The season for feasting approaches. Bring on the turkey, stuffing, cookies, and pies — oh so many pies. But with all the delicious indulgence, often comes a holiday serving of skin concerns. “High-glycemic foods [aka foods high in sugar, like baked goods, potatoes, and white bread] and dairy products may trigger acne in some individuals” and accelerate signs of skin aging, says Sejal Shah, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology.
But it’s not all bad news for your skin barrier. Holiday meals are an excellent place to incorporate the same skin-loving ingredients — think antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and omega-3 fatty acids — found in your favorite skincare products.
Can you really eat your way to better skin?
“A good diet can’t replace good skincare,” says Dr. Shah, but adds “foods that are good for your body are also good for your skin.” In other words, what you put in your body does matter to the appearance and overall health of your skin. “Data suggests that vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats can potentially prevent skin aging,” explains Dr. Shah. “And antioxidants fight free radicals that can damage the skin.”
Meet the Experts
Sejal Shah, M.D. , is a board-certified dermatologist in New York and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology.
Yasi Ansari , MS, RDN, CSSD, is the national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In some cases, incorporating good-for-the-skin ingredients into your diet, can help fill in the gaps in your skincare routine by adding an additional layer of skin defense. Take antioxidants, for example. Your favorite face oils, serums, and moisturizers are packed with a full spectrum of antioxidants (which include everything from vitamin C to niacinamide) thanks to their ability to boost your glow and reduce inflammation by fighting free-radicals. When you apply them topically, they go to work repairing existing skin damage on the surface. But antioxidants can also help fight the cellular damage that can be triggered by high-stress or an intense workout from the inside out when you add them to your plate, explains Yasi Ansari, MS, RDN, CSSD, the national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Think of it as your skin’s first line of defense. “It is important for all of us to think about ways we can incorporate a variety of [skin-loving ingredients] into our diets using a food-first approach,” Ansari says.
Skin-loving foods to add to your Thanksgiving table
Adding foods rich in good-for-your-skin ingredients can help boost the results you’re seeing from your skincare routine. Just remember: “It takes time to see benefits,” Ansari says. “It is important to stay consistent when consuming skin- and/or health-supportive ingredients.”
To make this season more skin-friendly, we asked Ansari and Dr. Shah for their favorite skin-loving ingredients and how to add them to your Thanksgiving menu.
1. Dark leafy greens
Dark greens — think: spinach, kale, swiss chard, bok choy, arugula, collard greens and broccoli rabe — are packed with antioxidants. Specifically, they contain vitamin A, which “helps prevent dry and itchy skin,” vitamin C, which “helps with collagen production, supports wound healing and can repair and decreases the effects of photodamage,” and vitamin E, which “helps with protecting DNA,” Ansari explains. Exactly how many leafy greens you should be consuming to see the optimal skin benefits requires more research, Ansari adds, but “it is good practice to add a variety of leafy greens to one’s diet each day.”
For Thanksgiving, she recommends a favorite salad: “Dark leafy greens are a must during holidays — they add a festive color to the table. I love kale or spinach salads with berries or pomegranates, avocado, nuts, a choice of protein, and a lemon based vinaigrette (red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard).”
Avocados pack a one-two punch for skin health thanks to their combination of free-radical fighting antioxidants — specifically vitamins A, D, and E — and hydrating monounsaturated fatty acids. “According to a pilot study conducted in 2022, consuming an avocado daily for eight weeks can reduce and improve firmness in the skin,” Ansari says.
Add some diced avocado to your Thanksgiving salad recipe or “create a festive avocado-based dip, top with cranberries,” and serve with fresh veggies before the feast begins, says Ansari. “Everyone loves a little crunch.”
The skincare industry is obsessed with turmeric for good reason: It’s a killer inflammation fighter, making it a powerful defense against everything from acne to skin cancer. The ancient spice owes its skin benefits to the active ingredient curcumin, which can slow down the aging process in addition to fighting inflammation, Ansari explains. “More research is needed to establish the amounts of turmeric needed for good skin health,” she says, but getting “consistent amounts” is key. “I love adding turmeric to my morning omelet, rice, and any meat recipes,” Ansari says.
Luckily, Thanksgiving offers plenty of opportunities to add the superfood. Add a tablespoon or two to the spice rub for your turkey or tofu dish, mix it into the soup course (turmeric butternut squash, anyone?) or use it to add some color and richness to stuffing.
4. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are packed with essential fatty acids like omega-3s. “Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, regulate oil production, and improve skin hydration,” explains Dr. Shah. They can also help “prevent skin scaling and dryness,” adds Ansari.
To work them into your Thanksgiving menu, keep it simple: Toss a tablespoon into your salad dressing or stuffing recipe. They also mix beautifully into a festive apple crumble topping.
Berries are the ultimate source of antioxidants. Rich in polyphenols and vitamins A, C, and E, they “can help to regenerate and protect skin,” from the inside out, Ansari says. “Recipes with raspberries and blackberries are awesome during the holidays. You can add them to cakes, fruit salads, leafy green salads, or to yogurt.”
Try topping your fall salad with crunchy pomegranates, or forgoing the traditional pecan pie for an antioxidant-rich mixed berry cobbler for dessert.
6. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes, rich in vitamins A and C, also make a great antioxidant addition to your Thanksgiving menu, says Dr. Shah. (Not only are these vitamins good for skin, they also help promote healthy vision, she adds.)
Adding sweet potatoes to the table can be as simple as roasting them (avoid sweet potato casseroles with added dairy and sugar, which will counteract skin benefits). If you are going to go the extra sweet route, forgo the traditional pecan or pumpkin pie for a roasted sweet potato version.
7. Bone broth
Research on the skin-specific benefits of bone broth is still relatively young. What we do know: “Bone broth contains essential amino acids, minerals and other nutrients that can help improve skin health, and also has anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Shah says. “Lastly it can improve gut health, and as we know the gut and skin are linked.”
Save the bone broth for your Thanksgiving leftovers. Add shredded leftover turkey and chopped veggies to a nutritious bone broth soup.