Nutrition Apr 8, 2019

Healthy Skin, Healthy You

A balanced diet for healthier skin

Reviewed by: Lizette Taboada, RD, LD
Written by: Lauryn Feil

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

Summer can be tough on your skin, especially when participating in outdoor activities that increase your exposure to the sun, sweating, and indulging the occasional sugary snow cone. In addition to regularly applying sunscreen, your diet can do wonders for your skin, too! Boost your skin’s health with a balanced diet that keeps you hydrated and protects you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Essential Amino Acids

Your body requires 20 amino acids to properly function. Nine of these amino acids, referred to as essential amino acids, must be consumed through food.

Essential amino acids include:

  • Histidine: Helps our bodies grow and repair tissues
  • Isoleucine: Helps regulate our energy levels and supports our immune system
  • Leucine: Helps produce proteins and promote muscle growth and recovery
  • Lysine: Helps our skin, bones, and other tissues stay strong
  • Methionine: Helps protect our cells from damage
  • Phenylalanine: Helps produce important chemicals that play roles in regulating our mood, focus, and response to stress
  • Threonine: Helps with the formation of collagen, elastin, and muscle tissue
  • Tryptophan: Helps produce serotonin, which helps regulate our mood and sleep, and is involved in making niacin (vitamin B3), which is important for our overall health
  • Valine: Helps with muscle growth, tissue repair, and producing energy in our bodies as well as maintaining a balance of nitrogen

Working together, all 9 essential amino acids can help increase your skin’s overall density and provide defenses from external elements.

Foods high in essential amino acids include:

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

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids 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.

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • 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).

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

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


Similar to omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants are powerful anti-inflammatories that 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 buildup occurs.

Foods high in antioxidants include:

  • Beets
  • Berries (e.g., blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, strawberries, and raspberries)
  • Cauliflower
  • Dark chocolate
  • Green tea
  • Leafy greens (e.g., arugula, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach)
  • Pecans
  • Red cabbage

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.


Carotenoids possess the ample skin benefits of carotenoids, including neutralizing free radicals, preventing collagen degradation, and containing strong cancer-fighting properties. Beta-carotenoids, specifically, are converted into vitamin A inside your body, which plays a significant role in supporting cell and tissue growth as well as enhancing vision and immune support. Carotenoids are often, but not always, found in red, yellow, and orange produce.

Foods high in carotenoids include:

  • Apricots
  • Bell peppers
  • Cantaloupes
  • Dark leafy greens (e.g., collard greens, kale, spinach)
  • Grapefruits
  • Mangos
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelons
  • 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 from the sun like applying (and re-applying) sunscreen, you can incorporate these powerful (and delicious) foods into your daily routine to help 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.