Eat Your Way to Clear, Healthy Skin with These 26 Meals

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Breakfast

1. Blueberry and Walnut SmoothieBlueberries, one of nature’s most potent antioxidant-containing fruits, provide the color for this simple, healthy smoothie. If you don’t have walnuts on hand to whip up homemade walnut milk, choose your favorite variety of milk (but keep in mind that some studies link whey-protein-based dairy to skin conditions, including acne, thanks to its insulin-boosting abilities)Evidence for acne-promoting effects of milk and other insulinotropic dairy products. Melnik, B.C. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Osnabruck. Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series. Pediatric Program, 2011;67: 131-45.Insulin resistance and acne: a new risk factor for men? Del Prete, M., Mauriello, M.C., Faggiano, A., et al. Department of Molecular and Clinical Endocrinology and Oncology, Federico II University of Naples, Naples, Italy. Endocrine, 2012, Mar 25.High glycemic load, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. Ismail, N.H., Abdul Manaf, Z., Azizan, N.Z. BMC Dermatology, 2012 Aug 16;12(1): 13.. If you can’t make walnut milk, try throwing a few whole walnuts in there anyways—they contain a healthy dose of magnesium, which is important for healthy blood flow in the skinThe influence of oral magnesium sulfate on skin microvasculature blood flow in diabetic rats. Heidarianpour, A., Sadeghian, E., Gorzi, A., et al. Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran. Biological Trace Element Research, 2011 Oct;143(1): 344-50..

2. Quinoa Breakfast Cereal with Berries and Almonds Your typical morning breakfast may feature oatmeal, but switch things up with quinoa for an extra dose of protein. Whole grains, including quinoa, are a rich source of selenium, which can improve skin elasticitySkin bioavailability of dietary vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, zinc and selenium. Richelle, M., Sabatier, M., Steiling, H., et al. Nestle Research Center, Nestec Ltd., Lausanne, Switzerland. British Journal of Nutrition, 2006 Aug;96(2): 227-38.. Blueberries are high in anthocyanins (one of many antioxidants, which fight off the damage in our bodies caused by free radicals). Almonds are a high source of vitamin E, known to protect our skin from the sun’s raysBerry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Zafra-Stone, S., Yasmin, T., Bagchi, M., et al. Research and Development Department, InterHealth Research Center, Benicia, CA. Molecular Nutrition Food Research, 2007 Jun; 51(6): 675-83.Tocopherol activity correlates with its location in a membrane: a new perspective on the antioxidant vitamin E. Marquardt, D., Williams, J.A., Kucerka, N., et al. Department of Physics, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2013 May 22;135(20): 7523-33..

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3. Kale, Apple, Raspberry, and Goji Green Smoothie Sip your way to healthy skin with this superfood-packed smoothie. Leafy green kale contains high levels of vitamin K, an essential vitamin known to suppress inflammation (which can result in acne or wrinkles)Vitamin K suppresses the lipopolysaccharide-induced expression of inflammatory cytokines in cultured macrophage-like cells via the inhibition of the activation of nuclear factor B through the repression of IKKa/ß phosphorylation. Ohsaki, Y., Shirakawa, H., Miura, A., et al. Laboratory of Nutrition, Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2010 Nov;21(11): 1120-6.. Chewy, tangy, and sweet goji berries are a rich source of antioxidants, known to ward off the signs of photoaging (aging of the skin often caused by sun damage), including liver spots, freckles, and spider veinsBotanical antioxidants in the prevention of photocarcinogenesis and photoaging. Afag, F., Mukhtar, H. Department of Dermatology, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Experimental Deratology, 2006 Sep;15(9): 678-84.. Apples are also a healthy-skin super- fruit; Fuji and Red Delicious rank highest for antioxidantsApple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Boyer, J., Liu, R.H., Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Nutrition Journal, 2004; 3: 5..

4. Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal This fall-friendly breakfast is warm and comforting, but it also features two healthy skin-promoting foods: oats and pumpkin. Foods high on the glycemic index (which measures how much a specific food raises blood sugar levels when consumed) can increase inflammation, and as a result, wreak havoc on our skinInsulin resistance: definition and consequences. Lebovitz, H.E., State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, USA.. High GI foods (like white bread, for instance) spike blood sugar levels because the body digests them very quickly, while low GI foods, like oatmeal digest slowlyDoes diet really affect acne? Ferdowsian, H.R., Levin, S. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC, USA. Skin Therapy Letter, 2010 Mar;15(3): 1-2, 5.Over-stimulation of insulin/ IGF-1 signaling by western diet may promote diseases of civilization: lessons learnt from laron syndrome. Melnik, B.C., John, S.M., Schmitz, G. Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabruck, Sedanstrasse, Osnabruck, Germany. Nutrition & Metabolism (London), 2011 Jun 24;8: 41.. Pumpkin, on the other hand, has loads of beta-carotene, a provitamin that converts to vitamin A (known to improve aged skin)Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Kafi, R., Kwak, H.S., Schumacher, W.E., et al. Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI. Archives of Dermatology, 2007 May;143(5): 606-12..

Salads

5. Kale Salad With Pomegranate Seeds and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette Perfect for a light lunch or side salad, this healthy skin medley features kale, avocado, quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, goat cheese, and a homemade Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Leafy greens, especially kale, are high in antioxidants and vitamin K—both of which help the skin look young (antioxidants because they help slow down the process of aging, and vitamin K because it protects the skin’s elasticity). Pomegranate seeds boast super high levels of polyphenols (an antioxidant also found in cranberries)Polyphenol-rich extract of pomegranate peel alleviates tissue inflammation and hypercholesterolaemia in high-fat diet- induced obese mice: potential implication of the gut microbiota. Neyrinck, A.M., Van Hee, V.F., Bindels, L.B., et al. Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group, Louvain Drug Research Institue, Universite catholique de Louvain, Avenue Mounier Brussels, Belgium. British Journal of Nutrition, 2013 Mar 14;109(5): 802-9..

6. Nicoise Salad With Charred Fish This hearty salad incorporates tons of Mediterranean staples, including fish, beans, green beans, olives, capers, and red bell pepper. Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet—composed primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, nuts, and olive oil—can protect against acne thanks to high fiber, antioxidant-rich, and Omega-3-packed foods (all of which help protect the skin from acne flair ups)Mediterranean diet and familial dysmetabolism as factors influencing the development of acne. Skroza, N., Tolino, E., Semyonov, L. et al. Dermatology UnitD. Innocenzi, Polo Pontino, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2012 Jul;40(5): 466-74. .

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7. Roasted Beet, Plum, and Kale Salad Perfect for late summer or early fall, this colorful salad highlights beets, plums, and tomatoes. Beets contain the antioxidant betalain in a higher concentration than most vegetables, and research shows beets may also help reduce the risk for skin cancerChemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Kapadia, G.J., Azuine, M.A., Sridhar, R., et al. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Howard University, Washington, DC. Pharmacology Research, 2003 Feb;47(2): 141-8.. This salad also includes tomatoes, which are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant found to reduce skin roughnessCutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates significantly with the roughness of the skin. Darvin, M., Patzelt, A., Gehse, S., et al. Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Department of Dermatology, Berlin, Germany. European Journal of Pharmacology and Biopharmacology, 2008 Aug; 69(3): 943-7.. And to round things off, the antioxidant kaempferol—found in kale —may be therapeutic to skin burnsProtection of burn-induced skin injuries by the flavonoid kaempferol. Park, B.K., Lee, S., Seo, J.N., Rhee, J.W., et al. Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea. BMB Reports. 2010 Jan;43(1): 46-51..

Main Dishes

9. Zucchini Chickpea Burgers This burger, made up primarily of chickpeas, quinoa, and grated zucchini also features a hearty serving of sunflower seeds. Foods high in vitamin E, including sunflower seeds, help prevent acne development and may help acne-scarred skin healDoes the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? El-Akawi, Z., Abdel-Latif, N., Abdul-Razzak, K. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Irbid, Jordan. Clinical Experimental Dermatology, 2006 May;31(3): 430-4.. Plus, zucchini is 95 percent water, and hydrated skin makes for healthy, supple skinEffect of oral hydration on skin microcirculation in healthy young and midlife and older adults. Wipke-Tevis, D.D., Williams, D.A. MU Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri- Columbia, Columbia. Would Repair and Regeneration, 2007 Mar-Apr;15(2): 174-85.. The green veggie is also a great source of Vitamin C, a nutrient required for healing damaged skinVitamin C regulates keratinocyte viability, epidermal barrier, and basement membrane in vitro, and reduces wound contraction after grafting of cultured skin substitutes. Boyce, S.T., Supp, A.P., Swope, V.B., et al. Shriners Hospitals for Children and Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2002 Apr; 118(4): 565-72..

10. Lemon Herb Salmon This recipe, featuring omega-3-rich salmon, is a healthy skin superstar not just for its nutritional profile, but also for its low-grease preparation—baking instead of frying. While consuming certain foods can affect our skin from the inside out, greasy food causes problems the second it touches our mouths. Grease from fried food that touches our faces is a recipe for clogged poresNeglected aspects in the management of acne. Gordon, B. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1885;78 Suppl 10: 10-4.. Opting for baked recipes versus fried can reduce all that grease.

12. Sesame-Soy Salmon With Carrots and Edamame This flavorful meal is quick and simple. Feel free to serve it over a bed of greens like bok choy or spinach. Salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help keep inflammation (which can show as redness on our skin) under controlAcne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Rubin, M.G., Kim, K., Logan, A.C. Lasky Skin Clinic, 153 Lasky Drive, Suite 1, Beverly Hills, CA. Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008 Oct 13;7: 36.Acne: inflammation. Farrar, M.D., Ingham, E. Skin Research Centre, Division of Microbiology, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. Clinical Dermatology, 2004 Sep-Oct; 22(5): 380-4.. The dish also features edamame (soybeans), which research links to wrinkle reductionWrinkle reduction in post-menopausal women consuming a novel oral supplement: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study. Jenkins, G., Wainwright, L.J., Holland, R., et al. Unilever R&D, Colworth Discover, Colworth Science Park, Shanbrook, Bedfordshire, U.K. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2013 Aug 8..

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14. Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup This colorful soup gets its hue from two veggies known for improving skin health. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a skin healthy antioxidant. And cooking tomatoes actually increases the concentration of lycopeneIncreases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Fielding, J.M., Rowley, K.G., Cooper, P., et al. School of Nutrition and Public Health, Deakin University, Malvern, Victoria, Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005;14(2): 131-6.. Red peppers, on the other hand, are loaded with vitamin C —which is associated with better skin-aging appearanceDietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4): 1225-31..

15. Roasted Carrot Soup The main ingredient of this comforting fall soup—carrots —is an excellent source of vitamin A, which prevents the overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer (That means there are fewer dead cells hanging around to clog pores.)Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? El-Akawi, Z., Abdel-Latif, N., Abdul-Razzak, K. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, School of Medicine, Irbid, Jordan. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 2006 May;31(3): 430-4.

16. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili This non-traditional chili incorporates gluten-free and vegetarian ingredients, including pepper, black beans, sweet potatoes, and—of course—lots of spice. Sweet potatoes have tons of Vitamin C, which is known to smooth the appearance of wrinklesDietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Nutrition, 2007 Oct;86(4): 1225-31.. Plus, black beans are a good source of folic acid, an important nutrient for protecting the skin from damaging UV raysFolate in Skin Cancer Prevention. Williams, J.D., Jacobson, E.L., Jacobson, M.K. Folate in Skin Cancer Prevention. Subcellular Biochemistry, 2012;56: 181-197..

Snacks and Side Dishes

18.Quinoa With Roasted Squash, Dried Cranberries, and Pepitas For a simple fall salad, all it takes are some dried cranberries, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and toasted pepitas. Also known as pumpkin seeds, pepitas are an excellent source of zinc, which helps maintain collagen strength and promotes skin renewalZinc induces structural reorganization of gelatin binding domain from human fibronectin and affects collagen binding. Graille, M., Pagano, M., Rose, T., et al. IBBMC, Universite Paris, Orsay Cedex, France. Structure, 2010 Jun 9;18(6): 710-8.. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as quinoa or farro, is a cheap and easy way to maintain healthy skin since they too have free radical- fighting antioxidantsSystemic antioxidants and skin health. Nguyen, G., Torres, A. Department of Internal Medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA. Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, 2012 Sep;11(9).. The third and final main ingredient, cranberries, ranks highly among other fruits for both antioxidant quality and quantityHerbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie, IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, Boca Raton FL: CRC Press; 2011..

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19. Oysters on the Half Shell There’s not much to this hors d’oeuvre, but kicking back oysters can provide a healthy dose of zinc (a necessary mineral to stave off a variety of skin problems, including acne and the skin disorder inflammatory dermatosis)Innate immunity: a crucial target for zinc in the treatment of inflammatory dermatosis. Brocard, A., Dreno, B. Skin Cancer Unit, Nantes University Hospital, Nantes, France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Oct;25(10): 1146-52.Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Bae, Y.S. Hill, N.D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J., et al. Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dermatologic Clinics, 2010 Jul;28(3): 587-97.

20. Red Grape and Chicken Salad Wraps This no-cook snack wrap is refreshing and easy to compile. The sweet ingredient—red grapes—is a good source of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which helps maintain good circulation in the body as well as strengthen collagen (the basis for the structure of skin)Relationship between skin cell wall composition and anthocyanin extractability of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Tempranillo at different grape ripeness degree. Hernandez- Hierro, J.M., Quijada-Morin, N., Martinez-Lapuente, L., et al. Grupo de Investigacion en Polifenoles, Unidad de Nutricion y Bromatologia, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain. Food Chemistry, 2014 Mar 1;146: 41-7..

Desserts

23. Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles This sneaky dessert features a secret ingredient—avocadoes. The creamy green fruit contains high levels of pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5). A number of B vitamins, including B5, promote healthy skin by decreasing oil production and reducing the size of pores.Pantothenic acid deficiency as the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Leung, L.H., Department of General Surgery, Hong Kong Central Hospital, Hong Kong. Medical Hypotheses, 1995 Jun;44(6): 490-2..

24. Chocolate, Pomegranate, Ginger Bark This super simple dessert melds sweet, tart, and spicy. The pomegranate seeds are a rich source of polyphenols, an antioxidant known to protect against the adverse effects of UV radiationPolyphenols: skin photoprotection and inhibition of photocarcinogenesis. Afag, F., Katiyar, S.K. Department of Dermatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 2011 Dec;11(14): 1200-15.. Chocolate contains flavonols, an antioxidant that protects the skin against UV raysEating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. Williams, S. Tamburic, S., Lally, C. Cosmetic Science Group, School of Management and Science, London University of the Arts, London, UK. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2009 Sep; 8(3): 169-73.. Look for dark chocolate with a cacao content above 70 percent for higher antioxidant power.

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25. Granny Smith Apples With Dark Chocolate and Walnuts Foods with high levels of fiber, like apples, can help the body flush out toxins, which can lead to inflammation and clogged pores. Constipation has also been linked to skin conditions like acneRisk factors for sebaceous gland diseases and their relationship to gastrointestinal dysfunction in Han adolescents. Zhang, H., Liao, W., Chao, W., et al. Department of Dermatology, First Affiliated Hospital, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China. Journal of Dermatology, 2008 Sep;35(9): 555-61.. But a high-fiber diet with adequate hydration will help keep things moving smoothlyWater supplementation enhances the effect of high- fiber diet on stool frequency and laxative consumption in adult patients with functional constipation. Anti, M., Pignataro, G., Armuzzi, A., et al. Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University, Policlinico, A. Gemelli, Rome. Hepatogastroenterology, 1998 May-Jun;45(21): 727-32..

26. Dark Chocolate and Maca Fruit Bites This sweet treat dresses up fruit with a maca-infused chocolate and nut coating. With zinc deficiency associated with a variety of skin problems (including acne), there’s no excuse not to eat zinc-rich dark chocolateInnate immunity: a crucial target for zinc in the treatment of inflammatory dermatosis. Brocard, A., Dreno, B. Skin Cancer Unit, Nantes University Hospital, Nantes, France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2011 Oct;25(10): 1146-52.Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Bae, Y.S. Hill, N.D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J., et al. Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Dermatologic Clinics, 2010 Jul;28(3): 587-97.. And studies show maca, a Peruvian root known for a host of health benefits, prevents ultraviolet induced skin damageEthnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Gonzales, G.F., Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy and High Altitude Research Institute, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012;2012: 193496.Photoprotection against the UVB-induced oxidative stress and epidermal damage in mice using leaves of three different varieties of Lepidium meyenii (maca). Gonzales- Castaneda, C., Rivera, V., Chirinos, A.L. Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy, Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Herediam Lima, Peru. International Journal of Dermatology, 2011;50(8): 928-38..

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