The link between beauty and food wasn’t something I always understood I was a health nut in the ’80s and ’90s. I collected a library of fad diet books and was convinced that each one had the answer to good health and the perfect body. There was the Beverly Hills Diet (fruit only before noon), Pritikin (no fat and lots of whole grains), Scarsdale (lots of steak and eggs), and then Atkins (tons of high-fat foods like meat, bacon, and cheese, but not a lot of fruits or vegetables). My goal was to lose weight and lose it quickly. But losing pounds by eating unhealthy foods didn’t work and didn’t make me feel good.
I began to make the connection that the foods I was eating were making me feel slow and tired. After a bagel my energy would crash. I stopped eating cookies, bread, and pasta and immediately felt better. I started paying attention. I noticed I felt great when I drank a lot of water, so I started to count my glasses and tried to drink at least eight per day. I felt better when I ate fruits that were not too sweet. The fresher and more simply prepared the produce, the better my digestion. I started eating my veggies steamed and drizzled with good olive oil. Soon I had more energy and better focus, my skin looked healthier, and my eyes were clearer. I was on to something.
I ditched the weight loss books and began to read about health and wellness, discovering doctors, chiropractors, and nutritionists who practiced whole-body health. Since then, I’ve shifted my lifestyle, paying closer attention to what goes into my body. For eating out, I’m excited by cool restaurants that serve real local foods. At home, I can whip up a simple, fast meal using nutritious ingredients that’s robust enough to feed a family of boys. Health food is life food—and ultimately beauty food.
The cornerstone of beauty foods are fresh vegetables and fruits that provide your fuel, good fats like omega-3s for skin and health, and lean proteins that provide energy. By eating a diet balanced in these types of nutrient-rich foods most of the time, you will feel and look better. Not only can the right foods increase your energy, prevent disease, and keep you healthy, they can also make you look great. When you eat foods that are packed with nutrients, you will see a difference.
Nutritionist Dr. Charles Passler has taught me a lot about food and health. I asked him to share his ultimate list of beauty superfoods. The list contains the building blocks and nutrients needed for healthy tissue support, development, and protection. “Fats and proteins are required to provide healthy tissue development, especially collagen. Nutrients called antioxidants (such as vitamins A, C, E, and zinc and selenium) provide protection against free radicals and the damage created from too much sun,” explains Dr. Passler. “It is also important to choose foods that support digestive health. Without proper breakdown, absorption, and removal of waste by the digestive system, it is impossible for your body to provide the support needed for healthy eyes, hair, nails, and skin.”
Passler notes that hydration, sleep, and exercise are essential pieces of the puzzle. “It is impossible for your cells to be healthy and vibrant without proper hydration,” he explains. “Sweating is a great way to keep your pores clean and to be sure that your circulation is optimized so that every cell gets the necessary support. Sleeping is when the majority of cellular healing and repair and detoxification occur. Adequate sleep is a must.”
Dr. Passler’s Beauty Superfoods:
Kale, alfalfa, and spinach are wonderful for skin. They support and increase collagen production. They are also full of antioxidants.
Tomatoes, red peppers, and beets help improve collagen formation and contain lycopene to protect the cells from free radical damage and from the damaging rays of the sun, making them a natural sunblock.
Vitamin A has the ability to help cells heal and repair. Vitamin A is found in high levels in orange vegetables including yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Loaded with antioxidants, these dark berries improve collagen production.
Lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, mangos, guavas, and papayas all have high levels of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C and will protect cells against free radicals. They also play a role in the formation of collagen.
This fruit is loaded with healthy fat, fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. The antioxidants have a protective benefit and the fiber is great for digestive health.
These seeds are high in zinc, which protects cell membranes and helps maintain and produce collagen. Zinc also helps fight breakouts.
These nuts are high in the antioxidant vitamin E, which is crucial for smooth, healthy skin. They are also wonderful sources of protein.
Wild Alaskan salmon and sardines are both very high in omega-3 oil, which creates stronger cells by supporting the protective fatty membranes around skin cells. For the non-fish-eater, flax and chia seeds are good alternative sources of omega-3s.
Eggs are loaded with protein and fats that help support the production of collagen. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin A, which helps cells repair and reboot. Cooked eggs, particularly the yolks, offer almost a full RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of biotin, a nutrient essential for healthy hair and nails.
Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir are all fermented foods loaded with live bacteria, known as probiotics, that will boost your digestive system, allowing for improved absorption of nutrients, increased detoxification, decreased inflammation, improved immune function, and balanced hormones, all of which help with eye, hair, nail, and skin health. A healthy digestive system can also help with losing weight. Be sure that the products you choose are not pasteurized, as pasteurization destroys the health benefits of live bacteria.
I am color obsessed so I am automatically drawn to fruits and vegetables in vibrant hues. The cool thing is that often the more intense the color, the healthier the food. Beauty foods that are packed with nutrients come in bold reds, rich purples and pinks, deep greens, vivid yellows and oranges, and strong blues. Let color guide you the next time you are shopping at a farmers’ market or grocery store. And when you are putting together a plate of food, think as much about eating a variety of colors as types of food. Each color group features different nutrients, so the more variation you have, the more balanced the meal. Create plates filled with a variety of colors, textures, and tastes.
Reprinted from Bobbi Brown’s Beauty from the Inside Out by Bobbi Brown with permission by Chronicle Books, 2017
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts here.