN, author of ‘Finally Full, Finally Slim’, and a nutritionist in private practice.
In the narrative review, the researchers paid close attention to foods that were supported by the most clinical research. They looked at the skin – supporting nutrients in vegetables and fruits in several forms: whole, juice, and extracts.
‘Some of the beneficial compounds in fruits and vegetables include vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins, carotenoids, and a variety of polyphenols’, says Dr. Fam. These nutrients promote oxidant defense, structural integrity, and reduce skin inflammation.
Which Foods Are Good For Skin?
Options high in vitamin C, including mangoes, were associated with fewer wrinkles. ‘Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidation caused by everyday living including pollution, and sun’, says Young. ‘Foods high in Vitamin C include an assortment of colorful produce including broccoli, citrus, red peppers, and kiwi’.
The narrative review found that other vegetables and fruits that are good for the skin include tomates, kale, melon, oranges, pomegranates, and grapes. Dr. Fam explains that they are all rich in vitamins and polyphenols, but the type and amount of these compounds within each food differ, so their beneficial effects may also differ.
That means it’s bet to get a variety of different vegetables in fruits in your diet, to benefit from an array of nutrients and polyphenols. Nuts, especially almonds, are also good for the skin.
‘Clinical studies have shown that frequent intake of almonds meets 20% of one’s total caloric needs, which equates to an average of about 2 ounces, reduced facial wrinkles, and pigmentation’, says Dr. Fam.
There’s also some research to support soy for skin health. Soybeans contains isoflavones that have a similar structure to estrogen, a hormone that decreases after menopause.
This reduction may contribute to skin, wrinkles and dryness. But studies show that using soy extract and drinking soy beverages (equivalent to 15 grams to 25 grams of soy protein per day) may help boost skin hydration.
Polyphenols In Coffee, Tea And Cocoa
In addition to foods, the researchers also looked at studies on beverage ingredients, including coffee beans, cocoa beans, and tea leaves, which are all loaded with polyphenol antioxidants. They found that all three of this beverages can be beneficial for your skin.
Studies on coffee showed that it lowered skin hyperpigmentation, and improved scaly skin and dryness. ‘In the coffee studies, decaffeinated beverages containing coffee polyphenols were used and 270 milligrams to 200 milligrams of coffee polyphenols seem to be beneficial for skin’, says Dr. Fam .’That may equate to about 2 to 3 cups of coffee’.
The studies on tea were done using tea extracts, which contained 450 milligrams to 540 milligrams of tea flavanols. ‘To obtain this amound of flavanols from brewed tea, depending on the quality and processing of the tea leaves, it may be as high as 10 cups of green tea’, explains Dr. Fam. At that level, tea may reduce skin roughness and scaling, and boost hydration and elasticity.
Dr. Fam also notes that the beverage used in all the studies did not include sugar. The addition of sugar not change the number of polyphenols available in the beverages, she explains, but it does contribute to an increase in simple sugar intake in a person’s diet.
Foods vs Supplements For Skin Health?
Some of the studies in the narrative review at extracts or supplement rather than whole foods. Dr. Fam explains that extracts and supplements are used in studies more often than whole foods, which foods, which are perishable and therefore challenging to work with. So, what should you choose for your own skin health?
‘The question the readers should be asking is ‘what works for me and my lifestyle?’ says Dr. Fam. ‘Some may be seeking whole foods, while others look to enhance their diet with supplements and extracts, or a combination of both along with a skin care regimen that works best for their skin’.
Ultimately, the choice is yours based on what works best for your skin.