Feel free to indulge in these hydrating, antioxidant-rich and energy-boosting foods for a healthy, happy start to the new year

We say forget the exclusion-based nature of new diets. You can’t be what you don’t eat. So forget the dieting myths and fads, and start focusing on all the good stuff you really should eat instead.

We’re sampling some of the best and yummiest foods that help boost your health and mood this year. And we’ve organised them for you based on how they benefit you, your body and your skin. Enjoy!

Best foods with benefits

  1. Foods that hydrate you
  2. Anti-inflammatory foods
  3. Best antioxidant-rich bites
  4. Foods that boost energy
  5. Feel-good and de-stressing foods


Foods for hydration

If we’ve said it once … keeping your body hydrated is absolutely vital for your skin health. You just can’t do enough to keep your skin well hydrated – it’s one of the five elements of healthy skin after all.

But, while we all know to drink plenty of water per day, it’s just as important to eat your water too. Scientists believe that hydrogen (water) molecules bind differently with carbon inside fruits and vegetables than when water’s in its liquid form. This special type of hydrogen combination is said to be great for skin and overall health.

Enjoy these super-hydrating foods:

1. Cucumber – at 96.7% water (the highest water content food in the world), cucumbers contain no cholesterol and are high in Vitamin B6 and iron. Use it to make refreshing cucumber water.

2. Watermelon – at 92% water, it contains minerals salt, calcium and magnesium that supercharge hydration.

3. Celery – at 95% water, celery is full of potassium and Vitamin K, but note the crunch that tells you it’s filled with the goodness of fibre.

4. Strawberries – at 92% water (the most of any berry) it’s full of fibre and healthy Vitamin C. It’s also an important antioxidant and sun-protecting ingredient in our favourite berry smoothies.

5. Lettuce – at 96% water, especially romaine (frilly) lettuce also contains folic acid, vitamin C and beta-carotene.

6. Bell peppers – at 92% water, red, yellow and green peppers is a rich source of some the best nutrients available, including thiamine, vitamin B6, beta-carotene and folic acid.

Foods that fight inflammation

Regular readers will know that we recently explained that science has finally found the true cause of ageing: chronic inflammation. And while you need highly advanced technology to treat this kind of inflammation for good, experts say eating loads of anti-inflammatory foods can only help.

It’s perhaps not incorrect to consider these anti-inflammatory foods as vital anti-ageing foods too.

Indulge in these anti-inflammatory foods:

7. Tomato – containing lycopene, a specialised anti-inflammatory, tomatoes are known to fight inflammation throughout the body, but especially the lungs. PS: cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw, so even tomato sauce works well.

8. Fatty fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. To get the full benefits, though, prepare fish in a healthy way and eat it several times a week.

9. Spinach – packed with vitamin E, spinach is said to be excellent at keeping keep pro-inflammatory cytokines in check. Plus it’s full of nutrients and minerals too.

10. Nuts – all types are full of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, but almonds and walnuts are said to be especially great at reducing inflammation.

11. Turmeric and ginger – both spices are well-known anti-inflammatories. Ginger fights inflammation in the intestines. While turmeric (what gives curry its yellow colour) controls the proteins in the immune system that trigger inflammation.

12. Blueberries – the berry that actually belongs under every entry in this list, blueberries are renowned for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and de-stressing properties coupled with high nutritional content.

Foods rich in antioxidants

By now, most of us are aware of the fact that our body is constantly under attack from free radicals. And that’s a result of natural processes in the body; fuelled by the sun and the oxygen we breathe. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that cause oxidative stress and DNA damage, which ages you and often leads to illness.

Fortunately, antioxidants neutralise free radicals in your body. And you have an arsenal of super antioxidant-rich foods at your disposal.

Tuck into these antioxidant-filed foods:

13. Dark chocolate – scoring an impressive 21 000 on the official scale for measuring antioxidant activity in food, the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) scale, dark chocolate contains more active antioxidants than most fruits and berries. Check out 7 ways dark chocolate keeps you healthy.

14. Pecan nuts – not only score 17 000 on the ORAC scale, but also contains plenty of vitamins, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and zinc.

15. Cranberries – with a 9 584 ORAC score, cranberries contain some of the most powerful antioxidants and very few calories. It outranks most fruit and veg as a health superfood.

16. Red kidney beans – scoring 8 459 on the ORAC scale, a single cup of these beans can deliver up to 45% of your daily fibre requirement, 50% of folate and between 20–30% of most other nutrients.

17. Broccoli – at 3 084 ORAC value, studies show that eating 5 or more servings of broccoli per week may lower risks of various cancers by up to 50% over a ten year period.

18. Sweet potato – scoring 2 116 on the ORAC scale, sweet potato is considered a super food because it’s not only packed with antioxidant beta-carotene, but also high in fibre, very filling and relatively easy to grow – making it affordable and accessible to most people.

Foods that give you energy

Everyone can do with a little more energy. There’s nothing like waking up feeling refreshed, doing your morning stretches and having an excellent breakfast, knowing that you own the day.

Where food’s concerned, yes, they can definitely make a huge difference to how energised you feel. Foods that release energy slower and over a longer period of time tend to lift your mood and give you sustained energy throughout the day.

Snack on these energising foods:

19. Lentils – a fibre-filled superstar food, lentils’ fibre content stabilises your blood sugar levels. While its complex carbohydrates slowly release to give you energy, lentils also replenish your body’s iron for an additional boost.

20. Tuna – containing a surprising amount of good protein – which your body loves to convert to energy, especially in the absence of carbohydrates – and a super mix of the types B vitamins that helps your body convert food into energy.

21. Wholegrain cereal ­­– with high amounts of yummy fibre, whole grain cereals slow the release of glucose into your bloodstream, giving you a slow and consistent stream of energy that lasts all day.

22. Eggs – you love them for breakfast for a very good reason: eggs contain the ideal mix of protein and fatty acids to lift your energy levels and stop you from craving more food during the day.

23. Greek yoghurt – brimming with just the right types of protein to feed your brain and body, yoghurt also pairs well with other heath-boosting grains and berries.

24. Quinoa – the most protein-rich grain we know, quinoa contains loads of amino acids, vitamin and minerals. It’s an ideal midday energy pick-me-up, so remember to pack it for lunch.

Foods that de-stress and make you feel good

Never confuse “comfort food” with “feel-good food”, because they are two very different things. Stressful events raise the ravaging stress hormone cortisol in your body, and this tends to make you crave carbohydrates and sugar. On the other hand, nutrient-rich and slow energy releasing foods calm and normalise your body.

These calming foods help fight stress and stabilise your mood.

Get your hands on these mood-enhancing foods:

25. Cashews – apart from their healthy fat-protein and zinc content, cashews contain amino acids that boost serotonin in your body – a feel-good chemical that literally improves your mood, social behaviour, sleep and sexual function.

26. Mushrooms ­– used for centuries in medicines and tinctures from here to China, mushrooms have a proven calming (some would say centring) effect on the body. Most importantly, mushrooms help balance your blood cell counts and boost your immune system.

27. Avocado – this rich and nutritious fruit is so unique because scientists think it’s an evolutionary fluke that they even still exist. That’s because of avocados, with their amazing mix of mood-lifting antioxidants, folate and vitamins, evolved as a food for gigantic species that went extinct thousands of years ago. Today, we get to reap the benefits of the fruit, but beware they are a little fattening (nature intended them for huge, lumbering, extinct ground sloth after all).

28. Bananas – exceptionally high in potassium, bananas help regulate your blood pressure and maintain your blood sugar levels. Check out this cool recipe for vegan ice cream made with banana.

29. Carrots – high in fibre, carrots also help your body produce the mood-balancing chemical serotonin. It’s also slightly sweet, helping to kerb your body’s cortisol-induced cravings.

30. Asparagus – sometimes prescribed to people who suffer from depression because studies have shown that depressive patients often have a folate deficiency. And asparagus is an excellent source of folate and folic acid, known to lift your mood.

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Got a food, energy or breakfast tip or question? Let’s chat in the comments below.

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