A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as phytochemicals is essential for glowing skin, strong nails, and luscious healthy hair. The best way to achieve these nutrients on a daily basis is by eating meals consisting of an abundance of colorful fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds – also known as a “plant-based diet.” A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other whole plant foods can give us the optimal nutrients we need for our skin, hair, and nails to perform their amazing functions and keep them looking healthy.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is a diet consisting entirely of foods derived from plants; this means maximizing intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and herbs, and minimizing or eliminating processed foods, oils, and all animal products. Many people refer to a plant-based diet as a vegan diet, although they are not always exactly the same. There are many commercially available “vegan” products that are processed, refined, and offer little nutritional value. Diets incorporating these manmade vegan products are not necessarily plant-based and do not offer the same skin health benefits and protection against diseases.
Table 1 – Examples of Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Based Foods
Barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, rice (brown or wild)
½ cup cooked
Skin Benefits of Avoiding Animal Products
People consuming a strict vegan or plant-based diet do not consume animal products of any kind, including all dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, etc.), meat, poultry, and fish. In fact, certain animal products have actually been associated with worsening skin conditions. For instance, scientists have shown that avoiding dairy products can significantly prevent and improve acne. One study showed that when people with psoriasis ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and avoided meat, their symptoms significantly improved!
Table 2 – Foods to Eliminate on a Plant-Based Diet and Healthy Alternatives
Almond, soy, coconut, hemp, and rice beverages
Coconut, soy, almond-based ice cream
Coconut or soy creamer
Nutritional yeast and cashews can be used to create vegan cheese
Plant-Based Diets are Rich in Vitamins and Minerals that Give Glowing Skin
Plant-based foods contain a significantly greater amount of vitamins and minerals than animal products, and thus should be eaten in abundance to help achieve beautiful glowing skin. In fact, a scientific study found that people who consumed a fruit and vegetable smoothie rich in carotenoids (a vitamin A derivative) every day for 6 weeks developed a “food tan,” giving the skin an extra glow. Vitamins and minerals function as co-factors for enzymes and as antioxidants to fight free radical damage; they also keep the immune system strong and help with skin healing. People who follow a strict plant-based diet should consult with their healthcare provider about taking vitamin D and vitamin B12 supplements.
Vegetables: red and yellow bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, dark leafy vegetables
Whole grain wheat, avocados, nuts
B1 – whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds
B2 – enriched whole grains
Niacin – mushrooms, whole grains
Biotin – yams, almonds, soy
B6 – potatoes, bananas, legumes, nuts
B12 – fortified beverages, cereals, and some brands of fortified tofu, may still need to supplement
Broccoli, kale, spinach, soybeans
Table 4 – Plant Sources of Minerals
Whole grains, nuts, seeds
Fortified cereals, white beans, lentils, spinach
Whole grains, wheat germ, brazil nuts
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables
Plant-Based Diets May Protect Your Skin Against Sun Damage and Skin Cancer
In addition to diligent sunscreen use and wearing protective clothing, a plant-based diet can offer additional sun protection thanks to naturally occurring sun protective compounds. Fruits and vegetables contain a lush supply of phytochemicals and other antioxidant compounds that may decrease the amount of skin damage caused by the sun and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Grapes and berries contain a compound called resveratrol, which is a natural phytochemical that acts as an antioxidant and may decrease the risk of skin cancer.
Tomatoes are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene, which was shown by a research article in the British Journal of Dermatology to reduce the risk of sunburns when eaten daily for 3 months. Watermelons are another fantastic and delicious source of lycopene!
Beta-carotene appeared to improve signs of photoaging (e.g. wrinkles and sun spots) when consumed daily (beta-carotene equivalent of 6 carrots daily or 1 sweet potato) for 3 months!
Eating a red delicious apple per day may keep the skin cancer away! Researchers at Cornell University showed that compounds in red apple peels called triterpenoids can kill cancer cells. Another skin glowing antioxidant in red apples, called anthocyanin, also possesses cancer-fighting power.
Other Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet has been shown to significantly reduce the risk factors for coronary artery disease and has been proposed as the only diet capable of reversing heart disease.[12-14]
Vegan diets are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.[15,16]
A plant-based diet is a terrific way to lose weight. When researchers compared vegans to meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians, vegans had the lowest body mass index.
A plant-based diet is rich in fiber and resistant starches, which has been shown to improve the diversity of the gut microbiome and potentially improve many different diseases.[18,19] Plant-based foods such as berries, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are especially rich in fiber.
Vegan Skin Care
For many people, the next step in adopting a vegan plant-based diet is to transition to cruelty-free, vegan skin care and makeup products. Choosing vegan products offers many benefits:
You can avoid animal by-products
Vegan products are often better suited for sensitive skin
You will be supporting a great cause against animal testing
Vegan products usually come in environmentally thoughtful packaging
More vegan skin care review, tips, and tricks will be available in future articles.
* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.
Bronsnick T, Murzaku EC, Rao BK. Diet in dermatology: Part I. Atopic dermatitis, acne, and nonmelanoma skin cancer. J Am Acad Dermatol.2014;71(6):1039 e1031-1039 e1012; PMID: 25454036 Link to Research.
Brown AC, Hairfield M, Richards DG, et al. Medical nutrition therapy as a potential complementary treatment for psoriasis--five case reports. Altern Med Rev.2004;9(3):297-307; PMID: 15387720 Link to Research.
Tan KW, Graf BA, Mitra SR, et al. Daily Consumption of a Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie Alters Facial Skin Color. PLoS One.2015;10(7):e0133445; PMID: 26186449 Link to Research.
Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, et al. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J.2013;17(2):61-66; PMID: 23704846 Link to Research.
Basavaraj KH, Seemanthini C, Rashmi R. Diet in dermatology: present perspectives. Indian J Dermatol.2010;55(3):205-210; PMID: 21063507 Link to Research.
Wu Y, Jia LL, Zheng YN, et al. Resveratrate protects human skin from damage due to repetitive ultraviolet irradiation. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol.2013;27(3):345-350; PMID: 22221158 Link to Research.
Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, et al. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol.2011;164(1):154-162; PMID: 20854436 Link to Research.
Cho S, Lee DH, Won CH, et al. Differential effects of low-dose and high-dose beta-carotene supplementation on the signs of photoaging and type I procollagen gene expression in human skin in vivo. Dermatology.2010;221(2):160-171; PMID: 20516658 Link to Research.
He X, Liu RH. Triterpenoids isolated from apple peels have potent antiproliferative activity and may be partially responsible for apple's anticancer activity. J Agric Food Chem.2007;55(11):4366-4370; PMID: 17488026 Link to Research.
Gerhauser C. Cancer chemopreventive potential of apples, apple juice, and apple components. Planta Med.2008;74(13):1608-1624; PMID: 18855307 Link to Research.
Wright N, Wilson L, Smith M, et al. The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutr Diabetes.2017;7(3):e256; PMID: 28319109 Link to Research.
Campbell TC. A plant-based diet and animal protein: questioning dietary fat and considering animal protein as the main cause of heart disease. J Geriatr Cardiol.2017;14(5):331-337; PMID: 28630612 Link to Research.
Esselstyn CB, Jr., Gendy G, Doyle J, et al. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract.2014;63(7):356-364b; PMID: 25198208 Link to Research.
Tonstad S, Butler T, Yan R, et al. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care.2009;32(5):791-796; PMID: 19351712 Link to Research.
Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med.2014;174(4):577-587; PMID: 24566947 Link to Research.
Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Davey GK, et al. Diet and body mass index in 38000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord.2003;27(6):728-734; PMID: 12833118 Link to Research.
De Filippo C, Cavalieri D, Di Paola M, et al. Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.2010;107(33):14691-14696; PMID: 20679230 Link to Research.
Sharon G, Garg N, Debelius J, et al. Specialized metabolites from the microbiome in health and disease. Cell Metab.2014;20(5):719-730; PMID: 25440054 Link to Research.