Over the years, I’ve gone to great lengths to improve the appearance of my skin, hair and nails – but of all the things I’ve tried, namely expensive products and treatments, it has been the inclusion of a number of ‘superfoods’ to my diet that has made a real difference.
Some of these foods are nutrition powerhouses – that is, ounce for ounce they contain more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than other foods, or they bring hard-to-get nutrients to the table. Because of their taste and texture, others are a great substitute for less nutritious choices. A few of them are even foods you may have written off as unhealthy and will be surprised to find can be part of a nutritious diet – but all pack a real punch when it comes to beauty-boosting properties.
Fish:The best source of omega-3 fatty acids we have is fish. In fact, eating two servings of fatty fish a week can lower your risk of heart disease. But don’t let the word “fatty” put you off. Very little of the fat in fish is saturated and the rest of it is healthy. Mackerel, bluefish, sardines, herring, tuna, and salmon have the highest concentrations of omega-3s, although other fish contain them, too.
Olive oil: Olive oil has significant health benefits. It’s been shown to lower total blood cholesterol levels without lowering HDL (good cholesterol) levels; it may even raise them. And it’s a good source of carotenoids and antioxidants, including vitamin E, an elusive antioxidant that appears to help prevent heart disease.
Soy: Tofu – soybean curd – is the most commonly eaten form of soy. Though a lot of people think it’s too bland, that’s exactly what can be great about it. Tofu takes on the taste of anything you cook it with. Studies have shown that an ingredient in soy called isoflavones decreases the risk of heart disease, and there’s ongoing research looking at the link between soy and cancer reduction.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a good source of the antioxidant selenium as well as potassium and B vitamins. So, no, they’re not, as many people think, nutritionally empty and, while they’re low in calories, they’re exceptionally filling.
Walnuts, Almonds and Nut Butters: Nuts provide a healthy and satisfying form of protein and fat. When you eat a small handful of walnuts or almonds, the fat and the intensity of their natural flavour will probably make your hunger vanish. Nuts – almonds in particular – are a good source of fibre and protein.
Eggs: They’re great little packages of nutrients and provide exceptionally high-quality protein. If you’re prone to high blood cholesterol levels, you may want to stick more to egg whites than to whole eggs, but don’t worry, you’re not being short changed: egg whites contain a good deal of protein.
Leafy greens: The days when salads were primarily made from iceberg lettuce are gone. Or at least they should be gone. Iceberg doesn’t have much to offer in the way of vitamins and minerals, but darker greens do. Make your salads from mixes of romaine, watercress, spinach, rocket and other dark greens. Strong-flavoured greens like kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, and mustard, collard and beet greens are rich in beta-carotene and one of the few good vegetarian sources of calcium.
Berries: Gram for gram, berries have more antioxidants than any other type of fruit. You can toss berries – blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries – on top of cereal or nibble on them for a snack. They also make the perfect ending to a nice meal.