Nutrition Apr 8, 2019

Healthy Skin, Healthy You

A balanced diet for healthy skin this summer

Orange slices are arranged in the shape of a sun, resting on a blue background.

Summer can be tough on your skin. With increased sun exposure, time spent outside, sweat, and the occasional sugary snowcone, you’ll want to take extra steps to ensure your skin is as healthy and glowing as it can be this summer! In addition to regularly applying sunscreen (really, please wear sunscreen), there are many foods in a balanced diet that support healthy skin and a healthy you.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are warriors in a multitude of ways. They are powerful anti-inflammatories which can help protect against inflammation, including inflammation caused by the sun. Additionally, these healthy fats contribute greatly to your skin’s natural barrier system, keeping moisture in.

Fish are the most popular source of omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet. However, not all fish are created equal when it comes to their bounty of omega-3’s. The following commonly-consumed fish are an excellent source of this powerful ingredient:

  • Mackerel: 4,107 mg per serving
  • Salmon: 4,023 mg per serving
  • Herring: 3,181 mg per serving
  • Sardines: 2,205 mg per serving
  • Oysters: 565 mg per serving

For all you vegans and vegetarians, or those of you who just don’t care for seafood, there are excellent alternative sources still rich in omega-3 fatty acids (many even more nutrient dense than fish):

  • Chia seeds: 4,915 milligrams per serving
  • Walnuts: 2,542 milligrams per serving
  • Flax seeds: 2,338 milligrams per serving

Essential Amino Acids

Your body requires 20 amino acids to properly function, 9 of which must be consumed through food (these are referred to as essential amino acids). Among those 9 are Histidine which stimulates production of Urocanic acid, Arginine which repairs visible skin damage, Lysine which firms the skin’s surface, and Methionine which deactivates potentially damaging substances. Working together, all 9 essential amino acids can help to increase your skin’s overall density and provide defenses from external elements.

Foods high in essential amino acids include:

  • Whole grain wheat products
  • Eggs
  • Black beans
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Mushrooms
  • Tofu and other soy products
  • Poultry
  • Cheese


Just like omega-3’s, antioxidants are powerful anti-inflammatories which work through processes of circulation and cell metabolism. Antioxidants encourage new skin growth and combat signs of damage by tightening and firming skin. Antioxidants also protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals, a potentially harmful molecule when build-up occurs. The following foods are high in antioxidants:

  • Dark chocolate (you’re welcome)
  • Green tea
  • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, cranberries and raspberries
  • Pecans
  • Beets
  • Red cabbage
  • Leafy greens
  • Cauliflower

Although a good rule of thumb when it comes to eating foods rich in antioxidants is color, color, and more color, don’t dismiss vibrant produce’s understated counterpart: cauliflower. Cauliflower is a superfood packed with antioxidants and possesses an incredibly high level of histidine, making it a powerful source of nutrition.


Yes, carrots are an excellent source of carotenoids. But many more foods possess the ample skin benefits of carotenoids. They help neutralize free radicals, prevent collagen degradation, and have strong cancer-fighting properties. Beta-carotenoids specifically are transformed into vitamin A inside your body, which plays a role in cell and tissue growth.

Carotenoids are often, but not always, found in red, yellow, and orange produce. Sources include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapefruits
  • Cantaloupes
  • Bell peppers
  • Watermelons
  • Dark greens: kale, spinach and collard greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Mangos
  • Apricots
  • Winter squashes

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so take every possible measure to keep it healthy. While nothing can protect your skin this summer like sunscreen, you can incorporate these powerful (and delicious) foods into your daily routine to boost your skin and body’s overall health!

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.