Everyone has their preferred way of meeting their protein needs. Some check that box by filling up with a big protein shake. Others prefer to chew through their protein sources, loading their plates with chicken breasts, black beans and other protein-rich foods.
While protein is usually associated with building muscles, it's also a key nutrient for healthy skin. "The skin is a complex organ made up of various structures including proteins," explains board-certified dermatologist Naana Boakye, MD. "Proteins like elastin and collagen assist with the structure and function of the skin."
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Dermatologists want you to snack on a different protein source throughout the day for its potential skin health benefits: almonds.
Known for being rich in healthy fats, almonds are full of protein. In fact, an ounce of almonds contains 6 grams, or 12 percent of your Daily Value (DV) of protein, according to the USDA.
But, it's not just the protein that makes almonds a potential skin booster. "This nut is enriched with nutrients that help promote skin health, including vitamin E and linoleic acid," Boakye says.
Here's why this surprising protein source fits right into your skincare routine.
1. They’re High in Antioxidants
By now, you probably realize the importance of antioxidants for overall health, but they're critical for skin health, too. Antioxidants like vitamin E help neutralize the effects of free radicals, which cause disease-causing damage when left unchecked.
UV exposure (aka getting a lot of sun) is a key contributor to the generation of free radicals in skin cells. These unstable molecules then produce inflammation and gene mutations that could lead to skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Antioxidants help stabilize free radicals to lessen their damaging effects, leading dermatologists to recommend antioxidant-rich foods as a precautionary measure.
"A handful of almonds provides 50 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin E in one serving, which helps protect skin and keep your skin healthy," says Boakye.
What's more is that vitamin E can reduce skin inflammation and speed wound healing, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
The potential link between eating almonds and wrinkle improvement is a newer one, but there are a few relevant studies that back it up.
"Almonds were tied to improvements in facial wrinkling and pigmentation," Boakye says, pointing to a March 2021 clinical trial in Nutrients.
Researchers divided participants into an almond group and nut-free snack group to determine if snacking on almonds had any improvements on facial wrinkles and varying skin pigmentation. A significant improvement in skin wrinkling was seen in the almond group, and improvements in skin pigmentation were also seen.
The healthy aging benefits of almonds are especially relevant to people with post-menopause. Eating almonds on a daily basis has been shown to improve wrinkles in this group, according to a December 2019 pilot study in Phytotherapy Research.
3. They May Help Protect the Skin From UVB Rays
Some research suggests that eating almonds may provide some protection against UVB rays, a leading cause of free radical damage that could increase the risk of skin cancer.
Eating almonds on a daily basis may lead to enhanced protection from UV photodamage, according to a small September 2021 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
While some foods, such as almonds, may offer some benefits related to photodamage, eating almonds shouldn’t replace your daily sunscreen.
4. They’re Rich in Fatty Acids
Almonds are a rich source of fatty acids, such as linoleic acid. Linoleic acid has been linked to heart health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk for heart disease, but it may also have skin health benefits.
The linoleic acid in almonds and almond oil directly benefits skin barrier function, an important marker of skin health, according to the National Eczema Association.
A healthy skin barrier is vital for preventing moisture loss and keeping external invaders out. Applying almond-based products topically, such as lotions with almond oil, may help keep skin moisturized and healthy due to the emollient properties of almond's fatty acids.
"Daily consumption of almonds not only has nutritional benefits but is beneficial to the skin's overall health," Boakye says. "Inside out, beauty starts with eating wholesome, nutrient-dense foods like almonds."
- My Food Data: "Almonds"
- Skin Cancer Foundation: "Can Your Diet Help Prevent Skin Cancer?"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin E and Skin Health"
- Nutrients: "Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial on the Effects of Almonds on Facial Wrinkles and Pigmentation"
- Phytotherapy Research: "Prospective randomized controlled pilot study on the effects of almond consumption on skin lipids and wrinkles"
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: "Almond consumption increased UVB resistance in healthy Asian women"
- National Eczema Association: "Get the Facts: Almond Oil"