Spring is just around the corner and we have so many things to be looking forward to. It is also a reminder that we may likely have abandoned a New Years resolution or two as we imagine ourselves on the beach and then quickly remember that we were suppose to be maintaining all that healthy eating and we were going to have slimmed down and have amazing skin by now.
At Life with Moxie, creators of Moxie Creed skincare, we often speak about how poor choices in food and drinks, lead to both short and long-term damage to your body. Not coincidentally, your skin, as an organ of your body, will become damaged and will heal and restore itself the same way your body will and with the same foods. Said a different way, the most powerful foods for keeping your whole body healthy will also give you beautiful, glowing skin.
First, let’s review what foods damage our bodies. Refined sugar, dairy, meat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and diet/low fat/low or no sugar anything. Most of these are likely not new to you so we won’t spend a lot of time on them here. I want to focus on the individual foods that heal us.
When our true goal is health and vitality, the superficial goals we may have been considering will likely fall into place as well, such as weight loss, happiness and beautiful skin. So what are these amazing foods and where do I find them?
We are so far away from the days of eating pure food sourced from the land that many of these foods may seem far too simple to be as powerful as they are. Why is that? Mainly because we have spent the last 50 years being brainwashed into believing that factories and labs create food and that these foods are in our best interest. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Factories employ food scientists (not gardeners, let alone nutritionists), they create food-like products that need no refrigeration, they are “instant,” they can go to space without going bad and can be frozen for months and still taste the same. This is not food. Real food goes bad- that’s a good thing, rather like a litmus test of whether its actual food.
~Let food me thy medicine and medicine be thy food.~ Hippocrates
Before we begin creating a solid foundation of wellness for our bodies, we must stop with the “dieting,” constantly stressing our bodies trying a variety of extremes that are notoriously lacking in essential nutrients that will ravage the body, let alone the effect it has on our skin. We need to aim toward eating plenty of beans, oatmeal and brown rice and other slow-releasing carbohydrates. These release sugar into the blood stream gradually, providing you with a steady supply of energy and leaving you feeling satisfied for longer and therefore less likely to snack. Avoid high GI carbohydrates like chips, pretzels, white bread and sugary sodas and sports drinks, as they lead to production of insulin, which may damage collagen and accelerate wrinkles as well as cause inflammation throughout the body.
Phyto-estrogens are natural chemicals found in plant foods. There are different types, some are found in soy (isoflavones), whereas others are found in the fiber of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and flax seeds. Include phyto-estrogen rich soy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
Here is a generous list of power-packed healing foods so you can find more than a few you’ll want to incorporate for yourself.
Keeping your body hydrated and detoxified is a minimum requirement for your body to maintain its ability to heal itself. Not only will upping your fluid levels help to keep your brains fully functional and therefore better able to cope with stress, but it also replenishes water in the cells. Make sure you drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, and drink more after exercise. Add a squeeze of lemon, a bit of cucumber or spearmint to keep it interesting.
Drinking anti-oxidant polyphenol-rich green tea will improve your skin and boost your beauty. Studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes and some cancers, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids. Regardless of the variety of tea you choose, maximize the power of its flavonoids by drinking it freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, add a little lemon juice—the citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon, lime or orange help preserve the flavonoids.
Each clove of garlic is full of a naturally occurring chemical called allicin, which, when digested, reacts with the blood to create a product capable of killing off many harmful bacteria and viruses your body might be harboring – including that which causes acne and other skin infections. Couple this with a potent cocktail of antioxidants, and it’s almost unbeatable. To get the most out of garlic, eat raw, chopped finely into a salad or stirred into a meal before serving.
Make sure you get enough omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are essential fatty acids which means they cannot be made in the body and must be obtained through the diet and are readily available in olive oil. When researchers in a 2012 study analyzed the diets of 1264 women, they found that a higher consumption of olive oil (more than 8.4 grams or 2 teaspoons a day) was associated with 31% fewer signs of aging compared to people who ate less than 3.8 grams (about 1 teaspoon). Olive oil beat out the other oils tested, including sunflower and peanut. Why? About 75% of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids, which may play a role in the youth boost. The antioxidant polyphenols in olive oil could also quench damaging free radicals. Omega-3 fats encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help skin, particularly inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis as well as general inflammation throughout the body.
Next time you make a salad, try substituting a few lettuce leaves for some peppery watercress. The leafy greens are packed full of antioxidants as well as the minerals manganese, carotene and potassium. This makes watercress a powerful cleansing agent, nourishing the skin while helping to flush out toxins and excess fluids in the process.
Tiny but mighty, sprouts are packed with valuable, skin-clearing nutrients such as calcium, folic acid, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sodium and zinc among others, as well as supplying a full range of vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K. Who needs multivitamins when you can sprinkle a few of these on your salad? They’re relatively inexpensive, too.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, which helps to keep the skin firm and taut by aiding collagen production. They also contain lycopene: the red pigment that not only gives them their bright red color, but also stimulates skin circulation. People who ate 5 tablespoons of tomato paste daily, along with almost a tablespoon of olive oil for 12 weeks, had 33% more protection from sunburn compared to a control group that ate just olive oil, according to a 2008 UK study. The antioxidant lycopene (levels of which are higher in cooked, processed tomatoes) also improves skin’s natural SPF.
Kale contains a full range of vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K, as well as potent levels of manganese, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, protein, folate and phosphorus. We love adding a handful of kale into a soup with some of the other ingredients listed here for a real skin-clearing tonic.
If you’re not familiar with this licorice-flavored root vegetable already – get to know it. It’s wonderfully refreshing and a timely spring favorite. Aside from aiding digestion, reducing swelling in the body and helping to flush out excess fluids and toxins, it also works wonders for the health of your skin and hair, so pick up a box of tea or pick up a few roots the slice and eat raw in a salad or for roasting.
Regular consumption of these woody, fibrous vegetables has been linked to healthier skin, and in particular, improved skin luminosity. Artichoke is frequently used as an herbal remedy in creams and cosmetics because of their high antioxidant potency, but included as part of a healthy diet, can also benefit the body by easing digestion, lowering cholesterol and aiding the body’s natural immune system defenses. Pick up a couple from your local supermarket, trim back the thorns and boil for around 25-45 minutes.
They might stain your fingers, but the skin-clearing properties of beetroots are well worth the effort. The purple roots are particularly high in vitamin A, as well as potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E, which is essential for epidermal health and healing. Combined, these nutrients make a powerful all-round body cleanser, helping to eliminate toxins from the body and lower cholesterol too.
Apart from kale, we struggle to think of a vegetable more worthy of the ‘super’ title than broccoli. This green powerhouse packs vitamins C, A and K (which helps with bone health) as well as folate. There is another reason broccoli frequently earns a top spot on “super foods” lists: it delivers a healthy dose of sulforaphane, a type of isothiocyanate that is thought to thwart cancer by helping to stimulate the body’s detoxifying enzymes. Antioxidants like vitamins A, B complex, C, E, and K all help to add luminosity to the skin and to revive damaged tissue, while omega 3 fatty acids, calcium and folate support the healing process and aid the proper function of skin cells. Eat raw in a salad, or lightly steamed, to get the most out of your florets.
Any healing process needs protein and energy, and legumes – peas, beans, and lentils – have both these things in abundance. Beans are a good plant-based source of iron (up to 13 mg per 3/4 cup), a mineral that transports oxygen from your lungs to the cells in your body. They also contain a potent cocktail of vitamins and minerals as well as being particularly high in dietary fiber, which aids the body’s natural digestion process and assists detoxification. A 1/2 cup of cooked navy beans packs a whopping 7 grams of fiber, while the same amount of lentils and kidney beans provide 8 and 6 grams, respectively. Much of this fiber is the soluble kind that benefits blood cholesterol levels. All these things help in the battle for clearer skin, so try switching your usual portion of carbohydrates for a few spoons of beans and see if it helps.
Is there a better way to increase your protein intake than by working tofu into your meal plan? The soft, omelet-like substance made from soy beans is a clean and very absorbable source of healing vegetable protein, calcium and healthy unsaturated fats – a killer combination for anyone suffering from a skin condition. It is also a rich source of antioxidants, as well as minerals iron, copper and manganese. We love our tofu freshly sprinkled over a salad or cooked into a stir fry. Try adding some of the other ingredients on this list for a super skin-boosting meal. Look for readily available non-GMO organic tofu.
There is strong evidence to suggest that removing dairy products from the diet will ease the symptoms of acne in some sufferers. However, there is little way of telling whether this will work for you or not unless you try substituting milk for an alternative and monitoring your progress over time. Oat milk is high in fiber, lactose free and is particularly high in vitamin E and folic acid, which supports healthy skin and makes it a great milk alternative. Pick up a carton from your local supermarket to try it out.
It has been suggested that steady blood sugar levels and skin health could be linked, so it makes sense to try swapping out processed white carbohydrates for brown, wholegrain, low glycemic index foods like brown rice. A portion a day not only provides a rich source of B vitamins, protein, selenium and magnesium, as well as several antioxidants, but also helps to regulate your sugar levels by releasing energy slowly throughout the day rather than all at once like processed carbs do.
This buttery green fruit is widely known to be a great source of vitamin E, which boosts the skin’s vitality and luminosity. However, it also possesses good quantities of vitamin C, which can be used to reduce skin inflammation, while avocado oil is thought to stimulate the production of collagen in the skin, which improves its tone and texture. Eating a regular portion of avocado (half a pear will do!) can also improve the skin’s ability to keep itself moisturized.
All berries are great sources of fiber—a nutrient that most Americans don’t get enough of and one that is important for a healthy digestive system. Fiber may help to promote weight loss. Raspberries boast the most at 8 grams per cup—and also contain ellagic acid, a compound with anti-cancer properties. The same amount of blueberries has half the fiber (4 grams), but is packed with anthocyanins, antioxidants that may help keep memory sharp as you age. A cup of strawberries contains 3 grams of fiber, but more than a full day’s recommended dose of skin-firming vitamin C.
These tiny purple fruits are one of the most potent forms of antioxidants in the world, and as such, are fabulous for skin health, as they help to eliminate toxins and free radicals in the body. Acai berries are also believed to help control appetite hormones, increase energy, prevent heart disease and help with many metabolic functions.
It is thought that red grapes – and their seeds – contain powerful natural chemicals and antioxidants that have been shown to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. As a natural antihistamine, grapes can also help to control the side effects of allergic reactions. Try popping a few washed grapes (with seeds) into a fresh salad, or enjoy a handful as part of a healthy snack between meals.
It’s really hard to pick fault with a cup of peppermint tea, which is known for its potent healing and calming properties. Not only can it help to aid digestion, relieve stress – a common acne aggravator – treat headaches and clear sinuses, but it’s seriously good for the skin, too. Try swapping it in for your usual cup of builders brew and see if it makes a difference.
Deficiencies in minerals such as zinc and selenium have been linked to acne in some sufferers, which is why nuts – in particular pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts – are a good, healthy snack to get used to. Selenium helps to actively increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in the body and strengthens their fighting power, while vitamin E, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium and iron are all essential to skin health and function. Nuts are rich sources of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Studies of Seventh-Day Adventists show that those who eat nuts add, on average, an extra two and a half years to their lives. Walnuts may be the spotlight-stealers, though, with their high level of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that’s been linked to heart health and improved mood. Walnuts’ high mono- and polyunsaturated-fat content also helps reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining healthy levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Try sprinkling a handful of pumpkin seeds over your salad. Each kernel is high in vitamin E, zinc and omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, making them a good veggie skin clearing substitute.
In reviewing the list, how about a toasted whole grain sandwich with avocado, tomato and sprouts with splash of olive oil and dusting of Himalayan salt, or an entrée of brown rice, beans, avocado and tomato, or Roasted artichokes antipasti with tomatoes, olives, garbanzo beans, or a lovely watercress mix salad topped with steamed broccoli, roasted beets sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and toasted pine nuts with a ginger garlic dressing. So many easy and amazing options!
Once you make changes to your diet, don’t expect an overnight miracle. It takes six weeks for new skin to emerge up to the surface, so the visible benefits from dietary changes may take just as long. For persistent skin conditions, or other physical ailments, talk to a functional medicine doctor or consider seeing a dermatologist.
Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!
Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company www.lifewithmoxie.com and www.moxiecreed.com and Host of Life with Moxie Radio, Saturday’s at 1pm on 98.9 WGUF in Southwest Florida. You can reach her at Julie@lifewithmoxie.com.
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NOTE: All health content from Life with Moxie is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider, preferably one in the field of lifestyle medicine.
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