Healthy skin is more than just skin care.
Everything you eat, and how efficiently you digest it, assimilate it, and eliminate it affects your entire body, and especially your skin's condition and appearance. In fact, our emotions, i.e., how we feel when we eat, can influence how it's digested. Be at peace and with focused attention when eating, enjoy your food.
Here's a quick list (and by no means complete) of my favorite food choices that work together to support the body's health, and transform the skin's appearance.
*Using organic food choices are all assumed.
Starting the day
Although everybody is different, my breakfast preference is to always start the day with a nourishing breakfast. Something simple, and for me this includes a little protein instead of fruit. Fruit has two sugars, fructose and glucose, so maybe it’s my sugar sensitivity, but protein keeps my energy up, and my brain in gear. Two essentials.
Starting the day with protein stabilizes blood sugar, provides energy, and offers deep nourishment for the brain and nervous system. One of my favorite breakfasts is a pastured egg(s), either poached, soft-boiled, or scrambled. I will often add a small amount of seaweed that I have soaked, or a handful of chopped herbs, a little ghee or raw butter.
Pastured eggs have seven times more beta-carotene and three times more vitamin E than factory farm eggs. Another protein choice: organic, whole milk cottage cheese (Kalona Super Natural is a favorite of mine), with a side of avocado sprinkled with hemp seeds, and maybe add a small side of fermented beets...or kimchi. Or both.
In the summer when fresh fruits and berries are abundant, I will always eat a bowl of whenever berries I can get, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries (I am addicted), blueberries, etc, often as a topping over cottage cheese, or full fat yogurt.
I recently made a morning FACE MASK out of a mixture of every hue of deep blue berries I could find! I mixed a little olive oil and a big tablespoon of local Orange Blossom Honey, and I added a small droplet of neroli to the mask…
I blended it all in my Vitamix and applied to my skin. I spread a blanket on the grass, put cucumber slices on my eyes, and rested. Twenty minutes later, I rinsed it all off. My skin was soft, hydrated, fragrant and I was rested and relaxed…. And a bonus, whatever berries were left over went into my fruit galette that evening.
For meal choices for the rest of the day, I recommend a balance of foods high in anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids (the omega 3's), such as from wild caught salmon. Add to a salad of raw or cooked vegetables. Alternatives are sardines over romaine with a squeeze of lemon and a generous sprinkling of toasted sesame, chia or hemp seed. These seeds offer dense nutrition: they're high in omega 3's, and a good source of iron, calcium, niacin and B-12....and quick to fix.
There are few foods more nourishing than an authentic BONE BROTH. (chicken, fish, beef or lamb), and I suggest it as an alternative morning drink, but obviously bone broth can be added to any meal. Or be a meal in itself! There's nothing like it. Toss steamed/sautéed vegetables into a Vitamix, add the broth and whip. Top with toasted seeds such a sunflower, pumpkin or sesame as a topping.
Bone broth is so foundational. An authentic bone broth is a true labor of love and can take anywhere from 24-48 hours to complete. A bone broth is different from a stock.
Afternoons can be a low energy time for many, me included, and here's one of my favorite recipes for an afternoon break:
Avocado Coconut Rose Smoothie
- native forest unsweetened coconut milk
- raw whipping cream (okay, optional, but really a treat!)
- rose petal elixir (I love Avena Botanicals)
- a ½ tsp of Matcha green tea
- ¼ avocado
- one egg yolk (optional)
Whip and drink, or spoon.
As a mid-afternoon snack it will calm and soothe a busy brain and nervous system.
Spices and seeds
Both these categories offer many valuable micronutrients and antioxidants to foods and are valuable for calming inflammatory skin conditions, and there are so many to choose from, here's a short list: turmeric, ajwain, cumin, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom... Spices can easily be added to soups/stews, salads, or grilled vegetables or fish, such as salmon.
For instance, cumin “adds a subtle but important flavor note to grilled salmon. This key constituent of Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cooking is a good source of iron and offers bountiful health benefits. Like fennel seeds...cumin seeds are traditional digestive aids that may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation. The potent antioxidant phenols in cumin reduce activation of NF-kB: is a pro-inflammatory “nuclear transcription factor” linked to inflammation-related conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, allergy, asthma, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease. Cumin also appears to boost the efficiency of the liver's detoxification processes." (recipes and info: vitalchoice.com).
One of my favorite digestive teas is CCF tea: Cumin Coriander Fennel. I also love infusing dried organic Nettles in a ½ gal glass jar. I pour boiling water over 1 cup of dried nettles, and infuse it on the counter overnight. Strain in the morning. Keep refrigerated and consume within two days.
Seeds such as chia, sunflower, hemp, flax, pumpkin and sesame, etc... are easy to add to salads or main dishes, and are great sources of protein and oils such as essential omega 3's. The silky glow of healthy skin can be attributed to many things; one of them is an adequate amount of oil, internally and externally.
I also love quinoa, not technically a grain or a grass, but a chenopod, more closely related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds (seriously). [Wikipedia]
I love chopping up a fresh and fragrant mixture of herbs such as parsley (all the various types), mint, lavender, savory, basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme and basil.
I use the mixture as a fresh condiment, sprinkling it generously over anything and everything such as eggs, steamed veggies or salads. A simple mixture of fresh herbs can add significant amounts of flavor, but also vitamins and various nutrients. For instance, parsley can offer calcium, iron, and vitamins K and C. Herbs can also supply valuable immune-enhancing, anti-microbial aromatic molecules, all of which combine to aid digestion and assimilation, and again, directly impact the skin's health and appearance.
Milk, and dairy in general, gets a bad rap and I will agree - as long as we're referring to homogenized milk. Homogenized milk vs organic raw milk (from grass fed cows) are two very different milk products.
I do drink full fat raw milk. It makes a great nourishing, quick snack. I like to add a few droppers of Rose Petal Elixir (AvenaBotanicals.com). Raw milk exhibits none of the bad traits that industrialized homogenized milk does.
Organic raw milk from grass fed cows offers a significant source of essential probiotics, the "good bacteria" found in unprocessed foods and in some yogurts, and full fat raw milk. Raw milk is also high in vitamin K2, omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer linoleic acid. Keeping a healthy balance of these good bacteria can aid in digestion and help with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. The skin participates with the organs of digestion, and the relative health of the digestive system is revealed in the appearance of the skin. Glowing, clear skin is a reliable barometer of good digestive health, and diet.
Needless to say, it's important to drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day. Adequate water intake supports the performance of all the body's organs and systemic interactions - it cleanses, cools and aids digestion.
One of my favorite drinks is the fluid from a fresh coconut. Coconut water contains electrolytes, such as potassium and calcium. It contains essential minerals such as copper and Vitamin C, perfect supplements for keeping the skin soft and supple, and youthful-appearing skin is all about flexibility. Coconut water also is a boon to digestion - essential for clean, clear skin. And in hot weather it is a super fluid to combat dehydration.
Fermented foods are beneficial contributors to digestion, they're great source of probiotics and an aid to acid/alkaline (pH) balance...I've recently discovered Fresh Cultured Live Salsa (rejuvenative.com) which is brimming with active enzymes, I add a spoonful to my eggs in the morning. Many traditional cultures value fermented foods. For instance, in India foods such as chutneys, idlis, dosas, lassi and raita are fermented. In Japan there's miso, tempeh, kombucha, and from Korea, kimchi is one of my recent favorites...
Fermentation makes foods more vital and more nutritious; they help us stay healthy by improving immunity, preventing allergies and aiding digestion, and a healthy gut flora directly results in healthy skin function.
Fresh + local
Fruits and Vegetables! Choose locally grown and seasonal whenever possible. For instance, if it's January in Minnesota or Maine, don't go on a mono fast of cantaloup and watermelon. In winter, eat warm soups, oatmeal, winter squash, etc. When shopping, look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Antioxidant-loaded super stars such as dandelion greens, chard, sweet potato, kale, carrots, peppers; and in season fruit such as organic melon, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, etc. The deep color is your clue that the food is packed with antioxidants called polyphenols (in dark chocolate, too).
I'm a big fan...Deep green extra virgin olive oil, golden ghee from grass fed cows, and coconut oil, a medium chain triglyceride: "What makes them unique," says Peter Attia MD (peterattiamd.com) is that we can't store them (medium chain triglycerides) and therefore must immediately use them." Oils, and other sources of saturated fats, offer deep nutrition for the skin and are great sources of energy for the body and the brain.
Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a common skin condition in which keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles; symptoms include small bumps that look like "goose bumps" on the back of the upper arms, thighs, etc. It’s a skin condition that could be a marker for Vitamin A deficiency. Supplementing with oils such as cod liver or coconut may offer help.
Adequate daily amounts of oil create a skin that is luminous, soft, supple and alive, yet the converse is also true, nothing devitalizes and ages skin faster than a non- or low fat diet.
And finally, my list wouldn't be complete without a suggestion of foods important to exclude from the diet, such as soy, wheat and other refined carbohydrates and, of course, sugar(s).
Read labels. The over-hyped Vitamin Water-type drinks are loaded with high fructose corn syrup. My list most definitely includes the fake natural: ‘agave nectar’ which is nothing more than just tarted-up high fructose corn syrup. In fact, according to Andrew Weil, MD (drweil.com):
As it turns out, agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, more even than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)."
And let's face it, nutrition is medicine
Some of my favorite nutritional reference books
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
Catherine Shanahan, MD and Luke Shanahan
Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom On Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
Sally Fallon w/ Mary Enig, PhD
The Fourfold Path to Healing - Working with the Laws of Nutrition, Therapeutics, Movement and Meditation in the Art of Medicine
Thomas Cowan, MD
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
Sandor Ellix Katz
Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholestero
Mary G. Enig, Ph.D
Walk in beauty…. xo, Evan
A Walking Meditation: Above all do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill... if one keeps on walking everything will be alright.