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This is an image of two hands holding a salad bowl. The salad has edamame, tomatoes, cabbage, and lettuce. It looks crunchy and yummy.

Salad Ingredients That Will Boost Your Skin Health

Though a good skincare routine is essential for maintaining skin health, it’s increasingly clear that nutrition is important, too. 

What you eat can affect the health and aging of your skin. Many of the best foods for skin health also promote good health overall. Specifically, antioxidant-rich plant foods help protect the skin’s surface from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and environmental stressors like UV sun rays and pollution. 

When it comes to adding these types of foods to your day, salads are an easy place to start. The healing power of veggies is real! With each component—from the base and main ingredients to the toppings—you can pack in foods that will maximize nutrition specifically for healthy, glowing skin.

Consider these skin-friendly foods when planning your next summer salad. Indeed, these salad ingredients will change your skin for the better, rejuvenating those skin cells and hydrating you from the inside out. You'll have that skin glow in no time, and the health benefits will be profound. Get your large bowl ready and be prepared to conquer wellness in a whole new way—starting with a scrumptious salad.

SALAD BASE

Kale

This is an image of a giant head of kale with a person holding it out. You can only see the person's arm.

This leafy green cruciferous vegetable is among the most nutrient-dense foods in the world and is packed with vitamins A, K, and C, among others, as well as lutein, iron, and antioxidants. Together, these nutrients help your skin look younger and healthier. Vitamin K, for instance, helps reduce dark undereye circles, and can also aid in reducing swelling and scars. Lutein, a carotenoid, promotes collagen production, which is essential for your skin’s strength and appearance. Kale is also packed with vitamin C, which has been shown to help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays (even with this in mind, though, it’s essential to always wear sunscreen). 

Arugula

This is an image of a bunch of arugula sitting on a table.

Arugula is known to be an excellent source of phytochemicals that fight free radical damage and slow the aging process. These leafy greens also contain generous amounts of vital nutrients such as vitamins K and A and folate. Eating the raw leaves can also provide defense against UV skin damage because its high amounts of antioxidants help fight cell proliferation and protect skin’s elasticity, immunity, and appearance. 

SALAD STAR INGREDIENTS

Sweet potato

This is an image of a sweet potato chopped up, sitting on a cutting board.

Like other orange-hued fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, which acts as a natural sunblock and may protect your skin from sun damage. It does this by converting to vitamin A—which has antioxidant properties—in your body. When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and helps protect your skin’s cells from sunburn, cell death, and dry skin. High amounts of beta carotene in the body can also lead to a warm, orange color to your skin, contributing to a glowing appearance. 

Broccoli

This is an image of a raw head of broccoli sitting on a white plate.

In addition to packing in vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc, broccoli florets contain a special compound called sulforaphane, which has been shown to protect against sun damage by neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals and switching on other protective systems in your body. Keep in mind that raw broccoli has as much as 10 times more sulforaphane than cooked broccoli—so it’s best to throw it in your salad raw, which will also provide extra crunch. Evidence suggests that sulforaphane may also aid in maintaining collagen levels in your skin, helping with its appearance and elasticity.

Avocados

This is an image of a perfectly ripe avocado sliced open. It's on a marble background.

Not only are avocados high in healthy fats—which benefit the health of your skin by keeping it subtle and moisturized—but there is evidence that these buttery fruits also contain compounds that may protect your skin from sun damage. As is well-known, the sun’s harsh UV rays can cause wrinkles and other signs of aging. Antioxidants such as vitamins E and C help protect cells from free radical damage. Avocados also contain lutein, a carotenoid that promotes skin elasticity, while oleic acid and chlorophyll help to reduce redness and inflammation.

Tofu or edamame

This is an image of tofu cut up in a bowl. The tofu is raw. The background is marble.

Soy products such as tofu, edamame, or tempeh contain a plant compound called isoflavones, which have been known to provide benefits to your health and your skin. Research studies on the efficacy of isoflavones for skincare show that it provides antioxidant and anti-aging protection. One study involving middle-aged women found that eating soy every day for eight to 12 weeks reduced wrinkles and improved skin elasticity. In menopausal women, it can improve skin dryness and increase collagen.

SALAD TOPPINGS

Walnuts

This is an image of walnuts cut up and sitting in a glass jar on a table.

An ideal source of omega-3s for those who lean towards the plant-based lifestyle, walnuts contain healthy fats that are essential to skin health. While other nuts are great, too, walnuts are richer in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Walnuts are also a good source of zinc, which is essential for your skin to function as a barrier and necessary for healing wounds and combating bacteria and inflammation. They also provide small amounts of vitamin E and selenium, both of which are antioxidants.

Pumpkin seeds

This is an image of pumpkin seeds (raw) scattered on a white background.

Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp provide powerful skin-boosting effects because they contain essential fatty acids including omega 3, 6, and 9. These help reduce inflammation in the body and also appear to improve skin barrier function by sealing in moisture and keeping out irritants. Pumpkin seeds are also a skin superfood because they’re high in zinc, which protects your cell membranes, helps maintain collagen, and promotes skin renewal. 

Blueberries

This is an image of blueberries. There are a lot of them. There is nothing else in the photo, not even a background.

In addition to adding more color to your salads, blueberries, like other berries such as strawberries and raspberries, are high in antioxidants, which are natural compounds that help fight cell-damaging free radicals. In particular, they’re high in plant compounds known as anthocyanins, which have strong antioxidant properties and give blueberries their natural purple-blue hue. One study showed that blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits, next to pomegranates. Blueberries are also high in anthocyanin, which may support collagen synthesis. One cup of blueberries also provides 16 percent and 19 percent of the daily vitamin C needs for men and women, respectively. Vitamin C plays a vital role in collagen production, which is important for healthy skin.

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Nicole Axworthy is a Toronto-based writer and author of the vegan cookbook DIY Vegan.