Your skin is the biggest barrier between your body and the outside world. It works hard to protect against the sun and environmental pollutants that can cause it damage. All that hard work can begin to show on your face, literally, through freckles, sunspots, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and sagging, and even lead to development of skin cancer, says Felice Ramallo, RDN, lead dietitian at Allara in Rochester, New York . Antioxidants for skin, however, can reduce and reverse the oxidation in skin cells caused by UV damage and stress to the skin over time, she adds. The good news: Following a balanced diet filled with plenty of antioxidants—along with getting enough sleep, exercising, and managing stress—is one of the best ways to improve the appearance and health of skin, from the inside out. Here are the best antioxidant foods to add to your diet for glowing skin.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is a monounsaturated fat packed with vitamin A and polyphenols that’s been shown to help protect skin and reverse aging. Some studies also show olive oil antioxidants for the skin can help eliminate free radicals, or molecules linked to cancer and chronic disease. A 2022 study reveals adding olive oil to your diet can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, along with cardiovascular disease and cancer. Try swapping in EVOO for butter and other solid fats wherever you can to boost the number of antioxidants in your diet.
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Full of natural fatty acids, polyphenols, vitamin E, and other phytochemicals with antioxidant properties, almonds (as well as other nuts like pecans, walnuts, and cashews) may help reduce the severity of wrinkles, studies show. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin that works by stopping the production of free radicals throughout the body and in the skin, says Ramallo. When you’re looking for antioxidant benefits for skin, be sure to choose skin-on almond (or almond butter), as the antioxidants are most concentrated in the almond skin.
Salmon and Shrimp
Pink seafoods like heart-healthy salmon and shrimp have high levels of a certain carotenoid with antioxidant properties known as astaxanthin. Supplementation of astaxanthin has been associated with reducing fine lines and wrinkles as well as decreasing age-related skin deterioration and pollution-induced skin damage, says Natalie Yin, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at S. Dermatology Partners in Colorado. Both tasty seafoods are incredibly easy to prepare, making it simple to add more into your diet—even on busy weeknights.
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This ancient tea contains a powerful antioxidant called EGCG that’s been shown to combat signs of aging by decreasing the breakdown of collagen, thus helping to maintain the plumpness of skin and minimize wrinkles, says Dr. Yin. Some research also suggests green tea may help boost metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity. Try replacing your cup of coffee with green tea a few days a week, noting it does have about 29 milligrams of caffeine per cup (so avoid in the afternoons and evenings if you’re sensitive to caffeine).
Vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin, plays an important role in maintaining skin health and youthfulness by helping skin to produce more collagen and fighting free radical damage. Add blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries by the handful to your morning oatmeal or smoothie. Or enjoy berries as an after-dinner snack to feed your sweet tooth while reaping antioxidant benefits for your skin.
These colorful juicy vegetables are good for more than adding crunch to your salads or dipping in hummus. Like berries, they too are high in vitamin C, which has been shown to help improve overall skin health and reverse aging with both diet and topical use.
Yet another reason to load up your plate (or your blender) with greens: Leafy kale is also high in vitamin C, making this vegetable among the best antioxidants for skin. Kale is also a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, and has been shown to increase collagen and elastin levels in the skin.
Related: How to Make Kale Chips
If you really want a boost of antioxidants for your skin, grab a guava. This tropical, fiber-rich fruit has more vitamin C than any other food, says Ramallo, with more than four times our daily requirement in just one cup. Fun fact: If you find a guava in your grocery store, you can eat the whole thing—even the rind and seeds are edible.
Containing antioxidant-packed polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and protein, chia seeds have been shown to reduce skin aging. In addition, they contain omega-3s, which also benefit our body’s largest organ. Skin is made up of what’s called a lipid (fat) matrix, and it’s able to protect and hydrate itself through secreting oils made up of fats we get from our diet, says Ramallo.
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Good news for chocolate lovers: Cocoa is among the most powerful antioxidants for skin on this list, due to its flavanols, says Ramallo. These compounds have been shown to help increase skin blood flow, hydration, density, and elasticity, as well as reduce sun damage, roughness, wrinkles, and redness. Before you go diving into a chocolate bar, though, take note: Ramallo says processed and heated forms of cocoa have significantly lower levels of flavanols. Try adding foods like cacao nibs, cacao powder, or stone-ground chocolate products (such as Taza) into your diet to reap the skin benefits.