The Beauty Benefits of Bitter Foods

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Sure, you love sweetness. Or maybe you're more of a saltiness person. But bitterness? It really deserves more fans— especially given its major benefits for your beauty!

Bitter foods stimulate digestive enzyme production and bile flow, seriously helping your digestive process, which in turn has a visible impact on your skin (as well as your weight, moods, and immunity!). Bitter foods also support liver detox (very important in the fall as well as the spring), further supporting skin glow, and help reduce cravings by satisfying a very important taste on your palate.

My favorite bitter beauty foods include radicchio, endive, arugula and sesame (all featured in the addictive recipe below), as well as turmeric, artichokes, dandelion greens, and grapefruit. Digestive bitters are another way to reap the benefits of bitterness in your routine— a few drops of bitters into a small amount of water before a meal also jumpstarts the digestive process.

If you make an effort to include more bitter foods in your diet (fall beauty goal?), you'll notice that bitterness can be a strong taste on your palate. it's not a taste we encounter very often anymore. Try to embrace it, remembering how amazing it is for your body. I love pairing bitter foods with something naturally sweet and tangy, like a dressing that mixes apple cider vinegar and honey, or one that incorporates balsamic vinegar and a splash of maple syrup. The dressing below includes pomegranate vinegar (I found a naturally fermented and super delicious version at Trader Joe's) with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, and the end result is so satisfying and very balanced when paired with bitter greens.

Aim to eat your bitter foods early on in your meal, to get the most digestive benefits. Make this salad the first course at a fall dinner or holiday gathering, and you'll feel it work magic on your digestion even after the dessert plates have been cleared.

Bitter Is Beautiful Salad + Sesame-Pomegranate Dressing

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This salad combines the beautifying bitterness of radicchio, endive, arugula, and sesame with the natural sweetness of pomegranate. It's a perfect first course that supports healthy digestion.

Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head radicchio, chopped
  • 2 handfuls baby arugula
  • 2 small heads endive, chopped
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds separated
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp pomegranate vinegar (can sub ACV or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • unrefined salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp warm water

DIRECTIONS

In a serving bowl, toss radicchio, arugula, and endive. Top with pomegranate arils (seeds). Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together tahini, oil, vinegars, maple syrup, and salt to taste. Add about 2 Tbsp water to thin dressing. Plate each serving of salad and drizzle with dressing to serve.

Creamy Cashew Banana Mango Pudding

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Creamy Cashew Banana Mango Pudding

This dairy-free pudding may be the most delicious thing to pass your lips this week! It’s sweetened only with fruit (banana + mango, for tropical flavor), and incredibly creamy, thanks to beauty mineral-rich cashews that nourish your hair and skin. If you don’t have mango on hand, double the amount of ripe banana and add a bit more non-dairy milk to blend up an equally sweet and skin-friendly treat.

Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews or cashew pieces, soaked in water for at least 4 hours, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small ripe banana (or 1/2 large banana)
  • 1 cup ripe mango chunks, plus more for serving
  • 1 to 3 Tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk, as needed
  • unrefined salt

Directions

In a high-powered blender, combine cashews, banana, and mango until smooth and creamy, pausing frequently to scrape down the sides of the blender. Add a pinch of salt to taste, and (if needed) non-dairy milk, one Tbsp at a time, to thin the pudding. Blend once more to incorporate. If desired, top with fruit or dust with an antioxidant-rich topping like raw cacao, maca root, or cinnamon. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

For more beautifying recipes, see Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty Inside & Out.

Celebrate Spring Beauty with a Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

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Meet my sweet snack of the moment: the Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie! The delicate flavors of strawberry and fresh turmeric root (which, surprisingly, has beautiful floral notes) pair so well together, making this a spring treat that's fabulous for your skin and energy.

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

This sweet smoothie satisfies a sweet craving with anti-inflammatory superfoods, healthy fats, and protein.

Serves 1 to 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen organic strawberries
  • 1-inch chunk fresh turmeric root
  • ¼ cup shelled hemp seeds

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

A Spoonful of Sun Protection

At this point in the summer season, you should be filling your plate with colorful veggies that not only energize and hydrate your body, but enhance your skin's sun protection as well. That's right— if you haven't heard the news yet, you can eat your way to an greater level of sun defense!

One of the most effective phytochemicals for summer beauty, lycopene, significantly boosts the skin's natural defenses against UV damage. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, and the current tomato harvest is a signal to get eating to support your beauty. Below, you'll find one of my favorite sun protective summer beauty recipes— a gazpacho that I created for an Eat Pretty beauty food dinner with Whole Foods Market. Enjoy!

Tomato, Basil & Fennel Gazpacho

Cool fennel balances the spiciness of avocado and Italian basil in this light & creamy gazpacho. The addition of olive oil and avocado provides healthy, plant-based fats to allow for absorption of the many fat soluble beauty nutrients in this dish!

Makes about nine 1-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs organic tomatoes
  • 2 large bulbs fennel, cored
  • 1 large organic cucumber, peeled
  • 2 jalapeños, seeds and membranes removed
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed Italian purple basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 avocado, diced

Directions

Cut tomatoes, fennel, cucumbers and jalapeños into large chunks. In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine chopped vegetables until liquefied. Add basil, oil, vinegar and spices and blend until smooth. Transfer to a refrigerator to chill, about 1 hour. Serve topped with diced avocado.