5 Vegan Foods That Boost Your Beauty
It wasn’t long ago that “vegan” conjured an image of a pale, less-than-vibrant individual. That image was clearly a myth. Truth is, vegan eating not only protects our hearts and extends our life spans, but plant-based diets provide fuel enough for athletes (even Olympic competitors!) and abundant nutrients for vibrant skin, hair and nails.
Vegan food blogger Angela Liddon says it well in her Oh She Glows Cookbook (Avery, 2014): “I was immediately struck by how amazing I felt eating this way . . . my skin started to glow, my energy levels soared.” Beauty nutrients, such as proteins; healthy fats (especially omega-3); and vitamin A, biotin and zinc abound in meats and dairy. But vegan sources of these nutrients have an advantage: no artificial hormones and environmental toxins (stored in the animal’s fat), which can do a number on your complexion, not to mention your mood!
Let’s be clear: You won’t get amazing energy and vibrant looks from a vegan diet that’s full of processed flours, refined sugars and other food additives. In fact, sugars (and resulting insulin spikes) bottom out your energy and also promote acne, according to clinical research.
All fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes contain antioxidants, which protect cells from free radicals. These five are particularly good sources of proven beauty-boosting phytonutrients. Get glowing with delicious vegan beauty foods.
1. Whole soy, including tofu and tempeh. Soybeans contain about 14 grams of protein per half-cup serving, plus fortifying iron and zinc. Choose organic to avoid GMO soy. Try this: Toss 1-inch cubes of tofu or tempeh in a tamari–sesame oil marinade (add garlic and ginger for more flavor). Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30–40 minutes, turning cubes once. Cool and enjoy atop salads or steamed veggies.
2. Cashews. Rich in zinc and good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, cashews are vegan for decadence. Craving the richness of dairy? Soaking cashews overnight makes them easy to purée into a thick, smooth cream sauce that can be drizzled or mixed into soups, made into a “cheese” sauce, or mixed with a little agave and poured over fresh fruit for dessert.
3. Carrots. The beta carotene (the precursor to vitamin A, also known as retinol) in carrots and other fruits and veggies, such as broccoli, mango and apricots, promotes healthy skin. It also pumps up immunity and protects eyesight. For a tasty accompaniment to protein dishes, blend ½ bunch fresh cilantro, ⅓ cup olive oil, 1 shallot or 2 cloves garlic, and the juice of 1 lime. Pour over a half-pound of shredded carrots. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to mix.
4. Citrus fruits. Fantastic, refreshing sources of vitamin C, citrus fruits help the body prevent and repair cell damage. Get creative: Top salads with fresh-cut grapefruit, toss fresh grapefruit or orange pieces with chopped mint, or simply squeeze a lemon or lime into your workout water bottle.
5. Walnuts. Along with flaxseed and chia seeds, walnuts score high in omega-3 fatty acids—the building blocks of healthy cell membranes. Lightly roast walnuts tossed with olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary for added flavor and antioxidant power. Or use as a replacement for other nuts in pesto recipes.