Vegan Kabocha and Carrot Soup | The Beauty of Beta-Carotene

Growing up I hated my skin. I had acne. It wasn’t bad enough to require Acutane, but bad enough to call for time consuming measures to fix it. I tried expensive creams, pills, peels, cortisone shots, prescription topical lotions, weekly facials, steaming, makeup, cleanses and prayer. My mom even convinced me once to give up chocolate! Nothing worked.

It wasn’t until I really cleaned up my diet, and eventually became plant-based that I started noticing a profound improvement in my skin. My breakouts became less frequent, and people started complimenting me on my skin- saying things like, “Your skin is glowing! What do you do?”. By the time I started getting those compliments, I was certain that this vast improvement had come from my diet and lifestyle changes. I had cut out animal products, and started exploring the wide world of vegetables.

Plant-based foods have the power to transform your health and skin because they contain an amazing array of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants, and other compounds.

One of my favorite beautifying compounds is Beta-Carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Many foods contain this amazing antioxidant, but most notably the orange colored foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and squash. Beta-carotene is even abundant in green veggies like kale and broccoli.

So what makes beta-carotene so great for the skin? 

1.) Beta-carotene is an antioxidant meaning it helps prevent harm done by free radicals (cell damagers) in the body. Cell damage could be anything from wrinkles to cancer, and antioxidants step in to prevent the damage from happening.
 

2.) Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A which promotes healthy cell turnover. It can help reduce wrinkles, fine lines and acne.
 

3.) It will make you glow! Have you ever heard anyone talk of turning orange after eating too many carrots? Though I’ve never seen anyone turn bright orange, I can attest to the healthy glow one has when consuming a balanced diet with beta-carotene. Don’t believe me? Check out this study done at The University of Nottingham.

There are so many delicious ways to eat for beautiful healthy skin. Eating a diet rich in beta-carotene is just one example. Check out the recipe below for an example of how I get my dose of the amazing antioxidant.
 

To learn more about what to eat for beautiful skin, join me this Friday (Feb. 22nd) in NYC for a very special workshop. I’ll share more tips and secrets for attaining clear glowing skin, and teach you how to make a few more of my beauty faves! Click here to REGISTER!

Vegan Kabocha & Carrot Soup with Berbere Spice

(Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend made with many fabulous anti-inflammatory spices. It is spicy, aromatic and, thanks to the anti-inflammatory spices within it, great for the skin! Berbere spice can be purchased online or at some ethnic markets. Or make your own, here’s a good recipe. If you don’t have kabocha squash you can use buttercup, butternut or sweet potatoes). Serves 4.

1 Kabocha Squash (aka Japanese Pumpkin), about 3lbs, halved and seeds removed
2 tbsp coconut oil, or olive oil
1 tbps Berbere spice blend (+1 tsp or more to taste)
1lb carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced ginger (more is good too!)
6 cups of water (or one quart vegetable broth, plus more water to thin if necessary)1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 cup parsley, minced (optional, but delightful!)

Preheat oven to 425°. Drizzle a little oil onto each half of the kabocha squash, then place face up on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool enough to handle.

In a large pot, warm coconut oil on medium high heat. Add Berbere when warm, and toast in the oil for about 20 seconds to ignite the flavors. Add the minced garlic and onion, and stir. Cook until onions are translucent. Add the carrots and ginger to cook for a minute or two, followed by the 6 cups of water. Bring to boil. As the soup is coming to a boil, scoop out the flesh of the kabocha squash and add it into the pot. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Add the bouillon cube, and stir to dissolve. Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the soup to a blender to puree. Careful, the soup is hot. I always wait for it to cool a little.
Back in the pot, season the pureed soup to taste with more Berbere, salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve!