We’ve heard so much about what not to eat—bread, sugar, alcohol, dairy, the list goes on—that sometimes we start to feel like we should limit our diets exclusively to kale and call it a day. There’s much less discussion about the things that we can, and should, be eating for better health, and with it, better beauty overall. On the other hand, these healthy diet tweaks are things you should add to your grocery list rather than eliminate from it. Really takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?
Apple Cider Vinegar
In the past few years, apple cider vinegar has gone from a folk remedy and salad dressing to a mainstream cure-all for everything from scalp buildup to stomach bloat. ACV has anti-glycemic properties that limit digestion of starch, and it helps to aid digestion and reduce stomach and esophageal issues, including acid reflux. Some people complain of the taste, but if you like pickles, white vinegar and other sour stuff, you’ll probably actually enjoy its, well, acidic and slightly fruity flavor, whether you douse your salad in it or add a tablespoon to a glass of water. Just be sure to spring for the organic version containing the “mother,” which is the protein enzymes contained in the living nutrients, rather than the processed product.
We, along with everyone else, have already sung the praises of coconut oil when used on our skin, hair and nails, but we can also vouch for the benefits of its intended use. From its unique fatty acid composition to the high levels of virus and bad bacteria-killing lauric acid, coconut oil isn’t just a trendy beauty ingredient—it is, first and foremost, a superfood. It’s proven to reduce appetite, increase your body’s fat-burning potential, defend against heart disease, and even promote better brain function. Use it for cooking, or just take a spoonful in the morning.
While coconut oil is rich in fatty acids, it actually doesn’t contain any omega-3, which is the original “good fat.” Our bodies need these essential fatty acids to function, which is pretty rude considering they aren’t made organically in the body. Instead, eating foods high in ALA, DHA and EPA is the only way to get your fix of their cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory effects. Work more fish—mackerel, wild salmon, lake trout, and tuna are particularly high in omega-3s—into your diet, as well as walnuts and olive, canola and flaxseed oils. A diet rich in omega-3s is preferable to a supplement, but there are plenty of fish oil supplements on the market as well.
Repeat after us: Carbs are not the enemy. Refined and processed versions like white rice and breads may be, but plain whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and wheatberry are indispensable sources of nutrients. Whole grains are critical for digestive function and are packed with nutrients like protein, fiber and vitamin B. The hard part is separating the real nutritious whole grains from whatever just says “whole grain” on the packaging (look specifically for the word “whole” in the ingredients list rather than just “wheat” or “oats”). Alongside its numerous health and digestive benefits, whole grains will also help to keep you fuller longer, making them a great foundation for your diet.
We’re not just suggesting that you replace the daily fun-size Snickers with a piece of dark chocolate, instead. Even if you’re not the type to reach for the candy, integrating a reasonable amount of dark chocolate (at least 70% pure cacao) into your diet packs a real antioxidant punch. Studies have proven that moderate servings of dark chocolate significantly reduce the risk of heart failure and strokes, thanks in part to antioxidant compounds that better the flexibility and function of veins and arteries. And yes, there’s a legitimate scientific reason we often find ourselves reaching for the chocolate when we’re PMSing or feeling stressed: Cocoa reduces the presence of the stress hormone cortisol, so not only will you find yourself feeling more relaxed, but the likelihood of stress-related breakouts will go down.