The term “plant-based diet” may have been on your radar before — but have you stopped to consider just what it entails, and how this diet is actually better for your skin?
Diet and skin health are closely linked. By following a healthy diet -staying hydrated and consuming the correct nutrients- you can keep your skin looking younger, brighter, glowier, and acne-free.
Breaking out is no laughing matter and one thing most of us tend to do when we notice recurring pimples, or any other common skin problem, is reach for an instant fix.
These instant fix solutions often come in the form of over the counter medications or skincare products. But in order for your products, especially natural skincare products to work properly, you need to feed your skin.
Why follow a healthy skin diet?
The only way to achieve healthy skin from the inside is to stay hydrated and eat more plant-based foods like greens, veggies, and fruits. Eating your way to healthy skin is playing a long game. You’re not going to see instant results the way you would by beginning a face mask regimen, for instance. But with dedication and time, eating a plant-based diet will help make your skin appear healthier, younger, and just better overall.
What’s the difference between a plant-based diet and the Average American diet?
There are definitely a few differences between following a plant-based diet and a “regular” diet, especially in America.
The typical American diet is stupid high in proteins, fats, and sugar (both added sugar and sugar from simple carbohydrates like white bread). Meat is often the cornerstone of every meal, supplemented with dairy — to the point where fruits and veggies are often an afterthought.
Eating meat and dairy products isn’t inherently terrible for you when you’re doing so responsibly. Both are sources of macronutrients (protein and fats) which our bodies need to function. However, these macronutrients can also be found in plant-based foods.
Unfortunately, it’s common for “traditional” American meals to be too calorically dense, with way more protein, fat, and carbs/sugar than we actually need to stay healthy and happy. When fruit and vegetable consumption falls by the wayside, the body misses out on crucial micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc) that improve overall health, appearance, and performance.
The biggest thing to note is when you eat more plant-based foods, the nutritional profile you’re consuming vastly increases. All the vegetables and fruits included in a plant-based diet come packed with the micronutrients your skin (and everything else!) needs.
How to diet for better skin
Does eating healthy help your skin? You bet it does.
At its core, a healthy skin diet is pretty simple: Eat your vitamins and minerals in the form of real, plant-based foods, while avoiding inflammatory foods known to cause skin problems. While there are seemingly countless vitamins to help your skin, there are certain ones to especially keep in mind if you plan to start a clear skin diet.
Antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, and E will make the biggest difference to your skin:
Vitamin A: helps to slow aging, reduce wrinkles, protect from the sun and heal wounds. There are two types of vitamin A your body can use: Preformed vitamin A (AKA retinol), plus beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A after consumption. You’re most likely to encounter preformed vitamin A in supplement form, like retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate. You’ll want to be careful not to over-consume preformed vitamin A (no more than 10,000 international units per day, according to the National Institute of Health) as it can be toxic in high doses.
However, beta-carotene is not toxic in any dose and can be found in lots of delicious foods, like cantaloupe, mango, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and canned pumpkin.
Vitamin C: Rejuvenates skin and improves collagen to tighten skin. As an antioxidant, it boosts your immune system and helps you fight infections and disease while neutralizing free radicals that can leave your skin looking dull and tired.
You can find vitamin C in oranges, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, grapefruits, strawberries, broccoli, and potatoes.
Vitamin E: This antioxidant protects skin against free radicals and prevents damage from the sun. Vitamin E is found only in plant-based foods and supplements, though studies show the vitamin E found in food is twice as effective as synthetic vitamin E.
You’ll find vitamin E in tomatoes, turnips, spinach, mangoes, avocados, apples, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.
Anti-inflammatory diet for clear skin
It’s not just what you do eat that matters, it’s what you don’t eat that matters as well.
We often blame oil production and hormones for acne. While these factors (and more!) can all cause blemishes, we shouldn’t forget about how inflammation affects our skin.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s way to remove harmful pathogens, irritants, or damaged cells from the body. In a way, it can be considered a defense mechanism against “bad stuff.”
Inflamed skin is irritated skin. Acute skin inflammation might occur due to a breakout, a sunburn, or a skin reaction to a product. Chronic skin inflammation is often the result of a skin condition like psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema.
Even when inflammation is genetic, you can still mitigate symptoms by eating anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding inflammatory ones.
Here are the top inflammatory foods you should avoid:
Don’t: Eat refined or added sugars
Replace with: Natural sweeteners like honey or stevia
Don’t: Use polyunsaturated vegetable oils (grapeseed, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, corn oils)
Replace with: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil
Don’t: Eat commercially-produced meat
Replace with: Grass-fed, ethically-raised meat or a fully plant-based diet
Don’t: Drink alcohol
Replace with: Water, and some tea for good measure.
Don’t: Eat refined grains like white rice and flour
Replace with: Minimally-processed, whole grains
Don’t: Eat artificial food additives like MSG or aspartame
Replace with: Unprocessed foods and drinks with natural sweeteners and spices
By replacing inflammatory foods with plant-based (or at least natural) foods, you’re going to notice a huge difference in your skin.
Should I eat dairy or not?
About three-quarters of the world’s population are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t break down lactose as adults. If you fall into this category and experience digestive problems — anything from stomach aches to bloating — when you consume dairy products, you should cut back on your dairy consumption or cut it out completely.
Calorie for calorie, milk is actually highly nutritious, packed with macro and micronutrients the body needs (if your body can properly digest it, of course). However, commercially-produced dairy (non grass-fed, non-organic) is typically also full of harmful hormones and antibiotics that can wreak havoc with your skin. For this reason, some people notice a huge difference in their skin health by just cutting dairy from their diet.
For those looking to cut out dairy, alternatives to cow's milk are almond milk (You can even make your own) as well as oat milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk.
Studies show that grass-fed, organic dairy are much higher in healthy nutrients, from fat-soluble vitamins to Omega-3 fatty acids. If you are going to consume dairy products, make sure you’re consuming grass-fed products at full fat, as low-fat versions of dairy don’t have the same nutrients and often contain added sugar to make up for loss in flavor.
Should I eat meat or not?
As part of a diet for clear skin, you’ll want to be conscious that you’re getting the bulk of your nutrition from plants, rather than meat. Meat has also been proven to be connected to inflammation, and many people notice better skin after going vegetarian or vegan.
Just like dairy, if you choose to eat meat, make sure you are consuming grass-fed, organic meat free from harmful and inflammatory toxins and hormones. Grass-fed meats also have far more nutrients than commercially produced meats.
Drink water for clear, glowing skin
You may already be drinking a lot of water, but when going plant-based, your water intake will naturally increase as well. The added veggies and fruits will help to hydrate your skin and increase moisture, which is especially helpful for those who have dry skin. Fruits and vegetables with high water content are watermelons, cucumber, grapefruit, celery, strawberries, tomatoes, and lettuce.
Make sure you’re drinking as much water as possible per day — if you can get to a gallon of water per day, your skin will seriously thank you. Without enough hydration, your skin will get tight, dry, and flaky — ultimately looking less glowy and radiant. The more hydrated your skin cells, the less susceptible they are to aging.
Make sure to increase your water intake after exercise or drinking dehydrating fluids like coffee or alcohol. Regular water intake is, arguably, the best thing you can do for healthy skin.
Your clear skin diet packed with plant-based foods
Eating nutrient-rich superfoods will feed your glow and help your skin. So, which foods should you be eating to get the most out of your plant-based diet for your skin's health?
Here are our top recommended plant-based foods for a diet to help skin:
Dark Leafy Greens: Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens and swiss chard are rich in antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and nutrients that will fight free radicals and keep your skin looking beautiful and young.
Foods Rich in Fatty Acids: Foods rich in healthy fats such as walnuts, avocado, and flaxseed will help to hydrate your skin, as well as fight against inflammation, ensuring your skin stays clear and healthy.
Foods High in Zinc: Zinc helps to prevent clogged pores by keeping the pores open. Zinc also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties making it ideal for problem skin. Foods high in zinc include pumpkin seeds, kidney beans and spinach.
Antioxidant Rich teas: Tea is excellent for aiding in digestion, which in turn keeps the skin clear. There is a very clear link between gut health and the health of your skin so try and drink tea alongside your meals to improve digestion. Green tea, dandelion root, ginger and lemon teas are our favorite for their antioxidant-rich content.
Use products for healthy skin from the outside
Healing your skin from the inside-out is going to take time. While it can be a slow process (and painstaking to cut out so many foods!) your skin is going to be clearer, healthier, and happier for it.
That being said, you should also be using natural skincare products for toxin-free cleansing and hydration. This will maximize all the good work you’re doing on the inside of your body.
In addition to eating and drinking antioxidant-rich foods and teas, you can apply antioxidants directly to your skin to benefit from their anti-aging and free radical-fighting properties. A detox mask, blemish remedy treatment, and organic cleanser can do wonders to keep your pores clear and prevent blemishes. A green tea mask or vitamin C serum can boost your skin’s natural glow and prevent wrinkles and fine lines from forming. Mineral moisturizers will keep your skin hydrated and dewy while loading up your face with the vitamins it needs, banishing dullness and flakiness.
The moral here is that it’s crucial to feed your skin the nutrients it needs. With the right vitamins, lots of water (and sleep!) plus smart use of products, radiant skin is just around the corner.