Have you noticed some time in your life when you ate more processed foods, that your skin suffered? Or maybe you have experienced digestive issues, recurring headaches, food intolerances, sleeping problems, mood swings, unwanted weight gain?
If you have been eating a cleaner diet for a while, you may have noticed that the more fresh, organic whole foods you eat, the clearer and more energized you feel. Just think of how you feel after you eat a takeaway pizza vs. when you eat a big vegetable salad. It's a big contrast I know, but it's just to illustrate that there is great nutritional difference in all that we regard as 'food'.
Since I'm a sensitive person, I immediately feel how a certain food I ingest affects me. When I eat processed foods, I feel sick, sad and irritable; when I eat fresh organic vegetables, I feel energized, alive and satisfied.
Over the past years, I've incorporated more whole foods into my diet that are specifically good for nourishing the skin. With some foods like sauerkraut and green juice, I almost instantly feel the nutrients strengthening my skin. And no — I'm not exaggerating! If you've never tried juicing or fermenting foods, I strongly recommend you give it a go — and watch your skin start to glow ;)
Here's my top ten plant foods that are great for strengthening your skin from within.
1. Green Juice
At the beginning of 2015, I learnt that it is possible to recover from chronic disease by changing your diet and lifestyle. One of the first things I learnt about, was how starting your days with a fresh green juice could help your body flush out toxins and at the same time nourish your organs on a cellular level. Drinking green juices has really benefited my health — my skin started to look and feel smoother, softer, stronger and more hydrated.
Who needs beauty products when there's vegetables?
My favourite green juice is super easy to make: simply juice 1 cucumber + 3 celery stalks. Cucumber and celery are high in vitamins A, C, K, magnesium and potassium. They also contain phytochemicals like quercetin and polyphenols, which have strong antioxidant properties.
Now I hear you wonder, why juice when you can just eat the whole food?
'Juicing' simply means that you separate the fiber from the liquid — it makes vegetables easier to digest and assimilate. Great if you have digestive issues!
Fermented foods are GREAT for a LOT of reasons. First of all, they contain beneficial bacteria that will improve your digestion and gut health. For many people, poor gut health is at the root cause of their chronic health problems. Second, fermented foods have been predigested by these bacteria, which makes their nutrients more easily digestible and more readily available to be absorbed by your cells. Third, sauerkraut is made of cabbage, which is full of vitamin C & K, sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and many other essential trace elements that will replenish your micronutrient reserves!
One avocado a day will... keep your body in great shape! Avocados are packed with healthy omega-3, 6 & 9 fats, protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamins B6, C, E & K. Eating avocados will help reduce redness, itchiness and dryness by making your skin softer, stronger and more hydrated. Also great to use topically! Simply mash one avocado and use as a face mask.
How to add more avocado to your diet? Check out these delicious raw vegan red bell pepper guacamole boats or this recipe for raw vegan chocolate mousse (yep!)
4. Chia Seeds
Another great skin food, chia seeds are absolutely packed with skin-nourishing nutrients! They're super high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 & 6 fatty acids and they contain a wide variety of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, zinc and vitamins B1 and B3. All these nutrients together make chia seeds one of the best skin-healing superfoods.
How to eat chia seeds? Options are endless. I like them in a smoothie or I'll use them to make this soft and silky raw vegan chocolate mousse.
5. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, purslane, watercress, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, lettuce and fresh herbs contain many many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The darker green the vegetable, the more chlorophyll it contains. And the more chlorophyll, the more magnesium it contains, since magnesium is the center atom in chlorophyll.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is used by over 300 enzymes in our body to help control hunger, to stimulate healing and detoxification and to create energy as well as help you relax.
Eating a diet that is high in chlorophyll will massively benefit your overall health and will help prevent you from getting sick.
Add more greens to your diet the easy way with this clean green morning smoothie, or make this green spinach cream that you can use as a topping on any savoury dish.
Olives are high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, skin-nourishing healthy fats, minerals like sodium, potassium, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A & E. Research has also shown that olives may function as a natural antihistamine. If you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, eating olives may thus help reduce itchiness and inflamed skin! If you want to make your diet skin-friendly, olives are, obviously, an absolute must-eat.
Cold-pressed coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, fresh or dried coconut meat, coconut kefir, coconut yoghurt... So many ways to incorporate more coconut into your diet! Coconut contains a wide variety of different minerals and vitamins. The extracted oil has been widely used as a natural antibiotic because of its high levels of lauric acid. You can use coconut oil for baking, eat it raw or use externally to disinfect and moisturize your skin.
Add a teaspoon of cold-pressed coconut oil to your porridge. When combined with turmeric, coconut oil increases the absorption of curcumin by your body cells.
8. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of magnesium and zinc, which are both essential for an optimally functioning immune system. And a strong immune system is the key to sustainable health. Make sure to soak your pumpkin seeds before you eat them — it makes them more easily digestible.
Add a couple of tbsp of these highly nutritious seeds to your smoothies to nourish your endocrine system.
Seaweed and sea vegetables are great sources of plant protein and a wide variety of minerals like magnesium, calcium and iron. Seaweed is especially high in iodine, which helps your thyroid gland to maintain strong and healthy skin. They're great alkalizers and detoxifiers too, helping you to fight inflammation and prevent disease.
Sounds great, but no idea how to include more seaweed into your diet the yummy way? Check out my recipe for nori rolls w/ raw sunflower seed paté.
10. Wild Plants
Wild plants like dandelion, plantain, pansies, orache, clover, nettles and horsetail contain high concentrations of trace minerals and phytochemcials because they grow in 'wild' soil — as opposed to farmed, overused soil. Wild plants that are especially beneficial for your skin are pansies, clover, burdock root, chickweed, stinging nettle, plantain and dandelion.
BONUS: Fresh Spring Water
It's not a plant, but it's super duper important!
Our bodies contain about 60 to 70% water. You could go for months without food — but only days without water. So obviously, which water you drink and how much, is at least as important (if not more important) than which food you eat.
I recommend you find a local spring at FindASpring and tap your water straight from nature. I strongly discourage drinking tap water, even when it's filtered. (Filtered) tap water still contains hormonal residues, bacteria, chlorine and fluoride — although ratios may differ depending on where you live. If you don't want to take my word for it, try it yourself: drink fresh spring water (either tapped from a natural spring, or bought in (glass) bottles from the store) for 3 months and see how you feel.
Cheers to glowing skin!