Bonjour fall. Au revoir summer. This time of year can wreak havoc on body and mind as we adjust to the change in temperature. Our digestive systems struggle, our skin gets dry and flaky, and summer tans fade. Luckily, Mother Nature has our backs: Fall markets are filled with the crème de la crème of natural ways to glow from the inside out and the outside in. Here’s my favorite beautifying food for fall/winter.
Oats are a year-round food, but they lend themselves to particularly delectable fall meals. For the days when it’s not quite piping-hot oatmeal weather but it’s way past frozen smoothie season, I love a bowl of oats: Mix oats, chia seeds, shredded coconut, spices such as vanilla, cinnamon and ginger, and dried fruit like mulberries or figs; add almond, coconut, or your favorite non-dairy milk and stir, then leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, mix and top with fresh fruit and/or granola, nuts or seeds. It’s filling and satisfying, but also light. You can also use oats to make a moisturizing and exfoliating beauty mask: mix oats, honey (or maple syrup if you’re vegan—it’s high in antioxidants and zinc), turmeric powder and coconut/olive oil to fight acne-producing bacteria, hydrate and exfoliate the skin, and remove dead skin cells.
Rich in antioxidants, turmeric is packed with anti-ageing, anti-wrinkle, and anti-inflammatory health benefits, so use it fresh if you can. It’s an amazing boost to the entire immune system, and its antiseptic and antibacterial properties help heal pesky pimples that sometimes pop up as the body adapts to the change in season. Put it in any DIY cream or mask (see above), and try adding minced, fresh turmeric to a warm almond latté or coconut milk curry. Or just sprinkle turmeric powder over anything and everything.
Full of beta carotene, copper, zinc, potassium and vitamin C, winter squash helps to repair sun damage, prevent wrinkles and lines, and treat post-acne scars. It’s great roasted in the oven with coconut oil, blended into a creamy soup, or puréed and added to dairy and gluten-free baked goods. Enjoy with pumpkin seeds—great sources of zinc and protein—to help hair grow and boost beautiful skin.
Brussels sprouts are probably one of the healthiest foods around. Filled with folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C, which keep skin firm and young, they also contain fiber to help clear out the intestines; this is helpful, since toxins in the digestive tract are often the cause of problem skin. Wash, halve and roast the Brussels sprouts in a bit of oil, salt and pepper until cooked yet still crispy (do NOT overcook!). Try adding some cayenne or smoked paprika, nutritional yeast or walnuts for added flavor and kick. Eat as a side dish, or add to salads.
Not only does it taste sweet, sweet potato can actually help to fight sugar cravings and stabilize blood sugar. It’s packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, which keeps skin soft and helps collagen to regenerate, as well as vitamin B2, B6, biotin, vitamin E, copper, iron, potassium, manganese and folate. It’s also soothing to the digestive tract, which is good news for the skin, and as an added bonus it protects the body against inflammation-related diseases and health issues, such as asthma and arthritis. Keep it simple and bake in the oven, then cut in half and smother with “butter” (aka the miso coconut butter recipe in my book—see below), or grains, greens or beans of choice. I love roasted or steamed sweet potatoes in pretty much anything, from savory dishes to nourishing breakfasts. They’re high in fiber (especially the skin) so they’ll fill you up without weighing you down.
When treated with love, this lipstick-colored vegetable magically transforms into a sweet treat. Eat it raw (grated, please) for a burst of enzyme action, or roast it in the oven drizzled with oil and spices, wrapped in parchment paper, then foil. Let it cool, and peel off the skins. Your hands and countertops with turn a vibrant purplish-red hue, but it’s worth it for the amazing health benefits. Beets are the ultimate detox food. Rich in anthocyanins, they’re a powerful antioxidant that flushes out toxins in the liver and the blood, giving the skin and blood circulation a boost.
Apples are filled with fiber—particularly pectin, which aids digestion. Try to buy organic, as the skin contains most of the fiber and nutrients; otherwise peel them, because they’re usually sprayed with pesticides. Put them in smoothies; grate and add to morning muesli; bake in the oven with some coconut oil, maple syrup, raisins and walnuts; warm in a pan for homemade compote; or add to savory salads or soups. Alternatively, slice and top with almond butter—almonds are rich in vitamin E, which keeps skin silky smooth.
Greens, greens and more greens (and did I mention greens?)
This cruciferous vegetable is loaded with skin-protecting antioxidants and vitamins A, C and K, so add to a kale salad or a smoothie, sauté with some vegetables, or include in soups and stews. Leafy greens like Swiss chard, arugula, mustard greens, dandelion greens, bok choy, spinach and tatsoi are also around at this time of year, so make sure to sample different varieties. Add arugula or mustard greens to lentil or quinoa salads for a nice kick; add tatsoi to miso soup; or sauté some chard, spinach or dandelion greens in coconut oil, onions and garlic for a great accessory to any fashionable feast. Leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, protein and antioxidants, which help to repair skin and give you a natural glow.
Pomegranates are among the oldest beauty foods around. For more than 4,000 years, these pretty fruits have been symbols of fertility, prosperity and abundance across the world. It’s a beauty food that moistens dry skin, fights inflammation and acne, and protects from the sun. Add the seeds to your morning muesli or coconut yogurt (probiotics are one of the best skin foods around) or add to savory salads—don’t waste any of its natural juices.
Include toasted walnuts in a lentil salad with roasted beets (recipe in my book) or put them in your morning oats. Soak them in water, then blend into homemade nut milk, or add to smoothies. They’re great in seasonal baked goods with spices like cardamom, ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg. Full of those elusive Omega-3s that reduce inflammation, they rid the body of toxins and help to moisturize from the inside out. Add them to yogurt (preferably dairy-free like coconut yogurt) for extra crunch, flavor and nutrition.
I’ve saved the best for last. Luckily, these green wonders are available all year long in most places. Avocado is nature’s butter, creamy, delicious, and packed with nutrients. It’s an amazing DIY beauty item: mash onto toast, or spread on your face for a moisturizing mask with skin-boosting vitamin E. Add it to a morning smoothie with some leafy greens, banana, coconut water, spirulina and matcha for a skin-friendly start to the day. Include it in salads to boost protein and fiber, or blend with chocolate for a magical mousse (recipe in my book). This healthy fat is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, so it keeps skin plump and smooth.
Cinderella Soup recipe
Try my Cinderella Soup recipe, which blends several beauty foods into creamy deliciousness. It also stars coconut oil, the “It”-beauty food that should be consumed every day in every season. The garlic will help clear out toxins and bacteria; the carrots add a burst of beta carotene and minerals; the ginger is anti-inflammatory, helping prevent redness and blotches from allergies; and the coconut milk hydrates the body from head (literally—it’s great for your hair) to toe. It's the perfect warming, healing meal for fall.
Makes 4 small appetizer servings or 2 larger bowls.
Apart from chopping some vegetables and boiling water, this soup pretty much makes itself.
It’s great with my favorite petite pumpkin, le potimarron (red kuri squash), but it works well with any orange-fleshed squash (think butternut, kabocha, carnival).
• 1 small cooking pumpkin or winter squash of choice, peeled and diced (approx. 1½ cups/150 g)
• 1 small sweet potato, diced (approx.½ cup/100 g)
• 2 large carrots
• 1 red onion
• 2 garlic cloves
• 2 tablespoons coconut oil
• ¼ teaspoon fresh grated ginger, or ground ginger
• ½ teaspoon turmeric (fresh, if possible)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• ½ cup (100 ml) lait de coconut or BPA-free canned coconut milk (optional, for an even creamier consistency)
1. Peel and chop the pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, and onion into small pieces. (Follow my tips on cutting winter squash on page 141 of my book to avoid cutting your fingers.) Peel and chop the garlic (you’ll be blending it anyway).
2. Put the coconut oil in a large pot, add the onion and garlic, and sauté for around 1 minute. Add the ginger (if using fresh), then the squash, sweet potato, carrots, ground ginger (if not using fresh), turmeric, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, then add enough water to cover the vegetables by around ½ inch (1cm). Cover the pot and cook over medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
3. Transfer to a blender, or purée with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. If desired, add the coconut milk gradually until you find a consistency you like.
FOR A SPICIER VERSION:
Add ¼ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon coriander, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon with the turmeric.
FOR A SWEETER VERSION:
Replace the turmeric with 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract.
Recipe from Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic: Eat (and Live!) the New French Way with Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes for Every Season, copyright © Rebecca Leffler, 2015. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.