When I was health coaching full-time, I worked with a lot of women who came to me to lose weight. My focus was educating clients on the nutritional science behind blood sugar balance and metabolism. Every once in a while however, I slightly veered off course and went down the research rabbit hole on something different. For example, one year I had the pleasure of being a vendor at the Richmond Weddings Winter Expo. The magazine then asked me to write an article on a topic marrying (pun intended) health and wellness to something brides might be interested in. This of course got me thinking how we can use nutrition and holistic health to achieve that feeling we are going for on the big day.
When we think about getting “wedding ready,” too often it is about losing weight or fitting into a dress. Unfortunately, the tendency to “crash diet” only resorts in a subsequent “crash and burn” to previous patterns and behaviors as soon as the bouquet is tossed and the pictures are taken. I don’t know about you, but “hanger” is not an emotion I want anyone to experience during one of the most important times of her life. Thankfully, there is another way, and having gone through the process myself, I’m fully aware that it is more about feeling confident, comfortable, and calm. Thankfully, nature provides us with a bounty of beauty foods! So whether you are a bride-to-be or simply want another reason why to eat more real, here is a list of my favorite beauty and “feel good” foods.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The compounds in apple cider vinegar lead to a host of health benefits. And although one may consider it acidic to the taste, apple cider vinegar is alkalizing in the body when consumed; in other words, it works to balance our internal pH. I suggest starting your day by adding a tablespoon to a tall glass of warm water, which jumpstarts metabolism and digestion while detoxifying the liver. For me personally, I “habit stack” my ACV water with taking my supplements right before breakfast. Added bonus: this hack also works to mitigate your postprandial (i.e. post-meal) blood sugar spike after eating, making it beneficial for balancing your blood sugar. Make sure you get the raw, organic version “with the mother.” I love Bragg’s brand.
Avocado is an amazing source of healthy fat, vitamins and minerals that work to nourish your hair and skin from the inside out. The antioxidants abundant in avocado are shown to specifically ward off free radicals to protect your skin from fine-lines, wrinkles, and other age-related issues. There are multiple ways in which you can incorporate avocado into your daily diet, from blending them in smoothies to tossing them in salads, to topping them on toast.
To call bee pollen a functional food is an understatement. Deemed “life giving dust” by the ancient Egyptians, it has been used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes for centuries. Tiny but mighty, bee pollen is packed with nutrients to support healthy skin, hair, nails, mood and energy. Not only is bee pollen a complete source of protein, but it’s chock full of B vitamins, which are necessary for brain function. I love sprinkling a teaspoon atop my breakfast bowl whatever that may be: think yogurt and Granola Clusters, overnight oats, or a smoothie bowl. You can also blend them right into your smoothie and still reap the benefits.
The deep blue coloring can be attributed to anthocyanin, an antioxidant compound that protects your skin from free radical and harmful UV damage. This, in combination with their vitamin C content (another powerful antioxidant), prevent the breakdown of collagen, keeping your skin looking young and firm. Add blueberries to your morning smoothie, enjoy them in a salad, or make a blueberry chia jam for double the beauty boost (see below!).
Years ago, I worked for a company called Health Warrior, a natural foods company that sells products made from chia. Back then (circa 2012), chia seeds were new on the scene, and just becoming known for their nutritional and medicinal benefits. My sales spiel went something like this: ounce for ounce, chia seeds contain more calcium than milk, iron than spinach, fiber than flax, omega-3’s than salmon, magnesium than broccoli, protein than an egg. It is one of the world’s healthiest foods. Boom. The omega-3’s specifically strengthen your cells and reduce inflammation, while studies have shown that zinc (also found in chia) kills off acne causing bacteria for clear skin.
Chemically speaking, coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride, meaning it bypasses the liver and immediately gets converted to energy in the body. It also contains lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid with antimicrobial properties that not only kills off viruses, yeast and bacteria, but which have also been shown to support clear skin. Healthy fats (and this type of saturated fat in particular) are essential for healthy cells and skin.
Similar to the nutritional profiles of chia and flax, I love hemp for its nutty taste and texture. The high content of essential fatty acids works to boost immunity, fight aging skin, and reduce inflammation. Additionally, studies have shown that the linolenic acid found in hemp helps heal psoriasis and eczema.
There is a whole world beyond your unsweetened almond milk, especially if you have the ability to make your own (I highly recommend the Almond Cow machine). Examples include making milk from cashews, a great source of copper which promotes healthy skin, hair, and eyes; pumpkin seeds, a good source of zinc for clear skin; and brazil nuts, an excellent source of selenium, an anti-aging compound and natural mood booster.
This blue-green algae is packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. Among its many benefits, spirulina promotes healthy digestion, boosts immunity, and increases energy. The combination of tyrosine, tocopherol, and selenium makes this an amazing superfood for healthy skin, as it supports cell metabolism and turnover. Add a teaspoon to your smoothie or consume it in tablet form. ENERGYbits is a great company that sells both spirulina and chlorella (another type of algae) as tablets (and you can use code HEALTHIFIED to save on your order!).
This creamy sesame seed paste contains a whole host of B vitamins, which are not only necessary for brain health, but also a healthy nervous system. The omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and calcium content helps to keep skin clean, hair healthy, and nails strong. There is a reason why tahini is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, a nutritional lifestyle revered for its ability to reduce inflammation, support gut health, and prevent disease. Make this tahini dressing to use on salads and bowls.
Bone broth is one of those foods that benefit you from the inside out. The drinkable liquid is one of the oldest beauty tricks in the book. It’s made by slow-cooking herbs, spices, and vegetables alongside bones from either beef or chicken. After straining, you are left with a golden broth that contains collagen protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It not only is good for your gut, but also your skin (as digestive health is linked to skin health). You can make your own, or now there are trusted brands bringing already-made-for-you broth to market: Epic, Kettle & Fire, Fond, Dr. Kellyann, Bonafide, and Bare & Bones. Sip on an empty stomach to reap the gut-healing benefits (I find it also helps with sugar cravings), or use your broth as a base for soups and stews.