Archive for February, 2012

Protect Your Skin From Within to Restore Your Health & Beauty During the Winter Months

skin

We have been very lucky with the weather this winter and have not had too many bone chilling days! Not only does this cold weather dry out our hair, skin and nails leaving our hairy dull, skin parched and nails peeling, but it is also not very good for our health.

With a combination of the cold weather that sucks moisture out of our skin, constant dishwashing, hand washing and usage of the alcohol-laden hand sanitizers (flu bug anyone?), and the dry air caused by our heating systems, our body is parched and literally crying out for nourishment!

Aside from being cognizant of applying moisturizer frequently, purchasing a good humidifier, wearing gloves and drinking lots of water during these cold, frost-bitten winter months, it is equally important to watch what you are putting into your body! The foods we eat and supplements we take can literally nourish and moisturize your skin from within!

Do you have enough healthy fats in your diet?

This is usually the first question I ask someone! Many times clients will cut fats out of their diets in an effort to “diet” and “get healthy” not knowing that fats (at least the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat) are essential for our health. Fats do not make us fat! To read more about what fats you should be eating and why, read my article Fat Does Not Make You Fat!
In the summer months, we may be able to get away with it but in the winter months is is very important to add more healthy fats to your diet!

What types of fats should I add to my diet?

You should be thoughtful about getting plenty of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into your diet.

Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios and macadamia nuts, seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and (my favorite) chia seeds.

Polyunsaturated fats include salmon and other fatty cold-water fish such as mackerel and swordfish (watch mercury intake, though), flax seed and flax seed oil, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil.

Making sure we have enough Omega 3 rich foodscold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout, walnuts, legumes, sea vegetables such as kelp and seeds such as chia, hemp and flax seed- is essential as all of these healthy fats help us keep our skin well moisturized from within and help combat dry skin, peeling nails and dull hair!

What are some practical ways to add fats to your diet?

  • Grill vegetables such as swiss chard or Brussels sprouts in olive oil and a dash of sea salt.
  • Add avocados to your salads, sandwiches, salad dressings even smoothies! Believe it or not, avocados give a delicious taste to salad dressings and a smooth consistency to smoothies.
  • Sprinkle hemp seeds or walnuts (or some other nut or seed) over your salads, stir hemp seeds with berries into your yogurt, and sprinkle chia seeds over your morning cereal.
  • Drizzle hemp seed or Udo’s oil over salads or pasta.

It’s not all about the fats! What else will help?

Honey
Natural, raw honey is one of the most important healing foods to have in your pantry AND medicine cabinet! Honey is rich in antioxidants, minerals, probiotics and enzymes. Not only does honey have antibacterial properties and is used to heal wounds but it is also very moisterizing! Most of us have seen how every cosmetic company under the sun is adding honey to their moisturizers, soaps, bath gels and shampoos but what many don’t know is that when we ingest honey we get the same or even a greater benefit.

In our house, we use raw honey in recipes, on top of yogurt, on top of Ezekiel bread for breakfast or even in our smoothies!  Buy raw honey, if you can, as it has been processed less and is more nutritious!

Aloe Vera
Adding aloe vera to your diet- especially during the cold, dry months- is a good first step to healing and moisturizing your skin, nails and hair! Aloe vera contains vitamins A, C, and E, magnesium, chromium, selenium, fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, zinc, polysaccharides and sulfur!
Polysaccharides lubricate the skin and help stimulate collagen production. Zinc is essential for maintaining the collagen supply. And, the sulfer in aloe vera (closely related to MSM) has been known to help moisten and restore dried-out tissues such as wrinkles on the skin, collegen and other organs. Aloe vera also dissolves mucous in our intestines (not pretty but important if we want to reap all of the benefits of what we are oh, so, carefully eating!) leading to better assimilation of nutrients. The powerful cocktail, along with the antioxidants and other nutrients, results in supple, radiant looking skin!

I take a 1 oz. shot of aloe vera at night when I am on a juice fast to help my digestion and there is an immediate difference in how my skin looks and feels! This winter I am planning on adding aloe vera to my daily routine every night for extra protection! You can find aloe vera at any good health food store, but just make sure you buy the liquid one and not the gel that is used topically. Some add aloe vera into their smoothies but I find that it has a very strong taste and it is better to just down it like a wheatgrass shot, but integrate it into your diet in a way that works for you!

Water
Drink more water! This is an easy suggestion and, in this very fortunate country, a relatively easy change to implement! Our bodies are comprised of 69% water and every organ in our body from our brain to our kidneys and liver to our skin depends on water to function. Drinking enough water not only helps us flush toxins out of our system, but is also hydrating to our skin!

I constantly have a bottle of purified water by my side and am careful to get most of my liquid consumption done towards the earlier part of the day. Don’t wait until you are “thirsty” to drink because by then you are dehydrated! Hydrating your body from within, hydrates your body from without!

Coconut water, butter and oils
A few years ago, many of you would have said…”what?” But, coconut products are becoming more and more prevalent. Drinking coconut water is one of my favorite suggestions for athletes or those who burn the candle at both ends with long workdays and/or late nights!

Not only is coconut water a low calorie “sports drink” option for restoring electrolytes and providing hydration, but it also is packed with nutrition. Coconut water contains all five essential electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and calcium and is an ideal drink to replenish the body’s fluids after a strenuous workout! Again, hydrated body=hydrated skin!

Coconut butter, a medium-chain fatty acid, is another favorite suggestion for tired, dry looking skin, nails and hair. Like honey, coconut butter is an anti-viral and an ingredient very commonly found in many commercial lotions, soaps, and shampoos. When ingested, coconut butter helps moisturize our cells while rejuvenating oxidative tissue damage.

What else?
I would be remiss in not saying that you need to make sure your diet is high in nutrient-rich, antioxidant-rich foods such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries and, yes, even dark chocolate. Having enough dark leafy green vegetables in your diet would constitute an article in and of itself and anyone who knows me knows what an advocate I am for juicing! If you either add a juice to your daily routine or embark upon a juice fast, you will immediately see a difference in the quality of your skin. And, healthy skin= hydrated skin.

Bottom line is to take the time to care for yourself and be thoughtful to what you are putting into your body- it can make a big difference not only to your skin but also in your quality of life!

Chocolate: Heart Healthy and Antioxidant Rich

chocolate

I can think of no more fitting gift on Valentines Day than chocolate! Chocolate is the ideal symbol of love, because it not only represents the love that your partner feels for you but it also literally is good for your heart and your mood (and, we definitely want that up for Valentine’s Day, don’t we!)

Unfortunately, though, many recipients of this “love” are left feeling guilty thinking that it will make them gain weight or cause their face to break out. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Not only is chocolate not bad for you, but as long as you chose a high quality chocolate it is actually a good treat for you to indulge in on Valentine’s Day (or any other day for that matter!)

What are the nutritional benefits of chocolate?

Chocolate contains the photonutrients flavonol and polyphenol that are natural antioxidants, the alkaloids theobromine, phenethylamine and anandamide, and is rich in magnesium as well as iron. Chocolate can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and dementia, balance brain chemistry, help build strong bones, help prevent cancerous activity and, last but not least, help with weight loss.

On top of all that, it contains and has been linked to higher levels of the mood-altering serotonin. Chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac and boosts our mood and energy! If you are an exhausted working mom like me, it is a great pick me up in the afternoon and healthier alternative to a Starbuck’s latte!

Is there a particular type you should buy?

Good question…and, the answer is yes! Before you reach for that Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, take a look at the label! Milk chocolate contains lots of sugar and dairy and many commercial brands are basically just candy disguised as chocolate! When you buy chocolate, it is very important to make sure that you buying one that has at least 60% pure dark chocolate and is free of added sugars, saturated fats and other artificial ingredients. Avoid the chocolates stuffed with caramel or the milk chocolates laden with milk fats and sugars! Pure dark chocolate is nature’s miracle food.

What are some of my favorite chocolates?

Raw Shakti Chocolate (Loco for Coconut my favorite!)

There are so many other bars on the market, but other bars my husband likes and are readily available are Green and Black and Dagoba. Experiment and see which brand you like best!

Hot Chocolate!

I also love to make hot chocolate on cold afternoons and use that as my healthy pick me up when I need a little boost and something warm and comforting! (I have included my recipe below.)

We are all chocoholics in our family and below are some of our favorite recipes. Not only are they packed with delicious chocolate, but they are nutritious too!

Can you eat as much as you want?

No! Just because chocolate has good qualities you can “have too much of a good thing!” In all honestly, while chocolate is full of beneficial antioxidants, it still does contain sugar and should be considered a treat. It also is an acidic food, which will make your body less alkaline and more acidic- not a good thing when you are trying to get healthy and/or lose weight! To read more about the importance of being alkaline in your diet read Here is the Skinny on Alkalinity.

The important thing to do, though, is listen to your body and, if you do indulge in chocolate, enjoy it fully and guiltlessly!