Revealed: The Top Ten Beauty-Enhancing Foods

By Guest Contributor Candice Kumai, Shape.com

foodstoboostyourcomplexion

Everyone wants to eat better, look healthier, and do it effortlessly. Now, you can have it all when you pack your diet with these beauty-enhancing foods. Remember to write some of these super ingredients down before your next shopping trip!

1. Avocados

Rich, creamy, and packed with good-for-you monounsaturated fats, avocados are the ultimate get-gorgeous food. Key for healthy hair, skin, and nails, monounsaturated fatty acids or “good fats” can aid in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while improving HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Avocados also contain antioxidants, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and folate; and one avocado is packed with more potassium than a medium banana — almost 900 grams! Additionally, studies show that avocados are “nutrient boosters,” meaning they aid the body in absorption of nutrients from other foods.

2. Greek Yogurt

It’s one of those foods you eat and think, “There’s no way this is good for me.” It feels so naughty to consume, but really, yogurt is a mega get-gorgeous food! Greek yogurt is packed with calcium and protein to help maintain those beautiful teeth (everyone loves a gorgeous grin). Yogurt also contains natural live active cultures or “good” bacteria that aid in digestion, help boost immunity, and mitigate the effects of lactose intolerance, leading to a flat and “happy” belly!

3. Berries

Berries are loaded with anti-inflammatory agents and vitamins that help protect you from premature aging. The antioxidants in berries help minimize the damage of free radicals, which can accelerate wrinkle formation and cause disease. Additionally, berries are packed with vitamin C, which helps produce skin that’s firm and strong. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a nutrient that’s essential to the production of collagen, a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels.

4. Flaxseed Meal

Flaxseeds provide a mega boost of omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for optimum brain function, a healthy heart, and radiant skin. Studies show both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed help soothe skin conditions like acne or eczema. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s can aid in lowering cholesterol and help maintain a healthy rate of skin cell renewal. Flaxseeds also contain fiber, which can reduce bloating and promote digestion. To ensure your body absorbs all these beauty-boosting benefits, consume flaxseed in ground or “meal” form.

5. Almond Butter

A great source of satisfying fiber and protein, almond nut butter can help keep your body lean and trim when incorporated into a healthy diet. This tasty spread is also packed with vitamin E, manganese, and selenium, which help keep your hair shiny. The vitamin E in almonds and almond butter can also help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Vitamin E and almond oil can also be used topically on the body as a beauty serum.

6. Seaweed

Also known as “wakame” or “hijiki salad,” sea vegetables have been consumed by my Japanese ancestors for thousands of years. My 62-year-old mother and 93-year-old grandmother are both slim and just radiant, and this superfood may be one reason why! Chock-full of iron and phytonutrients, seaweed can aid circulation and help you attain gorgeous, smooth legs and fabulous, supple skin! Nutrients in sea plants, such as iron, manganese, iodine, copper, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium, can help boost reproductive health and are essential for gorgeous hair, skin, and nails. Pair seaweed salad with some sushi or miso and you’ve got a Kumai-approved meal to a gorgeous new you.

7. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes can help boost immunity and promote glowing, gorgeous skin. Full of beta-carotene, sweet potatoes can help maintain bright, healthy eyes and protect your beautiful skin from UV exposure. Sweet potatoes are bursting with Vitamins A, C, and E, which can help improve the look of your hair and skin. Enjoy these nutritious spuds steamed, baked, sautéed, or roasted into sweet potato fries (my favorite!). Serve with organic ketchup and you’ll be on your way to radiance.

8. Kale

It’s time to give your salad a makeover! Iceberg and romaine salads are so last season. Kale is the trendy green of choice and it’s also one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods in the produce section. Kale is packed with vitamins A, B6, C, and K, manganese, fiber, and omegas. One cup of kale provides about 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body. With almost 200% of the RDA of vitamin A, one cup of kale is an effective antioxidant, boosts immunity, and maintains healthy bones and gorgeous teeth. Toss this healthy green into soups, bake it to make chips, or swap it in your salads.

9. Quinoa

This tiny grain-like seed is a nutritional powerhouse. Quinoa contains large amounts of protein and all essential amino acids. The best part about quinoa? You can eat it for breakfast (as a quinoa porridge with peaches and shaved coconut), lunch (with some mixed greens, shaved fennel, and a balsamic vinaigrette), or for dinner (in a quinoa lasagna) — just to name a few examples. The amino acids, vitamin B6, iron, and zinc in quinoa will help fire up immunity. Fiber will help keep you regular and moving.

10. Dark 70% Cacao Chocolate

I consider this the queen of get-gorgeous foods! Chocolate contains anti-aging antioxidants called flavonoids, which fight free radicals to protect your skin from UV damage and help prevent the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and skin discolorations. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants who consumed a chocolate beverage high in flavonols (think dark chocolate—the higher the cocoa content the higher the health benefits) experienced improved skin texture and hydration, less sensitivity to the sun, and had 25 percent less skin redness in response to UV light exposure. Chocolate also makes you feel happy — when you eat it, the brain releases endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good chemical, and phenylethylamine, which elicits that feeling of falling in love. And when you feel good, you look good!

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