We all know that vegetables are good for our insides, but did you know they can help us look and feel great on the outside, too? Even with all that goodness, many of us are still not consuming enough of these superfoods. It's time to stop skimping. If your go-to is meat and potatoes, forget that drab palette, and choose vibrant, colored vegetables. This week, try to incorporate veggies of multiple colors in your diet. Whether at the salad bar or when picking sides for dinner, make a goal of eating foods of least three different colors each day.
I'm seeing red. Guess what red veggie has, gram-for-gram, twice as much vitamin C as an orange? The bell pepper! You can also add a little spice to your life with some cayenne pepper, which contains a digestion aid called capsaicin. Experiment with the many types of tomatoes (cherry, grape, beefsteak) and red peppers (sweet or hot) until you find your favorites.
Purple and orange vs. white. Purple-powered eggplants offer anti-cancer and anti-viral properties and contain B vitamins that aid in skin cell regeneration. Try swapping out your traditional pasta-based lasagna with an eggplant version, or serve it as a side with dinner instead of those white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are another good trade for white potatoes, and like their other orange friends—carrots, squash, and pumpkins—they're loaded with carotenoids, which may increase our defense against damaging ultraviolet rays. Carrots are perfect for an afternoon crunch, or for dipping in hummus.
It's actually easy being green. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collards contain fiber, key antioxidants, and phytochemicals. The best part: We get all these benefits packed into very few calories. Have a salad every day this week, and try a different green as your base each time. And toss in some avocado. In addition to heart health benefits, avocados help reduce inflammation and prevent collagen breakdown (translation: wrinkle fighter). Avocados, asparagus, and spinach also contain vitamin E, which enhances the skin's collagen production to promote smoother skin while sealing in moisture. Hello greens and gorgeous skin!
Speaking of healthier skin, did you know that applying some of those foods directly to your skin can give you a healthy glow? With the harsh temperatures of winter, why not host a girls night and use food to fix dehydrated, sun-damaged, or mature skin.
Here's how to make the Go Green Scrub: Blend ¼ avocado, 1 teaspoon of parsley, and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt in a food processor. Coarse salt acts a great natural exfoliant, removing the dull outer layer of skin to reveal the younger-looking layers underneath. Parsley provides vitamin C, lending the skin antioxidant protection (Remember: more collagen means fewer fine lines). The deep-penetrating avocado oil further boosts the amount of collagen in your skin, giving you that final pop of moisture. Your skin will thank you!
Start tasting the colors of all kinds of vegetables to reap their nutritional benefits and keep your meals (and facial regimen) more interesting. For more fun facts about food and their colors, check out the video below.
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!