To me, the buzzword ‘superfood’ conjures up images of a chia seed donning a mask and cape and quite possibly wearing its tiny undies on the outside. It’s a favourite term among B-Grade celebrities spruiking their healthy lifestyles on TV ads, but what does ‘superfood’ really mean?
Accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia Emily Burgess agrees that the definition is a little murky.
"There are no strict guidelines as to what a 'superfood' actually is," Emily explains. "It's a bit of a marketing scam actually.”
Instead she advises adopting a ‘super diet’ which is all about “packing the biggest nutritional punch compared to energy."
When it comes to taking care of your body's largest organ, there are plenty of foods that are pretty super for the skin. Yet they probably won't be the ones that shout 'superfood!' on the label. In fact, they probably won't be wearing a label at all.
The added bonus here is that these foods are pretty super for our whole health too. But let's face it, we can be a superficial lot sometimes. Below, Emily shares her top eight picks for eating our way to our best skin ever. It's going to be much more fun than slathering on a homemade avo/honey/oat mask or spending big on fancy night-creams.
1. Something Fishy
Oily fish is Emily's top pick for a radiant complexion. “It contains the biggest amount of omega-3 fatty acids, and these are definitely the ones that have the best effect for glowing skin, as well as good hair and nail and heart health.” Bonus! All fish is good, but when it comes to omega-3s, look for pink fish as opposed to generally leaner, white fish. Try: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines.
2. Going Nuts
Next up are nuts, again because they have a lot of omega-3s, but they are also high in fibre. "There are no nuts that are better than others, they all have different nutrients," says Emily. "My personal favourites are macadamias, but in terms of omega-3s, walnuts have the highest levels.” Eat them raw or cooked. Soaking isn't necessary. "The only reason that people do the soaking is to try to get rid of phytates, a type of fibre that gives you less nutrients. But phytates and that fibre is actually quite good for you so it's a bit counter-intuitive.” Try: walnuts, macadamias, almonds.
3. Feeling Seedy
Throw a handful of seeds into granola, curry or stir-fries for a hit of B vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3s (flaxseed, in particular, has the highest amount of the latter). "Especially for someone who's not eating a lot of meat, nuts and seeds are your best vego counterparts to get all the nutrients.” Try: pumpkin seed, pepita, sesame, flaxseed (a.k.a. linseed).
4. You Go Yoghurt
"When you have good gut health, you've got a good healthy immune system and that's going to show in your skin," Emily says. The probiotics and prebiotics in yogurt help with this. A good quality yogurt should have minimal ingredients, i.e. "milk and bacteria and not much else" according to Emily. Look for yoghurts that contains less than 10g of sugar per 100g. Try: Greek or natural yogurt.
5. The Whole Truth
Whole-grains are the skin’s best friend. "Oats especially have the type of fibre that's really, really good for your digestive system, keeps you fuller for longer and lowers the GI of your food. Anything that's good for your inside is going to show on your outside," says Emily. Try: rye bread, sourdough bread, oats.
6. That H2O Glow
Don't forget your (re-fillable) water bottle. "We're all drinking far too many soft drinks and juices and the sugar content really contributes to breakouts and pimples. Dehydration is obvious in dryness and sunken skin," Emily says. Current general guidelines recommend drinking two to three litres of water per day. Try: herbal teas, homemade soups, smoothies.
7. Red Hot
Talk about bang for your buck. Deep, dark red and purple fruits and vegetables have plenty of skin-friendly antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. "Usually the deeper the colour, the richer in antioxidants," Emily advises. Try: beetroot, blueberries, strawberries.
8. Green Power
On the other end of the spectrum to dark red foods, but with similar skin-beautifying benefits, Emily can't go past dark green leafy veg. And you don't need to go hunting down some exotic leaf from remote locales (while paying for the privilege). Emily explains that when it comes to greenery "everything's good... they're all fairly similar". Try: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, spinach.
So there you have it, folks! Everything you need to improve the health of the body’s biggest organ. And best of all, these foods are super accessible, so you won’t have to make a special trip to the health food store to eat your way to beautiful skin. Go forth and get glowing!
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List