We’re all about superfoods around here and today’s guest post from Paula Simpson, Holistic Nutritionist and Co-Founder of ZSS Skincare, is all about the best superfoods to help both your gut and your skin.
We often forget that our skin is a direct reflection of our inner health. Nutrition feeds the foundation — and root — for healthy, radiant skin. It is also important to consider the health and functioning of our digestion and eliminative organs that absorb, assimilate nutrients, and neutralize and remove byproducts and toxins from the body. If the body is properly nourished and healthy, this will be revealed in our outer appearance.
Our bodies are naturally detoxifying every day. It’s one of the body’s most basic functions: to eliminate and neutralize toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph and skin. But in our modern lives, our systems can be exposed to much more pollution and toxins than ever before — from the air, water, and food, as well as the refined products we eat. Over time this can put a lot of strain on our organs.
Recent research in dermatology and nutrition has shown a correlation between lifestyle and diet — and its impact on the skin. Cited as the “brain-gut-skin axis,” it is noted that stress, poor digestive health, unbalanced nutrition, and environmental pollutants can negatively influence the health and appearance of our skin.
Superfoods are essentially functional, natural foods that are super concentrated with health-promoting nutrients. These are some of my favorite skin-loving super foods that support and rebalance gut and skin health for a radiant glow.
1. Broccoli Sprouts: Immune Booster and Detoxifier
Broccoli is part of the powerhouse brassica family of vegetables. Broccoli contains important phytochemicals that are released when they’re chopped, chewed, fermented or cooked. One of the main health benefits of broccoli is the ability of certain phytochemicals to affect glutathione levels (a primary antioxidant enzyme in the body). Sulforaphane that has been shown to stimulate both phases of detoxification in the liver and support glutathione antioxidant defense in the body. Young broccoli sprouts have an estimated 10-50 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli florets. Add these to your salads and get creative with them in your meals.
2. Amla Fruit: For Healthy Skin and Hair
Amla (also known as Indian gooseberry) is a medium-sized deciduous tree that is native to India. It’s considered one of the richest and most bioavailable sources of vitamin C and other phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. For skin health, clinical studies have confirmed its effectiveness in warding off oxidative stress and stimulating collagen type 1 in skin tissue.
Used in Ayurveda formulations for skin and hair health, Amla is often oriented to increase scalp circulation, strengthen hair follicles, and renew growth. For clearing blemishes, it can be topically applied as a DIY facial mask. They are extremely versatile and can be consumed fresh, as a juice, or you can dry them and make a powder for smoothies.
Here’s a simple drying recipe to try: When amlas are available in season (October-March), buy large quantities, cut them into small pieces, and add seasoning such as black pepper, sea salt, rock salt, cumin powder, carom (ajwain) powder, sugar, or ginger juice. Then, spread them on a tray and place under the sun to dry. Turn daily until dry. Check out a few more unique ways to orient this into your daily routine here.
3. Maca Root: Stamina Booster
Maca is a vegetable cultivated as a root crop and a relative of the radish. It grows wild in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina. It contains significant amounts of minerals including iron, calcium, and copper (as well as B vitamins and vitamins C and E and amino acids). Maca has been shown to reduce stress in animal studies and offer aphrodisiac and hormone-balancing properties in both men and women.
In foods, maca is eaten baked or roasted, prepared as a soup or added to smoothies. When you first start using maca, start with as little as 1/2 teaspoon. Just 1 tablespoon is an average daily dose. Rotating a few days on and a few days off is often recommended.
4. Paprika: With Powerful Skin Antioxidant Zeaxanthin
Incorporating key antioxidants through diet and supplementation can help keep your skin youthful and radiant. Paprika is a very good source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, E and carotenoids including zeaxanthin, of interest for skin health as it is readily absorbed into skin tissue promoting natural skin radiance and fight photo-aging. Paprika is a versatile and easy to use spice that can boost skin nutrient value to your meals. Here’s a delicious Stuffed Baby Bell Pepper recipe.
5. Turmeric: Promotes Collagen Production
Curcumin is the key antioxidant found in turmeric. Within the body it helps to combat free radicals that can damage healthy skin and promotes collagen synthesis (what keeps your skin strong and firm).
6. Haskap Berries: Antioxidant Powerhouse
The haskap berry has 2-3 times more antioxidants than blueberries according to experts. The haskap is high in polyphenolic anthocyanins and vitamin C among other health promoting antioxidants. Their taste is a mix between a blueberry and raspberry and can be eaten fresh, dried or used in smoothies and jams.
7. Kefir: Rich in Probiotics
If your gut microflora is out of balance, you cannot efficiently digest and absorb nutrients from food to nourish and fuel your body.
Rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum bacteria, kefir is one of the richest probiotic foods to promote and balance gut microflora. These healthy bacteria not only support gut health but are also clinically shown to support and strengthen skin barrier function.
Beyond just drinking milk kefir, there are other ways to cleverly use it in recipes. Milk kefir can make a great base for soups, baked goods or stews that would otherwise call for regular milk or cream bases. Water and coconut-based kefir is also an option if you don’t consume dairy.
What are some of your favorite superfoods, and how do you incorporate them into your diet? —Paula