Salmon is an ideal food for many reasons, but as far as your skin’s concerned, there’s only one that matters: It’s among the world’s greatest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the essential fats that, along with bolstering the cognitive powers of your brain, concentrate in the walls of your epidermal cells to help lock in moisture. Plus, in one study, researchers supplemented two groups of mice with either omega-3 or omega-6 fats. After two weeks, the skin of the omega-3-fed group exhibited a 20 percent faster recovery rate from exposure to ultraviolet light. That gives salmon two crucial skin boons: keeping your skin from looking dry and helping it battle the dangers of excessive sunlight.
Other omega-3 foods: sardines, walnuts, flaxseed
Carrots are teeming with tiny orange pigments called beta-carotene, and when you ingest those pigments, you’re inviting them to nestle into your skin, fill in blotches, and give you a healthy glow. And what’s more, research shows that this can actually help prevent premature aging from sun damage. But is the accumulation of orange in your skin going to make you look like an extra from Jersey Shore? Well, hopefully not. But eating excessive loads of carotene-rich foods can lead to a condition called carotenosis, wherein your skin stops looking healthy and starts looking, well, orange. But the conditions is rare, so unless you notice yourself turning into a prison jumpsuit, feel free to chow down.
Other beta-carotene foods: sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, red grapefruit
One study published by The Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people with higher intakes of olive oil had fewer wrinkles than people with higher intakes of butter. The reason: Butter is loaded with saturated fat, while olive oil is rich in monounsaturates, the same essential fats that make up more than 50% of the calories in an avocado. So why eat avocado over olive oil? Both are good, but avocados have the added bonus of B vitamins, which also help to keep your skin looking vibrant and smooth.
Other monounsaturated-fat foods: olive oil, almonds, peanut butter
Legumes, to be more precise. This is the class of plants that includes black beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts. And how do these puny pods protect your face? By smoothing out wrinkles. Australian researchers analyzed the diets of more than 400 elderly men and women and found that high intakes of legumes—alongside vegetables and healthy fats—resulted in 20% fewer wrinkles over time. The effect is likely a result of isoflavones—potent antioxidants—concentrated in the beans.
Other isoflavone-rich foods: alfalfa, tempeh, tofu
Besides providing protection from heart attack and stroke, antioxidants called polyphenols found in grapes can also help keep middle-aged skin from sagging. That’s because polyphenols improve skin’s elasticity by strengthening collagen, the primary protein in skin’s innermost layer.
Other polyphenol-rich foods: grape juice, blueberries
Okay, it’s not as fun to drink as wine, but water is the strongest weapon you have against lifeless skin. That’s why they call it “moisturizing”—because you’re trying to lock moisture, aka water, into your skin. To put it broadly, all the body’s processes rely on hydration, so if you’re not sipping throughout the day, you’re likely to have a slower metabolism, groggier head, and, yes, drier skin. One study suggested that it takes a mere half-liter of water to create a measurable increase in the capillary blood flow to your body’s outer layer. That’s just over 16 ounces. Try doing that a few times a day and you’ll have a face like a baby’s bottom in no time.
Other water-rich foods: watermelon, peaches, celery