What you consume shows up on your skin, period. In fact, your skin and your gut are in constant communication through what’s called the gut-skin axis which plays a role in skin homeostasis and physiological pathways that keep your skin clear and healthy.

As a general rule, eating a diverse diet filled with nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich plants is top-notch for skin health, but there are a few superstars that are known to especially nurture the gut-skin axis. Gut health expert Megan Rossi, Ph.D., R.D. (aka The Gut Health Doctor on Instagram), author of How To Eat More Plants, shares her favourites, featured below:

1. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate lovers rejoice. Your favourite dessert is actually great for your skin. Chocolate (well, specifically dark and raw chocolate) contains flavonoids which are a subcategory of phytonutrients that have antioxidant actions that help neutralise free radicals and fight oxidative stress.

In fact, research shows that when women supplemented with cocoa flavanols for 24 weeks, they experienced positive effects on facial wrinkles and elasticity.

“We definitely see this nice, clear gut-skin axis there with dark chocolate,” Rossi explains.

Of course, the chocolate you choose matters: The higher the percentage of cocoa in dark chocolate, the less sugar (and the more antioxidants) there will be. “If you can get a good 80%, you’re doing well,” notes Rossi. “Even if you’re into 70%, you know, it’s better than going with your typical dairy [or] white chocolate in terms of those flavonoid benefits.”

“Green tea is another great one for the skin,” says Rossi. It’s supercharged with polyphenols, most notably the catechin epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG), which research shows has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

One systematic review even found that drinking green tea helped protect the skin against UV rays and oxidative stress, both of which can lead to accelerated skin ageing. It’s not a replacement for your daily sunscreen, but loading up on antioxidants certainly can’t hurt.

2. Fatty Fish

Rossi highly encourages getting an array of plants into your diet, but if there’s one animal source she recommends, it’s wild-caught, sustainably sourced, fatty fish. “Oily fish is an amazing source of omega-3s that the plant sources can’t really replicate,” she notes. Specifically, fish contains EPA and DHA, which are antioxidants and healthy fats that support a healthy inflammatory response in the body.

In terms of skin health, these healthy fats are A+ for keeping skin supple and moisturised, thanks to their role in maintaining the integrity of the skin’s outer layer to help keep hydration in and environmental aggressors out.

But, alas, many of us aren’t eating nearly enough fish (we’re talking an average intake of only 4 ounces per week) when research suggests adults should log 7 to 8 ounces at a minimum. To get your fill of those skin-healthy fats, you may want to think about supplementation. One study has found that participants who combined omega-3 supplements with topicals had improved overall skin health and appearance compared to those who only used topicals.

3. Walnuts

“I completely understand for religious, cultural, or animal cruelty reasons why people may want to go 100% plant-based,” Rossi explains. If you do follow a vegan diet, she suggests getting your healthy fats through walnuts, which contain essential omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The body converts ALA to EPA and DHA (which are the healthy fats found in fish oil); this conversion process is very inefficient and limited, so you’ll want to consume a variety of plant-based omega-3 sources and perhaps consider fortified foods or supplements.

To Conclude

Focus on your gut health and glowing skin will follow. In terms of the best foods to introduce to your complexion-enhancing menu, try implementing more dark chocolate, green tea, and eating more foods filled with healthy fats.