We often hear about the importance of consuming plant-based superfoods for the health of our skin, but animal-based superfoods often (sadly!) get the shaft.
Just as animal-based ingredients (like tallow from grass-fed cows and emu oil) play an underrated (yet oh-so-important) role in our skin health from a topical perspective, it’s also important to consume properly raised animal-based superfoods internally for optimal skin health.
Animals and plants alike contain a unique set of nutrients, and both play an important role in our skin health and overall health.
Before we dive in, I want to be clear about the importance of sourcing high quality, responsibly raised animal products. Animal products are an incredibly bioavailable source of nutrients, but only when sourced well. I don’t recommend consuming factory farmed animal products as this way of cultivating food is not healthy, ethical or good for the environment.
Here are a few of my favorite unexpected + undervalued animal-based superfoods for skin health!
Sardines indeed look and taste fishy, yes – but before you “x” out of this window, hear me out! Sardines take some getting used to, but they’ve slowly become something my body (and taste buds) honestly crave.
Sardines are rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids (these help keep the skin hydrated and protect against inflammation and premature aging), Selenium (reduces free radical damage and promotes a youthful appearance), Calcium (responsible for proper skin cell turnover – found in the tiny bones of sardines that literally dissolve as you eat them) and CoQ10 (a potent antioxidant that protects all cell membranes).
Eating sardines is also one of the few ways to take in Vitamin D (assists with skin cell repair) from food, as opposed to sunlight.
I like the taste of these sardines best (you can find them at most grocery stores), but any brand of wild-caught sardines will do the trick! (Just be sure to check the ingredients and steer clear of any unnatural additives or industrial seed oils!).
This is an easy one to incorporate for most people, seeing as egg yolks are absolutely delicious and filled with hormone-loving fats and nutrients!
Egg yolks (pasture-raised especially) are rich in Vitamin A, which is incredibly important for skin health. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports cell growth and rejuvinates the skin. The first signs of Vitamin A deficiency are dull, dry, irritated and acne-prone skin.
Active Vitamin A is found in animal foods like egg yolks and organ meats (which we’ll cover next!). The plant form of Vitamin A has to be converted into the active form within the intestinal mucosa and liver, whereas animal form is readily available.
I aim to have whole eggs a few times a week, and sometimes blend a raw egg yolk into a smoothie for an immediate and fully active boost of skin-loving nutrients!
Beef liver from grass-fed cows is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s also an excellent source of Vitamin A and Omega 3.
Beef liver is also rich in Alpha-lipoic acid, which is known as the “universal antioxidant” for its ability to ease oxidative stress and reduce inflammation throughout the body. ALA has been found to boost mitochondrial function, fight against premature aging and re-charge glutathione levels in the body.
Additionally, beef liver is rich in bioavailable CoQ10, an antioxidant that helps to re-fuel other antioxidants in the body, protecting against oxidative stress and promoting youthfulness.
Chicken liver is also a nutrient rich skin superfood. It’s not quite as nutrient-dense as beef liver, but it is easier to stomach!
I rotate between beef liver and chicken liver, and consume them raw in smoothie form which is the easiest way I’ve found to incorporate these superfoods into my diet.
To make a raw liver smoothie, I first thaw the liver and then puree it in a blender. I pour the pureed liver into these silicone molds, then freeze it. I plop a few of them into the blender with berries, ice, water and fresh mint leaves (helps to cover the liver taste!).
We’ve already touched on the importance of Omega 3, and fish roe (fish eggs) are the most potent source of this important skin-loving nutrient.
Omega 3s are a total nutrient powerhouse for almost every system in the body, so it is no surprise that their skin benefits are huge. Omega 3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA specifically, are incredibly important for healthy skin.
DHA is a structural component of your cell membranes, allowing nutrients in and toxic junk out. And here’s the deal – healthy cells help to create healthy skin.
EPA may help to reduce your risk for acne and premature aging and helps to hydrate the skin.
One of the obvious symptoms of an essential fatty acid deficiency is dry/itchy skin, so daily intake of omega 3s is an important piece in creating supple, well hydrated skin.
Omega 3s also work to protect your skin from sun damage by elevating its sunburn threshold and may help protect from certain skin cancers.
Important note: Since your body does not make these powerful fats on its own, Omega 3s are considered “essential fatty acids” meaning that you need to get plenty of Omega 3s from the foods you eat.
I purchase this brand of ultra-pure salmon eggs and have a few servings every week. I truly love the way these taste!
Salmon eggs are also high in Astaxanthin, an antioxidant that comes from red marine algae and gives wild salmon their reddish flesh. Astaxanthin is known as a skin protector and accumulates in the skin to protect against UVA rays and sun damage. Many surfers take astaxanthin regularly for this very reason!
A healthy gut = healthy skin, and bone broth is one of the best ways to heal and protect the gut.
Bone broth is rich in a number of balancing + health-promoting minerals, and is also an excellent source of Collagen. As we age, natural collagen production in our body declines which means you will begin to notice it physically: looser skin, more wrinkles and less elasticity.
This is what makes Bone Broth so incredible for healthy skin! It has amazing amounts of collagen which helps form elastin and other compounds within skin that are responsible for maintaining skin’s youthful tone, texture and appearance.
Collagen integrity is accredited with helping reduce the visible signs of wrinkles, decreasing puffiness and fighting various other signs of aging. Many people even report a decrease in cellulite when consuming foods and supplements containing collagen!
Another incredible nutrient found in bone broth is Hyaluronic Acid. This acid is found throughout connective, epithelial (skin) and neural tissues and helps allows our cells to perform various functions throughout the body as needed. It offers support for multiple skin types and promotes healthy aging, cell rejuvenation and skin firmness.
Collagen is one of the main building blocks of our skin, hair, and nails (not to mention bones, joints and other connective tissues), and the very protein that gives us youthful-looking skin.
Vitamin C is a necessary nutrient needed to synthesize collagen, so be sure to consume plenty of Vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits, berries and broccoli along with your bone broth. I get my broth from my family farm, Primal Pastures, and typically blend it up with salt, grass-fed butter and a scoop or two of Collagen Peptides for an added boost!