Have you noticed how a lot of vegans have a healthy, clear complexion? I personally know some vegan friends who just exude that enviable glow! Now it’s no secret that a plant-based diet offers so much goodness to our skin, but with all the healthy food options around, where exactly do we start?
We’ve done the digging and picking, and here are our “best of the best” vegan foods for healthy glowing skin:
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark chocolate
- Broccoli sprouts
Why these foods? Because they offer the best vitamins and minerals to the deepest layers of our skin -- and in excellent amounts! Let’s take a closer look.
Vegan Diet Nutrients For Healthy Skin
First, a bit of science (because we’re not just basing this on hearsay!).
There are certain nutrients that are good for skin health, and they mainly work in three ways. One, they help build the essential components of our skin, particularly collagen and elastin, so we get a complexion that’s plump and less prone to sagging. Two, they are terrific antioxidants, protecting the skin from free-radical damage. And three, they are natural moisturizers, locking in that smooth, supple look and feel.
These are the top skincare nutrients that do just that:
- Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) -- These plant-based “good fats” reinforce the skin cell membrane, making it a stronger barrier against damaging elements and a better holder of moisture. A good daily amount of ALAs is about 1.1 grams for the ladies and 1.6 g for men.
- Protein -- Our skin is basically made of this nutrient. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for daily protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of your body weight. But according to Harvard Health, that’s the minimum, and you can eat beyond that for more nourishment.
- Vitamin A - This vitamin is an antioxidant, a stimulator of cell production, and a defense against infections. The RDA for vitamin A is 700 micrograms for women and 900 mcg for men. You can take more than that, especially because vit. A from plants is half the potency of that from animals. However, keep it well below 3,000 mcg daily to avoid side effects.
- Vitamin C - Here’s another multitasker: a potent antioxidant and a collagen stimulator. Take a daily minimum of 90 milligrams of vitamin C, but not more than 2,000 mg -- an overdose of this vitamin also causes adverse reactions.
- Vitamin E - This well-known skincare nutrient is also an antioxidant and collagen builder (so now we have a power trio of skincare vitamins, with the convenient acronym “ACE”). The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams for adults; keep your intake near this amount as high doses have side effects.
You’re likely already familiar with these nutrients because they are featured heavily in skincare products and research. But more importantly, you can easily find them in any vegan diet, with foods that are readily available in your local market!
So without further ado, let’s get to our ultimate vegan grocery list for skincare.
The Best Vegan Foods for the Skin
Most nuts and legumes rank high among healthy vegetarian foods, but the wonder walnut is by far THE essential nut for the skin. For one, it’s the only nut with an outstanding omega-3 content -- 2.5 grams of ALAs per ounce, whereas almonds have zero! This nut is also packed with protein, and checks ALL the other nutrients on our skincare list. Amazing!
Skincare nutritional content per serving (1 ounce or 1 handful):
2.5 grams of ALA omega-3s; 4 grams of protein; 0.6 micrograms of vit. A; 0.39 milligrams of vit. C; 0.21 milligrams of vit. E
Like nuts, seeds are amazing little goldmines of omega-3s and protein. While sunflower seeds and chia seeds are excellent choices, they’re edged out by flaxseed in both ALA and protein content. However, it’s definitely not a bad idea to alternate between these different seeds to add variety to your diet.
Skincare nutritional content per serving (1 ounce or 1 handful):
6.4 grams of omega-3s; 5 grams of protein; 0.16 milligrams of vit. C; 0.08 milligrams of vit. E; and lots of great fibre!
Oh, avocado, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: you’re delicious, you’re creamy, and you’re rich in a wide variety of nutrients! This fruit actually has most of the nutrients on our skincare list.
If you’re worried about avocados being fattening, fret not: the fats in these bad boys are mono- and poly-unsaturated -- the good kind of fat. Experts have also explained that avocados may actually help in weight loss because they make us feel full more quickly. I don’t know about you, but I’m craving some guacamole right about now!
Skincare nutritional content per serving (50 grams or ⅓ avocado):
0.5 grams of ALA omega-3s; 1 gram of protein; 3.65 micrograms of vit. A; 4 milligrams of vit. C; 1 milligram of vit. E
Did you know that there are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes? Most of them are found in the Andes. I only want to talk about one variety that is quite easily accessible to us all today and that’s the sweet potato! This root crop is so underrated! I prefer them to white potatoes because they’re far tastier. In terms of skincare goodness, sweet potatoes ace all the antioxidant vitamins on our list! Their vitamin A content alone is off the charts. They’re also rich in protein, which is another nutrient on our skincare list.
Skincare nutritional content per serving (328 grams or 1 cup, baked in skin):
4 grams of protein; 1.4 milligrams of vit. A; 39.2 milligrams of vit. C; 1.2 milligrams of vit. E
Surprised that something so indulgent is also good for the skin? Lucky for us, it’s true! Dark chocolate has a more concentrated cacao (superfood) content than diluted and sugar-filled milk chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content, which equals less sugar and more desirable nutrients such as omega-3s and protein.
Skincare nutritional content per serving (101 grams or 1 bar, 70-85% cacao solids)
34.3 milligrams of omega-3s; 7.9 grams of protein; 2 micrograms of vit. A
A healthy skin diet wouldn’t be complete without green, leafy vegetables. Spinach just happens to be among the mightiest of them! The lovely, dark green color of these leafies indicate that they are rich in vitamin A, and true enough, just one cup of spinach already gives you more than your daily RDA of this antioxidant.
Skincare nutritional content per serving (180 grams or 1 cup, cooked)
0.17 grams of omega-3s; 5.35 grams of protein; 943.29 micrograms of vit. A; 17.64 milligrams of vit. C; 3.74 milligrams of vit. E
(Nutri info source: World’s Healthiest Foods)
Berries are generally rich in antioxidants, but the dark colour of blueberries tells us that they’re particularly packed. What gives them their rich colour are compounds called anthocyanins, which have amazing antioxidant effects. In fact, WebMD reports that just one cup of wild blueberries has a total of 13,427 antioxidants -- about 10 times the USDA’s recommended amount! Cultivated blueberries also rank really high at 9,019 per cup and are equally vitamin-rich! Combine that with a reasonable omega-3 content, and you’ve got one perfect skin-boosting snack to munch on.
Skincare nutritional content per serving (148 grams or 1 cup, fresh)
85.8 milligrams of omega-3s; 1.1 grams of protein; 4 micrograms of vit. A; 14.4 milligrams of vit. C; 0.8 milligrams of vit. E
Not broccoli per se, but broccoli sprouts. These are literally baby broccoli plants that are about three days old. Though they be but little, they are fierce! These veggies contain vitamins A and C plus protein, but their claim to fame is really a particular compound called sulforaphane, which is also an antioxidant AND an excellent sunscreen! (Read more about the abilities of Broccoli Sprouts here.)
Skincare nutritional content per serving (3 ounces or 3 handfuls, raw and fresh)
2 grams of protein; 90 micrograms of vit. A; 54 milligrams of vit. C; bonus nutrient: 219 milligrams of sulforaphane glucosinolate
That makes eight of our best vegan foods for glowing skin. Remember, there are so many other plant-based options that boost our skin from the inside -- from fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, milks, and juices. Don’t be afraid to explore new ingredients and recipes (with enough research, of course). And if you want to venture out into other ways to improve your skin, Gotham Skincare also has an blog post on 49 ways to do just that.
To sum up, keep in mind that these skin-nourishing foods will only work wonders when you are well-hydrated, have a healthy lifestyle, and get enough sleep. Yep, mom’s n̶a̶g̶g̶i̶n̶g̶ health advice can save you tons in dermatologist fees. :)
So which skin food is your absolute favorite? Is there one that should have made the list? Share in the comments!
Additional References and Further Reading
“The Best Foods to Eat for Healthy, Glowing Skin” on Vegan Food and Living
“5 Vegan Foods that are Amazing for Your Skin” on The Flaming Vegan
“Vitamin A” on the National Center for Biotechnology Information
“Are Sunflower Seeds Healthy? Here’s What Experts Say” on Time
“Why You Should Eat Avocado Every Single Day” on Good Housekeeping