Good, healthy food makes you feel good and look good from the inside out.
Summer brings so many healthy food options. There's an abundance of fresh produce, including many natural beauty foods.
"Summer produce generally tends to have a high water content," says Michelle Dudash, RD, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. "That helps keep you hydrated, which minimizes wrinkles, because it's plumping up your skin."
Plus, warm weather begs for lighter meals and preparation methods, which may help slim you down.
"We tend to eat a lot of summer produce raw or grilled, which lightens it up," Dudash says. "Many summer foods have a lower carbohydrate content than starchy winter root vegetables, yet they still have fiber, so they're filling, but without a high carb load to bog you down."
1. Strawberries and Other Fruit
Strawberries are a prime example. These sweet berries are one of the best sources of vitamin C out there, with 163% of the daily value per cup.
"Fruit gives you a physical feeling of lightness while also being satisfying," Frechman says.
New ways to try it: "Put fruit on salad!" Frechman says. "Adding fruit to salad is very refreshing."
Zucchini is very low in calories, with only 20 calories per cup.
New ways to try it: "You can use it for veggie crudités, cut into batons or coins," Dudash says. She also uses it in a light summer pasta: She just dices and sautés it with garlic and onion and tosses the mixture with whole-wheat angel hair pasta, soft goat cheese, and shrimp.
3. Red Bell Peppers
With only 46 calories and 3 grams of fiber per cup, red bell peppers are a light yet filling addition to summer meals.
Also, Dudash says, "bell peppers are really high in antioxidants. They have a whopping 317% of the daily value of vitamin C. Vitamin C is so important for collagen in our skin. We lose collagen as we age, so getting the nutrients that support it, like vitamin C, is an important anti-aging trick."
New ways to try it: Grill them. Dudash says, "To make soft roasted peppers that are way better than jarred, grill whole peppers until charred, then put it into a paper bag until cool, then slip off the skin. Pureed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, soft-roasted peppers make an amazing sauce to use over grilled chicken or fish.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and beta-carotene. A diet rich in those nutrients may boost your skin's natural defense against sun damage and improve its appearance, according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C. One cup delivers almost half of the daily value. Of course, you should still wear sunscreen and avoid getting too much sun.
New ways to try it: Grilling tomatoes is a smart choice. "When tomatoes are cooked, they have even more lycopene," Dudash says.
Gazpacho and other cold soups are hydrating. "Plus you get a lot of nutrients," Frechman says. A cold soup made out of fruits or vegetables would provide a lot of the beauty foods containing vitamin C. Vitamin C can be destroyed by heat, Frechman notes, so enjoying a cool gazpacho will help you get more.
New ways to try it: Think beyond gazpacho and try recipes for cold fruit soups, like blueberry or cantaloupe.
6. Hibiscus Tea
"I'm obsessed with this ruby red tea," Dudash says. "Research shows it's high in antioxidants, including vitamin C and anthocyanins." It's usually found in tea blends, like red raspberry, so look for it in the ingredient list.
New ways to try it: Dudash enjoys it as is: unsweetened and a bit tart. She says it also makes a great base for margaritas. "It's a nice alternative to those syrupy sweet mixers," she says. "Just brew it really strong and add some agave and lime juice."