This post is all about my top ten foods for boosting your health and vitality. It’s inspired by the many questions I’m asked about which foods are the best for improving health, immunity and energy levels.
So many of us pick up niggly colds, infections and other bugs, or lack enough energy to get through a busy day and turn to sugar and caffeine for the temporary energy boost that it gives. Though as you may already know, caffeine and sugar really end up depleting your body of the valuable nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong. They give a false energy, followed by an energy crash later on and further cravings for caffeine and sugar. A hankering for a 3pm latte and chocolate bar sound familiar?!
These are my favourite foods for giving your body a constant supply of energy, immunity-boosting nutrients and plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals for optimal health. I try to eat as many as I can every single day and plenty crop up in my recipes!
I do mention spinach a lot on this site, but as such an all-round superstar for your skin, body and health, it’s hard to avoid!
Calorie for calorie, dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale offer more nutrients than any other food. It’s a serious anti-ageing veggie, with high levels of beta-carotene which then convert to vitamin A to build, repair and protect your cells. This nutrient helps to transform your complexion by preventing lines, improving hydration in the top layer of skin and actively moving out dead skin cells to make room for fresh new ones.
The lipoic acid in spinach aids in rejuvenating the beautiful skin-promoting antioxidant vitamins C and E.
Spinach has even been found to contain powerful anti-cancer carotenoids called epoxyxanthophylls, so its many benefits go far beyond beautiful skin. The anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach are well researched, with scientists identifying over twelve different flavonoids in spinach that work to reduce infections, including acne spots. Spinach contains the wonderful antioxidant ACE vitamins, to protect and rejuvenate your skin cells, as well as the antioxidants zinc and selenium for youthful-looking skin. Spinach has a wide variety of beauty minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper and choline, plus B vitamins for an energy boost, plus it’s a decent source of omega-3 fatty acids for smooth and supple skin. As I mentioned, kale is a similarly nourishing leafy green, also bursting with skin brightening nutrients, amino acids and antioxidants. But I think that spinach works better in smoothies due to its creamy texture and subtle taste. Whereas, kale makes a delicious and satisfying salad and works well lightly sautéed or baked into kale crisps.
I really like this Good to Glow Coconut-Mango Smoothie 🙂
Not only a great source of easily-assimilated plant protein, almonds are one of the very best food sources of vitamin E, to nourish, soften and protect our skin from sun damage. Stick to a handful of raw almonds a day eaten alone as a snack, made into bliss balls, or chopped and added to salads, soups and stews. Raw almond butter is another super way to enjoy these protein-rich nuts, but aim for no more than a tablespoon per day.
Try my recipe for Chocolate Almond Butter-Cups for a sweet treat with almond butter…
They may be only little, but berries such as strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and raspberries, boast serious skin-boosting levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants called anthocyanins and quercetin. Together, they keep our skin strong, smooth and youthful, while also helping us to lose weight and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Plus they taste delish. It’s a win-win!
Look out for good-quality frozen berries when fresh aren’t as easily available, as they’re a brilliant addition to smoothies, like my Triple-Berry Chia Coconut Blast!
4. Chia Seeds
These tiny superfood seeds are chock-full of nutrition to make our skin glow! Loved by the ancient Aztec warriors for their high levels of protein and fibre, chia seeds are one of the very highest sources of omega-3 fats, meaning that they really help to nourish your skin and keep your cell membranes strong and supple.
Their high levels of antioxidants protect your skin from free radical damage, plus they’re rich in potassium and iron, and have fives times more calcium than milk.
As they absorb liquid up to fifteen times their size, they make excellent ‘puddings’ for breakfast or dessert, and are a brilliant food for weight loss as they keep us full and hydrated for hours. A true beauty food! I absolutely love chia pudding flavoured with berries and vanilla and they’re also great sprinkled on salads and porridge.
This Creamy Coconut and Berry Chia Pudding makes a great brekkie 😉
High in the ACE group of vitamin antioxidants to fight free radical damage, build collagen and protect against UV damage to skin, this high-fibre and low-calorie veggie is an almost daily dinner staple for me as it’s just so nourishing for our skin, blood and every other organ.
Simply steamed with a tiny pinch of pink salt or sautéed with chilli and garlic are my favourite ways to eat it, but broccoli also works well in soups and raw and crunchy in salads.
Broccoli is so beneficial to your skin and overall health because of its vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre. The antioxidant vitamins A, C and E in broccoli boost collagen, protect cell membranes and prevent UV damage.
Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies contain a special compound called glucoraphanin, which gets converted into sulforaphane, a phytonutrient shown by research to have powerful anticancer and antimicrobial properties to protect your cells, especially from UV damage. The selenium, calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, chromium and phosphorus in green veggies like broccoli, protect your cells and promote growth and repair.
Broccoli is especially important for women, as its alkalising calcium, magnesium and zinc protect and strengthen our bones, and its high levels of iron and folate promote healthy blood and help prevent anaemia. As broccoli also contains vitamin C, needed for iron absorption, it perfectly combines both nutrients for a healthy body and glowing complexion.
My Cheesy Broccoli, Butternut and Red Lentil Soup recipe is perfect for autumn!
6. Butternut Squash:
One of my absolute favourite starchy vegetables, butternut squash has a gorgeous sweet flavour and can be used in so many different ways. I’m especially partial to butternut squash soup made with ginger, coconut milk and roasted red pepper! It has such a naturally thick and velvety texture, and makes a very satisfying meal.
Luckily for us, it’s also one of the best foods for giving our skin a serious glow. Its an excellent source of beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A in the body and is crucial for your skin’s health and integrity. This conversion requires a little dietary fat as vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it’s important to always pair beta-carotene foods like butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, papaya and apricots with a few nuts and seeds, a slice of avocado, coconut milk or oil, or olives, to ensure you get the full whack of goodness straight to your cells.
If you love the sun, then eating butternut squash is good news for your skin as it helps to protect it from damaging sun exposure and prevents dehydration. The vitamin C in squash fights free radical damage, builds collagen and prevents fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and sagging. A true beauty food indeed!
This is a really simple and tasty recipe for Garlicky Sautéed Butternut Squash with Kale…
A bright yellow spice that makes your complexion glow, turmeric is a true beauty food for skin thanks to its powerful antioxidant flavonoid, curcumin.
Though used for centuries in the East, plenty of research has been done by the Western world into curcumin, discovering that it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory spice with numerous benefits. Turmeric’s greatest strengths lies in its ability to boost our blood circulation, deliver more nutrients to our skin, cleanse our blood and heal damaged cells and tissues. Cleaner blood brimming with nutrients means less likelihood of developing acne or other skin complaints. I love it in curries, stews, soups, sauces and salads, but it also makes an effective facial treatment when applied onto our skin to reduce acne, scarring, blemishes and even out blotchy skin tone.
This Anti-inflammatory Carrot, Ginger and Turmeric Smoothie is full of so much goodness…
You may have read a bit about the benefits of using coconut oil as a hair mask, lip balm, body scrub and moisturiser. But eating coconut is also incredibly nourishing for your skin.
In fact, all forms of coconut, from the meat to the milk and the water, have youth-promoting properties for our skin.
I have been visiting the beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean each Christmas season with my family since I was a child, and all year I look forward to drink the fresh water out of a just-picked coconut, and indulging in coconut meat with every meal. That’s what inspired one of my favourite Eat Yourself Beautiful recipes, the Mauritian Salad!
Coconut water is widely available, and while the packaged version isn’t quite the same as a fresh coconut, it nevertheless contains a range of electrolytes similar to your blood, making it excellent for re-hydrating you in warmer weather or if you’re active, and helping to plump up your skin. Good hydration is so important in preventing wrinkles and dry skin, plus it reduces dark under eye circles and signs of premature ageing. To look its very best, skin must be properly hydrated, yet various environmental factors plus caffeine, alcohol and smoking can really cause it to dry out if the fluids aren’t being properly replaced.
The powerful elements in coconut water include potassium for healthy kidneys and blood pressure, iron, lauric acid, magnesium and calcium. It also stimulates your immune system and acts add an antioxidant. Oh, and it’s delicious too!
It is so much more beneficial it is to cook with coconut oil than other popular oils like olive and sunflower oil, as they’re unstable at high temperatures and can create free radicals that damage your skin. However, coconut oil remains stable at high temperatures and is usually converted into energy for your body to use, rather than fat.
Its powerful antibacterial and anti fungal properties also mean that it can protect your skin from breakouts and infections, plus it supports your adrenal health and stabilises blood sugar levels. Stressed-out adrenals can be another common cause of dark under-eye circles and even crows feet around the eyes. While its best to use all oils in as limited quantities as possible as they’re a processed food, the saturated fats in coconut oil have been found in recent studies to support health and leave cholesterol levels unaffected.
Thanks to the amazing health benefits of coconut flesh, milk and water and their nutrients essential to human health, the coconut palm has been dubbed ‘the all giving tree’ in Indian culture. All of its parts are used in various ways to support the health of people native to coconut growing regions, mainly in tropical countries.
There are loads of coconut recipes on this site, but this Toasted Coconut Chocolate Bark is a firm favourite 🙂
One of nature’s most nutritious beauty creations, avocados impart their creamy softness to your skin when enjoyed regularly in your diet.
Cultures throughout the centuries, from the Maya Indians to the South Americans, have used avocados for their powerful anti-ageing ability and to maintain the suppleness of joints. They lubricate your body from the inside out with their plentiful monounsaturated fats and prevent early signs of ageing.
They’re one of the very best food sources of potassium, the beautifying ACE vitamins, plus iron and copper, the mineral components of antioxidant enzymes.
Avocados also boast the protective amino acids glutamine and glutathione, the latter of which has been shown in studies to help slow down ageing. Eating up to half an avocado a day is an important part of my own health routine, and so delicious in salads, made into guacamole or smashed with lime juice, chilli and seasoning. In fact, avocados make a superb (and healthier) alternative to butter and margarine!
It’s easily digested plant fat, rich in amino acids, minerals such as iron, and dietary fibre to help stabilise your blood sugar levels and help you to feel full for longer. As a nutrient dense natural plant foods, avocados make an excellent anti-ageing alternative to processed foods.
I love this recipe for Spicy Salsa Avocado Boats!
This may not be your top beauty food choice thanks to the pungent breath it tends to create! But garlic has been used for over five thousand years for its many beauty benefits, which range from clear and bright skin, to thick, healthy hair. As well as its anti fungal and antibacterial benefits, garlic contains skin-beautifying minerals like zinc, sulphur, calcium and selenium. The latter works alongside vitamin E to enhance their antioxidant power.
Due to its content of salicytate, garlic thins blood, boosts your blood flow and this brings more nutrients to your skin to make it glow. You might not be passionately kissed after eating garlic, but your skin will look better!
I add garlic to loads of different dishes, but it’s especially delicious in my Smoked Coriander Hummus 🙂