By Perri O. Blumberg
Some things in life aren’t fair. Like your best friend’s naturally straight, frizz-free hair. Or your partner’s innate crazy-awesome bowling skills. Or happy hour specials ending right after you finish sipping on your first brewski. Or stretch marks.
But instead of investing in crazy creams or shelling out big bucks for laser treatments, you can actually help reduce, diminish, and prevent these pesky and unsightly lines. Bonus: All of the foods on here are awesome for you in other ways, too. (But if your beauty concerns are your biggest concern, we won’t tell!) Find out what to add to your shopping list.
“Skin is 75 percent collagen, which is responsible for making it smooth and elastic. To make collagen in the body, you need enough protein in your diet,” shares Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. “These can be found in low-fat foods and cholesterol sources through whole grains and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.”
Already melting away fat with tea? Now it’s time to melt away stretch marks. “Its fluid is hydrating, so it plumps up cells to help skin look fuller, more supple and less withered,” The Nutrition Twins comment. “Plus, it contains powerful antioxidants that help to keep cells healthy and fight damage, including the damaged cells from stretched skin.” Kelly Choi, food journalist and author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, adds that tea can help slow the aging process. “According to a Case Western Reserve University study, an extract of white tea leaves may help fight wrinkles and keep your skin looking young,” Choi says. Her book and tea cleanse plan has been such a hit that test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
3. Foods with Zinc
Better start loading up on this nutritious mineral! “Zinc is essential for collagen production, which is the connective tissue that holds the skin together. Zinc is also necessary to repair skin wounds,” offers celebrity nutritionist Lisa DeFazio, MS, RDN. “Zinc-rich foods include meats, fish, Brazil nuts and turkey.” If you want to keep your zinc intake to plant-based foods, follow this list from Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition: Beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal. So many options!
“Hydrate! In order to keep your skin more elastic, make sure to stay well-hydrated,” Hever suggests. “Consume at least half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water every day. For example, a 130-pound woman should aim to drink 65 ounces of water each day. Emphasize water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables in your diet for further hydration along with added crucial nutrients and fibers, too.” If you get bored with plain water, try one of these 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss.
5. Fish Oil
“Vitamin D plays a role in skin regulation, and, therefore, may play an important role in stopping the epidermal atrophy that occurs from overstretching or rapid growth,” comments Hayim. “Fish oil is one of the richest sources of vitamin D, followed by swordfish, tuna, and egg yolks.” Bonus: Fish oil may also help you beat belly bloat.
6. Veggies, Veggies, Veggies!
But really, though. “It’s reason number 999 to eat at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day,” Hever states. “They contain an abundance of key nutrients for skin health such as vitamin A (found in dark orange, red, and green foods), vitamin C (in citrus, berries, and melons), and E (in avocados and leafy green vegetables).”
Their vibrant hue and refreshing taste might perk you up like it ain’t no thang—and it turns out they may work to perk your skin up, too: “Oranges are rich in water and help to fill the spaces between cells, minimizing the appearance of stretch marks,” explain The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Plus, their vitamin C helps to make skin more supple and their antioxidants help heal the body from damage.”
8. Healthy Fats
Incorporating healthy fats into your diet will also provide elasticity and promote healthy skin, suggests DeFazio. “Avocados are an excellent source of vitamin E and will help prevent stretch marks,” she says (see tip #16!).
9. Wild Salmon
ICYMI: Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid your body can’t make, and is, therefore, essential to get through the diet. And omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in skin health, too. “They help promote growth and skin repair by keeping skin moisturized and reducing inflammation,” offer The Nutrition Twins. Fish is a great way to get omega-3s, but make sure you’re choosing the right kind with our exclusive ranking of fish.
10&11. Blueberries and Goji Berries
You already love popping ‘em in your overnight oats, so why not find more ways to add these wholesome rockstars to your diet? “The American Academy of Dermatology notes that vitamins and other nutrients have antioxidant properties that protect the body from the free radicals that are partly responsible for stretch marks,” states Hayim, who recommends adding these fruits into your routine on the reg. “These are available in the form of supplements, but it is better to get these nutrients from your diet to maintain skin health.”
12. Sweet Potatoes
It’s hard to find something more delicious than the humble sweet potato. And your skin cells may love them as much as your taste buds: “Sweet potato is one of the richest sources of Vitamin A, which aids in the development of new skin cells and can help diminish the stretch marks. Some other good sources of vitamin A are cantaloupe, dark leafy greens, and mangoes,” offers Hayim.
Not just an infused water hero, cukes reign supreme as an all-around champ: “Cucumbers’ high water content help us to stay hydrated, which promotes skin elasticity and collagen formation. In addition, staying hydrated helps flush out toxins and maintain a healthy skin complexion,” says Hayim. No wonder they are so great at de-puffing undereye circles!
We’re all about this juicy, red, seeded fruit: “They are rich in vitamin C, which helps with collagen formation,” offer The Nutrition Twins. “Collagen helps to keep your skin strong, yet elastic, making stress marks less likely. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, which acts as a natural sunscreen. The sun creates more damage, making stress marks worse, so tomatoes protect against this.” Amazing hack we bet ya didn’t know: Cooked tomatoes are actually richer in lycopene than raw.
15&16. Broccoli and Bell Peppers
“Collagen treatment for stretch marks have been effective in reducing indentation,” shares Hayim. “These two foods are very high in Vitamin C, which is necessary to make collagen.” Both happen to be excellent omelet stuffings, too. Just sayin’.
“Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they will help to minimize inflammation that is associated with damage from stretch marks,” comment The Nutrition Twins. “Their oils also help to moisturize the skin and keep it hydrated and smooth, reducing the appearance of stretch marks.”
18, 19&20. Vitamins A, C, and E
“Vitamins A, C, and E promote healing,” says DeFazio. “Vitamin C helps to limit stretch mark development because it aids in skin collagen formation. Vitamin A contributes to the development of skin cells, and Vitamin E helps the body create more Vitamin C.” Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, sweet potatoes, and blueberries while vitamins A and E are found in dairy products, avocados, and sunflower seeds. Hello, yogurt and berries snack break…
Whether you flip ’em, boil ’em, or scramble ’em, these oval-shaped stars may be beneficial to combatting stretch marks. “They’re a great source of protein, which is essential for youthful skin. Collagen is made from protein, and collagen is responsible for our skin’s elasticity,” say The Nutrition Twins. “The more elastic the skin, the less likely to show stretch marks.”