Food matters for skin and mood

Trudi Griffin - LPC
Sep 26th, 2019

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Food fuels your body and just like any machine that requires fuel, those with the highest fuel tend to perform best. Pardon the human to the car analogy, but most people would not put contaminated gas into their vehicle on purpose for fear of the vehicle breaking down. Our bodies are similar. Sometimes the body reacts immediately to a contaminant such as in cases of food poisoning or allergies, other times, the body reacts slowly in the form of oxidative stress and inflammation which wreaks havoc in the body in ways we do not always attribute to food.

Food for Skin

Since skin is the largest organ in the body, it seems reasonable that would take a lot of fuel to remain healthy. Skin needs multiple types of vitamins and nutrients to be at its best. For people with skin picking behaviors, eating right can facilitate healing and might contribute to reductions in picking.

NOTE: The following list is not prescriptive, only suggested. There is no guarantee that the claims made will work because each person’s body is different. For dietary recommendations specific to your skin needs, consult with a registered dietician or registered nutritionist.


  • Protect from free radical cellular damage.
  • Free radicals come from smoking, sunlight, and environmental toxins.
  • Beta-carotene (sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin) and lutein (spinach, kale, papaya) are strong ones!

Vitamin C

  • A strong antioxidant.
  • Helps skin heal and produces collagen.
  • Found in fruits and vegetables so eat at least 5 servings per day.


  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Found in Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat germ, tomatoes, broccoli.

Vitamin E

  • Protects skin from oxidation and supports growth.
  • Found in almonds, avocado, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sunflower and corn oils.


  • Hydrated skin equals flexible, supple skin.
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day.

Healthy fats

  • Essential fatty acids moisturize skin.
  • Found in avocados, oily fish, nuts, seeds.


  • Supports anti-inflammatory compounds in the body.
  • Eczema and psoriasis are inflammatory conditions, and omega-3 fats may help.
  • Found in oily fish, linseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, grapeseed oil.

Low glycemic index foods

  • Low glycemic foods release sugar into the body gradually which means insulin production is slow and steady.
  • Too much insulin too fast may damage collagen.


  • Zinc helps skin produce oil which contributes to healing.
  • Found in fish, lean red meat, whole grains, poultry, nuts, seeds, and shellfish.

Food for Mood

Nutritional psychiatry is a relatively new field that researches the effect of food and diet change for people with mental health issues. Both diet and mood are complex, so it is difficult to create a list of good foods and bad foods, however, the following list of eating habits recommended for good mental health comes from an article written by a registered dietician on Mental Health First Aid USA:

  1. Eat at set intervals throughout the day
  2. Choose less refined sugars and eat more whole grains
  3. Include protein at each meal
  4. Eat a variety of foods
  5. Include omega-3 rich foods, like oily fish, in your diet
  6. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  7. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  8. Get regular exercise

Serotonin plays a significant role in many mental health disorders, and 95% of it is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it makes sense to take care of the digestive systems by practicing good eating habits. Furthermore, research suggests that probiotics may improve depression symptoms and that sugar may contribute to them.

Food affects people differently. Generally, eating a balanced, healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables will not only help the skin remain at its healthiest, but also improve mood. However, when in doubt, consult with a professional to get recommendations tailored to your needs. 


Lewin, J. (2019). Eat your way to fabulous skin.

Magill, A. (2018). What is the relationship between food and mood? Mental Health First Aid USA.

Selhub, E. (2015). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Publishing.

Trudi Griffin - LPC


Education, experience, and compassion for people informs Trudi's research and writing about mental health. She holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Addictions and Mental Health from Marquette University, with Bachelor’s degrees in Communications and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. Before committing to full-time research and writing, she practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor providing therapy to people of all ages who struggled with addictions, mental health problems, and trauma recovery in community health settings and private practice.

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