We love the power of food!

Our diet has a tremendous influence on our health, with each food containing a unique variety of nutrients to fuel our cells. Some nutrients benefit specific organs and systems of the body more than others and while we could write an entire blog on this alone, in fact, we have a great post on this here, we are simplifying things in this post. Here you will find our favorite foods and nutrients to nourish the body broken down by the gut hair, skin, nails, hormones, heart, and mood!

Healthy Gut Foods and Nutrients 

The gut (and therefore gut microbiome) loves fruits, veggies, healthy fats, high-quality protein and fermented foods. These foods have pre and probiotics, anti-inflammatory properties, gut-healing properties and more! Check out some of our favorites below! 

  • Asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke – great source of prebiotics
  • Garlic and Onion -a prebiotic and has antimicrobial properties which may help gut microbiome imbalances
  • Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kefir, greek-yogurt  – great source of probiotics
  • Avocado – great source of omega 3’s and fiber
  • Chia and Flax Seeds – an easy way to pack in soluble fiber and omega 3’s
  • Dark Leafy Greens (ex. spinach, collard greens, mixed greens) – packed with nutrients like magnesium, fiber,  and produce a sugar called sulfoquinovose which contains sulfur, a compound the gut bacteria love!
  • Cruciferous Veggies (ex. broccoli, brussels, cauliflower, cabbage, kale) – packed with fiber and compounds that help feed the gut bacteria and produce metabolites which fight inflammation 
  • Bone Broth –  rich in L-glutamine and collagen, which help heal the gut lining
  • Complex Carbs (ex. sweet potato, whole-grain oats, beets, carrots) – nutrient-dense and full of easily digestible fiber
  • Fresh Herbs (ex. parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme) – contain nutrients that aid in digestion by helping release trapped gas, stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, reducing inflammation, fighting overgrowth of bacteria, and more!
  • Turmeric (Curcumin) – anti-inflammatory 
  • Ginger – contains digestive enzymes (trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which breakdown proteins and fats), anti-nausea properties, and promotes motility
  • L-glutamine  – helps heal the gut lining and improve nutrient absorption

Find more information on feeding and balancing the gut microbiome here! 

Healthy Skin/Hair/Nails Food and Nutrients

There are a bunch of nutrients that go into keeping the skin, hair, and nails healthy! This is why it is essential to look at one’s diet if one notices differences in the texture, strength, growth of one’s skin/hair/nails (think: weak and brittle nails and hair, dry skin, hair loss or lack of hair/nail growth, etc.). Addressing any deficiencies in the diet can be super helpful in resolving these concerns, however taking a look at hormones and stress, in addition, will give you more of a complete picture of what may be going on. Check out some of our favorite food and nutrients for healthy skin, nails, and hair below!

  • Healthy Fats (ex. avocado, olive oil, walnuts and chia seeds) –  inadequate levels of omega 3’s may contribute to premature hair loss, bumps on skin and other conditions
  • Root Veggies (ex. sweet potato, carrots, beets) – contains nutrients like beta carotene and biotin which promote cell health and hair growth
  • High-quality protein (pasture raised eggs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey) – contains key amino acids acting as the building blocks for collagen production 
  • Vitamin C (ex. strawberries, seaweed, kale, red peppers) an antioxidant that helps fight cellular damage (hello aging!) and protect the skin and hair, and is key for collagen production
  • Collagen (found in bone broth, supplement powders, and some cuts of meat) – the most abundant protein in the body making up 90% of the skin, hair, and nails
  • Iron (found in dark leafy greens (add Vitamin C to them to maximize absorption!), egg yolks, and some high-quality red meats)- helps circulation, and helps the body deliver oxygen to cells through the blood. When your iron is low, your body will not efficiently or optimally carry oxygen to your scalp possibly, which deprives hair follicles.
  • Pantothenic Acid, B5 (found in mushrooms, cauliflower, eggs, green leafy vegetables, eggs, whole grains) –  prompts healthy hair and skin by strengthening hair follicles and helping to relieve skin itching and flaking 
  • Folate (found in dark leafy greens, asparagus, beef liver, etc) – a key nutrient involved in cell growth in tissues such as the hair, skin, and nails
  • Zinc (found in lamb, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas) – plays a key role in cell growth and development which is especially important in cells that replicate quickly, like skin, nails and hair, and is also a  key nutrient in collagen production 

More on these nutrients, their role on skin and hair health, and how you can incorporate them into your diet here!

Hormone Health and Energy Food and Nutrients

Your energy levels are largely dependent on your hormones which is why having balanced and optimal levels of each hormone is key. Our hormones love healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, high-quality proteins, tons of veggies, and nutrients like selenium and zinc. 

  • Healthy fats (ex. avocado, olive oil, walnuts, chia, and flax seeds) – hormones are derived from fats and proteins making the consumption of fat essential for hormone health
  • High-quality protein (pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef) – hormones are derived from proteins plus these high-quality proteins contain specific nutrients (folate, b vitamins, omega 3’s, etc.) that support hormone health 
  • Cruciferous Veggies (ex. broccoli, brussels, cauliflower, kale) – key players in the detoxification of hormones like estrogen which helps keeps things balanced
  • Dark Leafy Greens (ex. spinach, collard greens, mixed greens, etc.) – contain folate, iron, vitamins such as vitamin K, A, and B vitamins, and trace minerals all of which support hormone health
  • Complex Carbohydrates (ex. sweet potatoes, oats, carrots, beets, squash) – contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber all of which help to promote energy, restful sleep, and hormone balance. Reducing carbohydrates too much can actually stress out the body and negatively affect hormone balances. 
  • Nuts and Seeds (brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds) – each nut/seed contains different antioxidants and nutrients to support hormone balance (think: zinc and selenium!)
  • Vitamin D – can help balance estrogen by making the receptors in the body either more sensitive or less sensitive depending on what your body needs
  • Iodine – an essential nutrient for the production of thyroid hormone
  • Selenium (found in brazil nuts) important for the proper functioning of your thyroid gland
  • B vitamins –  play an important role in helping nourish and balance hormones in our body

Keep in mind it may be hard to get adequate amounts of these nutrients from the diet alone to support hormone levels, so utilizing high-quality supplements (approved by your health practitioner) may be helpful! 

Check our three other blog posts concerning hormone balance, energy, and hormone healthy recipes

Heart-Healthy Foods and Nutrients

  • Healthy Fat (found in avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies) – contain omega 3’s which are anti-inflammatory, and research demonstrates it may reduce blood triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the  risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease
  • Fiber (found in berries, dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, beans and legumes, whole grain oats, and  root veggies) – helps to clean out the blood vessels and may improve HDL and lower LDL
  • Dark Leafy Greens (ex. spinach, collard greens, mixed greens, etc.)- packed with nutrients such as folate, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta carotene, magnesium, and potassium  which are great for heart health 
  • Complex carbs (ex. whole-grain oats, brown rice, quinoa, beans, and legumes) – contain fiber, magnesium, iron, and selenium 
  • Lycopene (found in tomatoes and watermelon) – reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and may reduce blood pressure
  • Anthocyanins (found in beets and blueberries) – protective properties against heart disease (may help lower LDL, cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce inflammation
  • Dark Chocolate (70% or higher) – contains resveratrol which may help to prevent lower blood pressure and reduce risk of blood clots
  • Folate  – may reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiac conditions
  • Magnesium and Potassium – key nutrients in muscle contraction (aka what your heart does all day long!)
  • COQ10  – may lower risk of blood pressure 
  • Quercetin– anti-inflammatory and may help reduce risk of blood clots 

Mood Boosting Foods and Nutrients 

Our mood is influenced by many variables (think: hormones, environment, sleep, stress, chemical imbalances, etc) and diet is one of them! The food we consume contains specific nutrients that have different mechanisms and unique properties that help to regulate mood – some of our favorites listed below!

  • Pre and Probiotic Rich Foods  (ex. Artichokes, asparagus,  – Did you know 90% of serotonin is made in the gut? This is why supporting the gut microbiome is key food mood-boosting. Not to mention the gut and brain communicate with each other via the vagus nerve so if the gut is unhappy your mood will likely feel the effects! 
  • Healthy Fats (ex. almonds, walnuts, olive oil, chia seeds, avocado) –  associated with improved mood and decreased depressive symptoms and helps reduce inflammation which is great for brain health
  • High-quality protein (found in pasture raised eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, organic chicken and turkey) – Protein contains neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that play a role in mood regulation
  • Vitamin D (found in eggs, liver, salmon, and mushrooms) – key player in mood regulation with low levels linked to feeling of depression
  • Magnesium (found in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, and cashews ) – adequate magnesium levels are linked to improved sleep, feelings of calmness and helps regulate the body’s response to stress overall.
  • B-complex (found in organ meats, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, free-range eggs, beans, nutritional yeast, and mushroom.)  – plays a role in producing various neurotransmitters, thereby affecting mood
  • Iron (found in shellfish, liver and organ meats, red meat, spinach, legumes, and pumpkin seeds) – deficiency may manifest as anxiety, depression, irritability, poor concentration, and restlessness 
  • Folate (found in dark leafy greens, asparagus lentils, chickpeas, and eggs) –  low levels have been linked with depression and anxiety. 
  • Potassium (found in beans, dark leafy greens, and bananas) – helps regulate mood potentially through its impact on serotonin (known as the happy neurotransmitter/hormone)
  • Dark Chocolate – contains compounds that stimulate endorphins and may ease symptoms of depression and anxiety due to its high flavanol content  

However, if you are suffering from mood imbalances addressing the root cause is key and solely focusing on foods or utilizing supplements should not be used or prioritized to mask the root cause; rather we believe they can be used as a tool! 

Check out our in-depth blog post on the impact of food on mood!

The Bottom Line

In reading this post you have realized there is a lot of overlap between foods and nutrients to support different parts of the body. The reason is that all of these foods are nutrient-dense packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, high-quality proteins, and more! It is amazing how eating a whole food plant-based diet that is minimally processed can support and nourish your body in so many ways whether it be the hair on your head, mood, heart, gut, you name it! 

Want to optimize your diet to improve your help? Click here to work with me! 

Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN