Healthy Eating

The 10 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods For Youthful Skin

Want to minimize the effects of aging? It starts with the foods and nutrients we consume!

By: Lauren Panoff MPH, RD

If there’s one secret that most of us wish we knew about aging, it’s how to preserve the youthfulness of our skin. Getting older means more visible fine lines and wrinkles, as well as skin dryness. This is largely because the body’s production of collagen naturally declines with age. As a result, the skin loses its ability to stay elastic and maintain hydration, leading to some of the skin changes we often associate with aging. 

There’s no such thing as a fountain of youth. But there are things you can do to help protect the health of your skin, starting in your kitchen. Let’s explore some of the best anti-inflammatory foods for skin health and how you can add them to your diet. 

10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Skin Health

#1 Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes get their beautiful orange color from compounds called carotenoids. The most abundant carotenoid in sweet potatoes is beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Carotenoids act as antioxidants, helping protect your cells from damage. Vitamin A in particular is needed for healthy skin as it plays a critical role in wound healing. 

Enjoy oven-roasted sweet potatoes or baked sweet potato fries, or mashed sweet potatoes made with coconut milk. You can prep cooked sweet potato cubes in advance and add them to protein bowls!

#2 Avocados 

Avocados are a rich source of vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and unsaturated fats that support skin health. One 2022 study found that women who consumed one avocado daily for 8 weeks experienced improvements in their forehead skin elasticity and firmness compared to the control group. 

Try mashed avocado on whole-grain toast for breakfast, slathering it on sandwiches, making guacamole for chips and cut veggies, or placing avocado cubes on tacos or burritos.

RELATED: 7 Reasons to Add Avocado to Your Diet

#3 Fatty Fish or Algae Oil 

The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA have been studied for their anti-inflammatory characteristics and skin health benefits. A 2020 review of 38 studies found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could benefit inflammatory skin conditions. Some evidence suggests that omega-3s may help protect skin from UV photodamage

If you consume fish, include fattier types, such as salmon, tuna, halibut, and mackerel. If you don’t eat fish, consider adding an EPA + DHA algal oil supplement to your diet. After all… fish get their omega-3s from microalgae in the ocean, so why not go straight to the source?

RELATED: The 12 Best Omega-3-Rich Foods to Add to Your Diet

#4 Broccoli 

You may be surprised to hear that broccoli is on the list of anti-inflammatory foods for skin health. Cruciferous vegetables are incredibly healthy as it is, but they also contain a unique compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help protect skin health, slow skin aging effects, and even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Interestingly, adding mustard seed boosts sulforaphane activity. Try lightly roasting broccoli in the oven and sprinkling some dry mustard powder over it.

#5 Tomatoes

Lycopene is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that gives plants, like tomatoes, their red color. It helps protect cells from damage and may even reduce the risk of various diseases. Cooked and canned tomatoes contain higher concentrations of lycopene than raw tomatoes. 

Add canned tomatoes to soups, pasta dishes, and pizza sauces. Roast raw tomatoes in the oven or slice and saute them in a skillet with some olive oil before adding to recipes. 

#6 Soy

Soy is an often misunderstood food because it contains compounds called isoflavones that mimic estrogen. However, evidence shows that consuming isoflavones via whole soy foods offers numerous benefits. They may even help your skin stay healthy and youthful as you age. 

In a 2007 randomized controlled trial, the daily intake of soy isoflavones for 8 weeks was effective in improving signs of aging on the skin of middle-aged women, including the appearance of wrinkles, compared to the control group.

Try substituting crumbled tofu in place of scrambled eggs, adding edamame to salads and stir-fries, or heating up tempeh for sandwiches. 

#7 Red Grapes

Resveratrol is a protective antioxidant compound released by certain plants when they’re faced with potential danger. It’s concentrated in the skin of grapes. Some research suggests that resveratrol may offer protective effects against cancer. 

A 2020 review concluded that resveratrol has benefits for wound healing, protecting the skin from sun damage, and promoting skin regeneration. The authors found that not only can resveratrol protect the skin from type B ultraviolet radiation, a main factor in skin aging, but can also boost collagen synthesis. 

#8 Citrus Fruits

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant best known for its role in immune function and collagen synthesis. It helps provide a barrier to protect skin health, which may be beneficial in reducing the effects of aging. Find vitamin C in citrus fruits, such as oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruit. 

#9 Berries 

Blue, red, and purple plant foods, like berries, contain high amounts of anthocyanins. These are antioxidants and have been studied for their potential ability to protect the skin from sun damage, harmful pathogens, and stress. 

Add an array of colorful berries to your diet, like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries to reap their anthocyanin benefits. Enjoy them on their own or in smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt.

RELATED: The Healthiest Low-Sugar Fruits to Add to Your Diet

#10 Apples 

Quercetin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in plant foods like apples, onions, berries, and bell peppers. Some studies indicate quercetin may help reduce inflammation in the body. Specifically, it may be beneficial for skin inflammation and age-related conditions

Apples are delicious on their own or with nut butter. You can bake apples in the oven with cinnamon and brown sugar, chop up raw apples and add them to salads or grain bowls, or peel them and make homemade applesauce. 

Support Natural Aging With Food

The power of protecting your skin health can come from the simplest of places. Rather than spending hundreds on skin creams and procedures, consider how you can use food to support natural aging. The list of best anti-inflammatory foods for skin health above is packed with nutrients and compounds that not only nourish your skin but benefit your overall wellness.