Think of all good, nutrient-dense foods as superfoods — ingredients you want to incorporate into your diet frequently to keep your system running at its very best. These good foods are the foods you want to commit to, the ones you should cuddle up with every night and marry.
Green leafy vegetables give you the most bang for your buck of any food out there. They’re extremely affordable, and eating a wide variety of them every day gives you basically every micronutrient your body could ever need. Greens in general have been proven to fight cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol, and heart disease. The high quantity of antioxidants in greens is especially important for your skin because antioxidants fight free radicals.
But they also contain high levels of vitamin A, which fights acne and repairs damaged skin, as well as folate, beta-carotene, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium … all of the beauty vitamins and minerals. Greens are also high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids, which can act as antihistamines and antimicrobials in your body. They’re like steroids for your immune system.
Lots of us are starting to think that fruit is as damaging for our waistlines and skin as Twinkies and soda. But fruit is second only to greens as the most nutrient-packed beauty superfood. It’s true that fruit contains a lot of sugar (in the form of fructose), but the key difference between the sugar in fruit and the sugar you stir into your coffee is fiber.
Fiber is what helps your body process all of the food you eat and expel all of the waste you don’t need. Fiber lessens the negative impact of sugar on your body, and the large amount of fiber in fruit helps your body in a variety of ways. It fills you up, keeps your energy level stable, and aids digestion.
Fruit is also extremely hydrating and filling, and a nice fruit snack is a super-effective way of dealing with sugar cravings. It can be hard at first to swap out your sugary favorites for a nice apple or a few chunks of melon, especially when you’re used to the Franken-sweets that your brain and body are slightly addicted to, but once you start eating fruit regularly, you’ll find that you crave it.
Eating fat is absolutely essential to maintaining good health, and it is crucial to having amazing skin.
The body can create some of the fats it needs to survive, but there are other fats essential to life that you can get only from food sources. These are called essential fatty acids (EFAs), also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fats are critical to helping your body produce healthy cells, including skin cells.
They also aid in the production of sebum, which, as you know, keeps your skin hydrated and looking youthful. If you’re not getting enough fat, you will experience both dryness and inflammation. You will also be more sensitive to sunlight, more prone to breakouts, and more likely to develop psoriasis.
The only way to get EFAs is through your diet, which means that you are in complete control of how much of this critical building block your body is getting. But it’s important to note that EFAs have to be consumed in the right ratio for your body to get what it needs. Processed foods are full of omega-6s, and when you consume too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s, inflammation runs rampant in the body. And you remember our chat about inflammation, right? Not only is it linked to many deadly diseases, in skin terms, it is the underlying condition for acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and many others.
4. Fermented Foods
Do you eat cheese? Sourdough bread? Yogurt? Drink beer or wine? Before our society got pasteurization-happy, even more food was just swimming in bacteria. And that food was better for us then than it is now.
Healthy, thriving bacterial ecosystems that live on our skin and in our intestines are part of what keep us healthy. People missing these crucial bacteria in their gut have digestive problems and allergies. There are actually trillions of microorganisms in your gut, making up what is known as your microbiome. Your gut flora support the healthy functioning of everything from your digestive tract to your immune system and from your heart to your brain.
People with healthy bacteria on their skin break out less often than people with less bacteria. Studies have shown that people with clear skin have 20 percent more bacteria production than those with acne. Researchers are working on a topical bacterial product that you can apply to your skin to actually clean it. We can nourish our guts by adding probiotics (live, healthy microorganisms) and fermented foods.
Spice have tremendous health and skin benefits. They increase blood flow and circulation; they are packed with vitamins and minerals; they fight inflammation; they improve your body’s ability to fight free radicals; they help create a stronger UV shield in your skin; they promote the production of collagen; and they make your skin less sensitive from the inside out. In the same way that they excite your taste buds, they stimulate your cells to function better.
Adapted excerpt from Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin by Adina Grigore. Copyright ©2015 by Adina Grigore. A HarperWave book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
This article initially appeared on Mind Body Green