The largest organ of your entire body, your skin, performs several important functions. It serves as a protective barrier against bacteria and other harmful organisms, it helps with temperature regulation (did somebody say sweat?!), and it provides our brain and internal systems with all kinds of crucial information about pain, pleasure, temperature and pressure.
Your skin is also one of the most obvious indicators of your health—whether you’re seriously ill or your lifestyle could use a makeover, it’s often reflected in your skin.
With skin playing such a critical role in so many important functions, it’s no wonder the skincare industry is one of the most profitable product categories of the global cosmetic market—its revenue is projected to generate roughly 177 billion U.S. dollars in 2025.
But as it turns out, what you put in your body is even more important to your skin than what you put on it. That’s right: Research suggests that eating a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods can help improve the health and appearance of your skin . And certain foods contain nutrients that are especially beneficial.
Here are five foods for healthy skin, and how to incorporate them into your diet:
1. Dark Chocolate
Chocoholics, this one’s for you: Research suggests that the cocoa found in high quality dark chocolate contains antioxidants that may provide protection from sunburn and improve wrinkles, skin thickness, hydration, blood flow and even skin texture.
In a 2006 study, scientists found that after six to 12 weeks of consuming a cocoa powder containing a high concentration of antioxidants everyday, participants experienced thicker, more hydrated skin. Their skin was also less rough and scaly, less sensitive to sunburn, and had better blood flow . The findings from a 2014 study revealed that eating 20 grams of high-antioxidant dark chocolate daily could help skin withstand more than double the UV radiation before burning, compared to eating low-antioxidant chocolate.
So a little chocolate a day just might keep the skin damage away—but keep in mind that not all chocolate is created equal. To reap the skin benefits, opt for dark chocolate and not milk chocolate, which lacks many of the health-boosting nutrients, and choose a chocolate that contains 60 to 70 percent cocoa .
Ready to get your dark chocolate fix? Check out these delicious, chocolate-covered Zing Bars >
A 2019 study that involved analyzing the skin of postmenopausal women found a reduced measure of wrinkle width and severity in those women who consumed almonds on a daily basis. Experts posit that the high concentration of B vitamins and zinc in almonds may be to thank, since these nutrients play a role in healthy skin maintenance. Almonds are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant nutrient that research suggests may help neutralize free radicals in the body.
To boost your almond intake, consider adding slivered almonds to your oatmeal, yogurt, salads and stir-fries for some added crunch—and nutrition. You can also pair pure almond butter with toast, apples, carrot sticks, celery or crackers for a tasty and filling snack. Or, opt for our delicious Dark Chocolate Coconut Protein Bar or our delectable Double Nut Brownie Protein Bar —both contain this skin-supporting nutrient.
If you suffer from acne, you’ll be happy to know that you may be able to eat your way to better skin. In a 2014 study, researchers found that lower blood levels of zinc were linked to more severe acne. Since an ounce of cashews provides a healthy dose of of this anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting nutrient, it stands to reason that by regularly consuming cashews, you can reduce the severity of acne.
Cashews are a versatile food—you can enjoy them as a topping for salads and stir fries, break them up and bake them into muffins and breads, or toss them in a processor to create a creamy base for dairy-free sauces and “cheeses.” Cashew butter is also a tasty alternative to peanut butter in sandwiches and snacks. For a convenient and delicious cashew-containing snack you can take on the go, try our tasty Coconut Cashew Crisps Protein Bar
Cherries aren’t just delicious, they’re incredibly healthy, too: They provide a variety of body-boosting nutrients, including fiber, potassium, B vitamins, manganese, copper, magnesium, vitamin K, and lots of vitamin C. And while vitamin C is most commonly thought of as the immunity vitamin, it also plays a significant role in skin health—vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis and assists in antioxidant protection against UV-induced photodamage.
Cherries are easy to add to your diet—you can savor them solo, or add fresh or dried (unsweetened!) cherries to yogurts, puddings, smoothies, salads or desserts. Check out our Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Protein Bar for a convenient snack packed with nutrition!
Oats contain compounds called beta-glucans, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A 2013 review found that ingesting beta-glucans through cereals like oatmeal can help combat the effects of aging on skin, including wrinkles and dryness. Although more research is needed on the topic, these findings are promising for those seeking better skin.
Oats don’t have to be reserved for cereal—they make a great base for muffins and baked goods, and are an excellent addition to homemade granolas. And for those who prefer a quick hit of the healthy stuff, our Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Protein Bar are a great (and delicious!) choice.