What This Holistic Dermatologist Eats In A Day For Healthy, Glowing Skin

Board-certified dermatologist By Keira Barr, M.D.
Board-certified dermatologist
Keira Barr is a dual board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Resilient Health Institute.
collage of a glowing woman with various skin boosting foods

There is no denying that basking in the warmth and glow of sunshine offers us healthful benefits including vitamin D production, boosting our immune system, and elevating mood and energy levels. That being said, we also know that upward of 90 percent of visible aging is due to sun exposure. Not to mention, sun exposure is the main cause of skin cancer.

This is why you apply (and reapply) your SPF 30 daily, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and have your dermatologist on speed dial for your annual exam—and tanning beds aren't even in your vocabulary. But while you've got the fundamentals of skin protection covered, you might find yourself wondering: Isn't there something else I can do to counter the sun's damaging rays and boost the overall health and appearance of my skin?

The answer is a resounding yes! One of the key foundational strategies that keeps skin healthy and glowing is filling your plate with antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods. While there are a variety of ways to eat a healthful diet, and I don't have a set regimen, here are some meals that I tend to eat on a regular basis.

Breakfast: coffee with cinnamon

Most days I'm fasting for 12 to 16 hours (sometimes called 16:8 intermittent fasting), and I'll start my mornings with locally roasted organic black coffee with a dash of cinnamon. Fasting not only reboots the gut microbiome, which helps reduce systemic inflammation and improve skin health, but it also stimulates autophagy, our cells' self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles, which contributes to cell longevity.

Coffee is rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols. Studies have shown that higher consumption of caffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk for basal cell carcinoma and may also have an effect on lowering the risk of melanoma. In a clinical study of over 90,000 Caucasian women, it was found that those who drank six or more cups of coffee per day had a 30 percent decrease in prevalence of non-melanoma skin cancer. And while you probably shouldn't drink that much coffee (particularly if you deal with anxiety), it's compelling evidence for coffee's skin-protective perks.

Coffee may protect skin against damage from ultraviolet light through its roasting process, which generates vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) and nicotinamide. These have been shown to suppress UVB-induced skin damage. And although coffee itself offers benefits, investigators found that caffeine blocks skin damage induced by UV by helping eliminate reactive oxygen species by activating autophagy. So your matcha may offer a dose of skin protection, too. 

The cinnamon, loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, gives my coffee a boost by fighting free radicals, balancing blood sugar, and providing antimicrobial benefits.


Lunch: loaded salad

I typically break my fast around 11 a.m. with a salad made with nutrient-packed leafy greens like spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard, which are rich in minerals and vitamins, especially vitamins A and C, along with vitamin K, potassium, and manganese. Vitamins A and C pack a powerful punch and help repair skin tissue, boost immunity, slow the aging process, generate collagen, neutralize free radicals, and block the formation of cancer.

I'll load the salad up with leftover roasted vegetables, particularly those in the brassica family, which contain Indole-3-carbinol, an anti-carcinogenic compound found to be beneficial in helping combat melanoma. A handful of mixed nuts, including Brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews, sprinkled on top adds a good source of several micronutrients including selenium, zinc, and copper, along with unsaturated fatty acids, protein, and fiber.

Selenium has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, while zinc increases the level of proteins involved in DNA repair and reduces the kind of DNA damage that contributes to cancer formation. Copper is vital to the formation of collagen and elastin, and skin regeneration.

Dinner: Alaskan salmon

Our family is totally spoiled because my husband goes fishing and stocks our freezer annually with wild-caught Alaskan salmon. So I eat this regularly to boost my intake of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant with potent anti-inflammatory effects and improves the ability of your skin and blood vessels to act as protective barriers, improve healing, and reduce scarring. It also plays a role in making your DNA. Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E neutralizes free radicals, countering cell damage and helping prevent skin cancer and skin aging.

I like to pair salmon with lycopene-rich raw or roasted tomato drizzled in olive oil to increase the absorption of this potent antioxidant, which is especially powerful in protecting the skin. A study in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that after 10 weeks, women who regularly ate tomato paste (which is super rich in lycopene, as are all varieties of cooked tomatoes) compared to those who didn't were 40 percent less likely to be sunburned.


Dessert: dark chocolate nut butter cups

I definitely have a sweet tooth and love creating treats in the kitchen. A staple quick dessert in our house is homemade chocolate nut butter cups made with local organic 70 percent dark chocolate with turmeric (like these ones). Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, which are potent antioxidants that help fight free radicals, protect your skin from UV damage, fight free radicals, and increase blood flow. In one study, flavanols in dark chocolate even improved skin hydration and thickness—both super important for younger-looking skin.

There are a number of ways you can formulate your food intake to boost skin health. This is a typical day in my diet, but you should feel free to play around with a variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods like these ones.

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