Good nutrition is important for all sorts of reasons, many of which aren’t visible to the naked eye. For instance, your liver and heart can take a real beating from an unhealthy diet, even if you can’t immediately see the effects for yourself. But there are more obvious signs that your culinary intake is lacking in the right nutrients – such as your skin, hair and nails looking a little worse for wear. If that’s the case, you might want to try adding some of these collagen-rich foods to your diet.
Collagen makes up around a third of the protein in your body, and it’s one of the essential building blocks of your skin. Eating collagen-rich foods, then, can ensure your skin, hair and nails stay healthy and strong. As well as plentiful quantities of healthy fats, avocados contain vitamin C – a vital component of collagen. Moreover, they’re full of useful compounds for protecting your skin from sun damage.
A diet high in omega-6 fatty acids can result in inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis. While walnuts have high levels of omega-6, they also contain lots of omega-3, a fatty acid that can combat these skin conditions. Western cuisine is often plentiful in omega-6, but lacking in omega-3, so walnuts are a great food for ensuring your skin stays healthy. And they’re jam-packed with other essential nutrients for your skin – including zinc, vitamins E and C, and other antioxidants.
38. Sunflower seeds
Vitamin E is particularly great for damaged skin, because its antioxidant properties help to restore cells. It also moisturizes and hydrates your skin, and even acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Best of all, it’s not difficult to work into your diet. Indeed, a single ounce of sunflower seeds can give you a whopping 37 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin E, alongside a host of other benefits.
37. Bell peppers
In addition to being a rich source of vitamin A, red and yellow bell peppers are packed with vitamin C. In fact, a 149-gram cup of bell pepper contains an enormous 317 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. As that’s an essential nutrient for producing collagen, it’s safe to say you can’t do much better than bell peppers for keeping your skin healthy. And the science agrees: a 2008 study linked higher vitamin C intake to healthier skin in old age.
Like plenty of other collagen-rich foods, broccoli is a tremendous source of vitamins A and C. But it also has two other highly important benefits for your skin. First, it packs in plenty of lutein, a type of antioxidant that protects your skin from becoming dry or wrinkled. Perhaps more impressively, though, broccoli contains sulforaphane, a powerful compound that’s even been linked to preventing skin cancer.
Soy has been subject to plenty of debate in recent years, mostly due to its alleged links to breast cancer and thyroid problems. However, these issues have been largely unfounded in studies involving humans. As such, it’s safe to concentrate on the legume’s beneficial properties. For example, one study found that isoflavones in soy can improve your skin’s texture and elasticity. Meanwhile, the plant compounds can also protect your skin from damaging UV radiation.
34. Dark chocolate
Few of us need a bona fide reason to chow down on chocolate. However, it’s still satisfying to know that certain varieties are actually good for you. Yes, dark chocolate – that is, anything with a cocoa concentration of at least 70 percent – will work wonders for your skin. Multiple studies have shown that eating antioxidant-rich cocoa can lead to smoother, better-hydrated skin. And according to one 2014 study, a daily dose of dark chocolate even offers extra protection against UV radiation.
33. Green tea
Drinking green tea can have plenty of positive effects on your skin – as long as you don’t add milk. Indeed, a 2007 study found that adding a drop of the white stuff counteracts tea’s beneficial properties. If you drink it black, though, you should find that your skin is softer, thicker and more resistant to damage from the sun.
32. Red wine
While you shouldn’t start downing a bottle of red a day – it certainly won’t keep the doctor away – you could do worse when it comes to alcohol. Indeed, red wine contains resveratrol, a compound found in grapes that could have beneficial properties, including slowing aging. Unfortunately, the quantity of resveratrol found in red wine may not be enough to have a substantial effect on your skin. But if you’re already a moderate drinker, then it could well be better than nothing.
According to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, bananas are the United States’ most popular fruit. It’s little wonder, though, when you consider their widespread health benefits. For instance, they’re packed with vitamin A, which leads to softer, smoother, moisturized skin, and their plentiful antioxidants can combat the effects of aging. What’s more, bananas can also make your hair shinier, stronger and smoother. Yes, they’re basically a superfood for your hair and skin.
Remember how vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen? Well, you’ll find plenty of it in cauliflower. In fact, a single cup of the vegetable contains an almighty 80 percent of your recommended daily intake of the important vitamin. And it’s also high in antioxidants, including beta-carotene, which is essential to maintaining healthy hair.
You may not know it, but there’s a compound called biotin that’s key to having healthy hair. Also known as vitamin H, biotin is useful for strengthening your hair and nails, while a deficiency can have the opposite effect. Indeed, not getting enough biotin in your diet can ultimately lead to hair loss. Fortunately, it’s found in plenty of food, including eggs.
Lentils are another great example of a food containing biotin, so they’re already great for your hair. But they also have plenty of benefits for your skin too. Indeed, lentils contain important nutrients for sustaining your blood sugar levels. And keeping a lid on any fluctuations in those levels is key to avoiding breakouts on your skin, including acne and pimples.
While peanuts technically aren’t nuts – they’re legumes – that doesn’t make them any less valuable. For one, they’re packed with vitamin C, which your body requires to produce collagen. Moreover, their fiber and fatty acid content can reduce inflammations and strengthen your skin. And they also contain plenty of vitamin H, which is vital for healthier hair. Yes, peanuts are practically the perfect package – and that includes peanut butter.
Don’t worry if you don’t like the taste of salmon – it’s just one of several fatty fish that can help keep your hair healthy. Indeed, mackerel and herring are also great ways to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. And a few studies have shown that doing so can slow down hair loss, while also making your hair thicker. Of course, that’s not all: fatty fish such as salmon are also an excellent vehicle for delivering essential nutrients and vitamins into your body, including selenium and vitamin D3.
Just one cup of spinach is enough to give you a sizable 54 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A. That’s particularly important for your hair, because vitamin A is vital to the production of sebum, an oily matter that moisturizes your scalp. Furthermore, spinach is packed with iron, which is key to hair growth.
Your hair and nails are both composed of keratin, a type of structural protein. As such, getting plenty of protein into your diet is crucial. Indeed, nutritionist Nina DiBona told lifestyle magazine Woman’s Day in 2013 that dietary protein acts as “the building blocks for growing strong hair and nails.” Chicken is an exemplary source of that protein, as are other non-fatty meats.
Apricots are another great font of vitamin A, which is important for keeping your scalp healthy. However, that’s not the only thing the flame-colored fruits bring to the table. In fact, they’re also a supreme source of vitamin C. And that makes them a delicious all-rounder for not just your hair, but your skin, too.
Apricots aren’t the only orange-colored source of those key vitamins, however. Carrots are also packed with vitamins A and C – making them a solid choice for improving the health of your hair and skin. Yes, there’s more to this crunchy root vegetable than just its reputation for improving your eyesight. Pulverizing your carrots into a juice, meanwhile, could even help clear up acne scars.
Much like other fruit and vegetables, mangoes are an easy – and delicious – way to introduce important antioxidants into your diet. The “king of fruits,” as it’s known in some countries, contains numerous polyphenols, a type of plant compound and antioxidant. One of its most powerful polyphenols is mangiferin, which has been referred to as a “super antioxidant.” Nonetheless, they’re all crucial to helping your body fight off destructive free radicals and thereby protecting your skin.
Oats are most beneficial when applied directly to the surface area of your skin. However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid eating them altogether. After all, they’re still a fantastic source of vitamins and nutrients. And among those is the ever-helpful vitamin A, which will prevent your scalp from drying out, and keep your hair looking its best.
If your hair seems unusually dry and brittle, you could have a zinc deficiency. Indeed, DiBona told Woman’s Day, “Zinc is a component of hundreds of enzymes in the body, some of which regulate the body’s ability to make new proteins that will become building blocks of healthy hair and nails.” If you’re looking for ways to solve that particular problem, then, try introducing cashew nuts into your diet. After all, a single ounce contains 15 percent of your daily zinc intake.
18. Green beans
Cashews aren’t your only option if you want more zinc in your diet, though. In fact, green beans could be an even better all-round option. That’s because they’re packed with a host of other beneficial nutrients. And chief among those is silicon, a mineral that’s essential for strengthening your bones, nails and hair.
It may not be the cheapest way to keep your skin healthy, but lobster is certainly one of nature’s tastier nutrient delivery systems. Indeed, nutritionist Joy Bauer told beauty magazine Allure in 2014, “The high zinc content in lobster protects cell membranes, helps maintain collagen, and promotes speedy skin renewal.” To maximize its benefits, try boiling lobster or adding it to paella.
Between fatty fish and lobsters, seafood is clearly beneficial to your skin’s health. And oysters are no exception, primarily because they’re loaded with zinc. In fact, a mere pair of the mollusks will give you more than your recommended daily amount of the mineral, which is vital to making sure your skin stays at its best.
Where watermelon’s immediate benefits are concerned, the clue is in the name. Yes, two cups of watermelon are equivalent to a single cup of water, making it a delicious way to stay hydrated. And that means it will keep your skin sufficiently hydrated, too. Beyond that obvious benefit, though, the colorful fruit is also packed with vitamin C and beta-carotene, both of which are advantageous to your skin.
14. Corn oil
Cooking healthy recipes can often be tricky, because many dishes call for oil to be used. Fortunately, there’s a solution to that problem that will not only benefit your heart, but your skin, too. Indeed, plant-based oils such as corn oil don’t contain much saturated fat but do contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. That means that you can combat inflammation in your skin while still keeping your diet on track.
Alongside a healthy dose of vitamin E – another skin-friendly antioxidant – olives also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can help your skin stay hydrated. And they’re a great way to get more minerals into your diet, because their flesh is bursting with fiber, iron and copper. What’s more, they’re core to the Mediterranean diet, which is widely regarded for its anti-aging benefits.
In folklore, garlic is traditionally used for warding off vampires. In reality, it’s actually useful for warding off something called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). These proteins build up when you eat too much sugar and can contribute to multiple diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Early studies, however, have found that garlic and other spices could slow the production of AGEs.
Not only are strawberries one of nature’s most eye-catching fruits, but they’re supremely good for your skin, too. For example, they’re chockfull of vitamin C – and they also contain ellagic acid, a type of antioxidant that protects collagen. What’s more, they’re ideal for preventing acne. And best of all, they keep those benefits even when frozen, so you can still partake in their nutrients out of season.
When you’re trying to maximize your nutrient intake with as few calories as possible, look no further than blueberries. After all, a single cup will score you 25 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, alongside a plethora of antioxidants – including anthocyanins, which protect your skin from dangerous free radicals. And the tiny berries’ phytonutrients can even help stave off skin cancer.
9. Sweet potatoes
Mixing up your carb intake is as easy as swapping in a few sweet potatoes – and your skin will thank you. That’s because the orange-colored vegetable contains powerful antioxidants to keep your skin looking its best. But that’s not all: it’s also full of magnesium, which lowers your skin’s cortisol levels and addresses any imbalances in your hormones. The end result is much healthier-looking skin.
8. Cottage cheese
Like plenty of other foods, cottage cheese is packed with vitamin A. But that’s not all it offers your skin. Indeed, it’s also a delicious way to get proline, a type of amino acid, into your body. And as that’s an essential ingredient of collagen, you’ll definitely be doing your skin a favor. The creamy substance’s probiotic content is also useful for aiding digestion, which keeps your skin healthy in turn.
7. Bone broth
Eating collagen-rich foods is particularly important beyond your mid-20s, when your body stops producing enough of it naturally to maintain your youthful visage. That’s why wrinkles and fine lines might start to appear on your features as you grow older. Dishes plentiful in amino acids are particularly helpful for collagen production, and they don’t come much better than bone broth. Yes, the simple soup is filled with all manner of nutritional benefits, including keeping your skin at its best.
These shiny red spheres have a very specific benefit for your skin. That’s because they contain lycopene, an antioxidant that’s particularly helpful in combating any harmful effects of exposure to UV radiation. Indeed, dermatologist Jessica Wu told Woman’s Day in March 2019, “If you’re looking for the one food that can be considered the fountain of youth, it’s cooked tomatoes.”
5. Brown rice
If you already include white rice in your diet, then you could do much worse than simply swapping it out for brown. After all, the healthier alternative contains selenium, a useful mineral for minimizing dandruff and flaky skin. And it’s also a complex carbohydrate, which means it can help your body to maintain its blood sugar levels and avoid breakouts on your skin.
4. Greek yogurt
If you’re worried about your hair thinning out, or even losing your luscious locks, try eating more Greek yogurt. It’s full of vitamin B5, an essential nutrient that can combat both those issues. At the same time, the vitamin assists with blood flow in your body, including to your scalp. The end result is actually the encouragement of hair growth. Indeed, it’s often a key ingredient in haircare products.
Vitamin C isn’t just useful for maintaining healthy skin. In fact, your hair will also appreciate you getting more of it in your diet. That’s because the vitamin effectively safeguards your hair from breakages, keeping it in much healthier condition. And for a quick boost of vitamin C, look no further than guava. With just a single cup of the tropical fruit, you’ll be getting your daily recommended intake four times over.
As well as being skin friendly, vitamin E is fundamental to the health of your nails. Indeed, there’s a reason it’s known as the “beauty vitamin.” And you can get it in spades through almonds, because a single portion packs in 60 percent of your daily intake. That’s not all the seeds are useful for, however. They’re also rich in zinc: a vital mineral for keeping your nails strong and healthy.
1. Whole-grain cereal
You’ve probably heard the old adage that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” But it’s not just an empty phrase. In fact, there’s a good reason for starting your day with food. As dietician Sarah Elder told British broadcaster the BBC in 2018, “Eating a balanced breakfast helps to up our energy, as well as protein and calcium used throughout the night.” For a morning meal that’s kind to your hair and nails, opt for whole-grain cereal, which is loaded with zinc.