Here’s What to Eat For Healthy, Vibrant Skin

When your stomach is rumbling and upset, or you’re feeling bloated, you’ve likely been told, ‘Well, you are what you eat.’ Though we hate to admit mom was right, there is some truth in this adage after all. Our diets impact us from the inside out, and sometimes, making poor food choices can lead to health conditions.

(Sadly, no amount of Covey cleanser can wash away a night of binge-eating fried foods.) And, it can cause our skin to break out, become inflamed, or otherwise unhappy.

On the other hand, however, other foods will benefit our pores, creating a bright and luminous glow. The trick is making sure you carve out breakfasts, lunches and dinners that serve your skin (and overall health) rather than fighting against it. 

If you’re unsure where to start, consider this your 101 guide, straight from Covey’s registered dietitian and nutritionist, Marissa Meshulam, MS, RD, CDN. As the founder of MPM Nutrition, she’s helped many people change their diets and their lives, including Covey’s co-founder, Emily. 

A few years ago, Emily and Marissa connected via Instagram over a shared philosophy on encouraging a healthy relationship with food. “I help all my clients friend peace with food and body neutrality, which is a journey Emily has been on for many years as a model,” she continues. “We both believe food can be fun and still make your body feel its absolute best. As women, our relationship with our bodies runs deep, and we both use our voices to help others understand these struggles are so common, and you are not alone.”

Here, Marissa offers her top do’s and don’ts of food choices for a smooth, vibrant complexion: 

Do choose colorful fruits and vegetables. 

Here’s an easy way to think about goodies from Mother Nature: the more color, the better. Marissa says ‘eating the rainbow’ provides our bodies with different antioxidants that reduced skin damage caused by free radicals. “They work to reduce inflammation in the body and are known to help the skin heal and improve appearance,” she adds.

Here are a few examples to inspire your recipes:

  • Green: Dark leafy greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin, improving skin tone and vision.
  • Red: Tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, providing sun protection.
  • Yellow/orange: Carrots and sweet potatoes contain beta carotene, enhancing the appearance of fine lines and aging.
  • Blue/purple: Red cabbage and blueberries contain anthocyanins, cutting down on our inflammatory response. 

Don’t overdo it on excess sugar, refined grains or artificial sweeteners.

As Marissa puts it, our skin is a reflection of what is going on inside. “Inflammation inside the body can come out on the skin in the form of acne and redness or irritation,” she explains. So, if we are constantly eating inflammatory foods, we will see that reflected on our skin. And while carbohydrates aren’t the enemy, and they provide us with energy to move our bodies, not all are created equally. 

The goal is to stay away from what Marissa calls ‘fast carbs’, like sugary, refined foods and soft drinks devoid of fiber. Instead, we should pick ‘slow carbs,’ like quinoa, potatoes and fruits that take time to digest and offer tons of fiber. How come? Fast carbs quickly raise our blood sugar, which is not ideal for many reasons, including our skin’s texture. 

“When our blood sugar rises after eating fast carbs, our bodies produce a hormone insulin to help lower it," she continues. ”When it comes to skin, this is problematic since insulin increases androgen hormones and IGF-1, which cause skin cells to grow more quickly and sebum production. This excess sebum production leads to pores being blocked and contributes to acne.”

Another culprit of poor skin is artificial sweeteners and colors, which Marissa explains are not natural to our bodies and we do not know how to digest them. They can cause inflammation and mess with our gut health and hormones, too. 

Do include pre and probiotic-rich foods.

You might be surprised to learn that many skin conditions like eczema can result from an unhealthy gut. Marissa says this is why eating foods pre and probiotics are vital to stimulating good gut health and a healthy microbiome. “Probiotics are the good gut bacteria that have positive health benefits, while prebiotics is the food that feeds those good bacteria to help them grow stronger,” she explains. 

Try these to test it out:

  • Prebiotic-rich foods: Garlic, asparagus, bananas
  • Probiotic-rich foods: Greek yogurt, kimchi, tempeh

Don’t let dairy take over your diet. 

We love a great charcuterie board like everyone else, but our pores may not. Though not everyone is sensitive to dairy, many adults are, and overconsumption can cause mega breakouts. Marissa says one of the first changes she makes in most of her client’s eating habits is omitting dairy to see how their bodies react.

“There are two things in the milk that can be problematic: the protein and the sugar. The proteins in milk stimulate cell growth via IGF1 as refined carbs do, and this hormone is known to trigger breakouts,” she explains. “Secondly, many of us are lactose-intolerant, so if you struggle with this, you will see it on your skin as well.” 

Do prioritize water.

Believe it or not, our pores are continually losing water. No matter if it's the hottest day of summer or the coldest day of winter, our skin is exposed to the elements, causing it to lose much-needed H20. So to keep your complexion smooth and healthy-looking? Keep your water intake strong! Marissa recommends this simple rule of thumb: your minimum water intake is your weight in pounds divided by two. So for a 140-pound female, that’s 70 ounces.

Don’t eat processed food (very much at all)

Sometimes, life calls for something fried and delicious. However, your daily diet should stay far away from processed foods. Generally speaking, these types of eats cause significant inflammation because they are created in cheap oils and are full of excess sugar and sodium. As you likely know, too much salt can leave our skin looking puffy and dehydrated, mainly if you skip the H20.

“If you eat a lot of salt and do not drink enough water along with it, your kidneys will compensate by pulling out of your body’s water supply, leaving you dehydrated,” Marissa explains. “This leads to very dry and dull-looking skin. As a result, your body then tries to overcompensate by producing excess oil to moisten the skin. You end up with acne as a result of a combination of excess oil and flakey skin.”

For beautiful skin, try Covey.

What pairs well with a healthy, balanced, colorful diet? Covey’s three-step routine, of course. Our easy-to-follow program gives your pores precisely what they need, resulting in a radiant appearance. When you invest in yourself with smart eating choices, you should prioritize topical solutions too. Learn more here.

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