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The Best Diet for Your Skin

Young woman eating salad in the kitchen

Ah, the buffet table. The never-ending choice of culinary options, healthy and unhealthy.  What do you pick? Is it the item you like best, the one that is best for you, or a combination of both? Why don’t you ask your skin? The skin is the largest organ of the body, and the outer fingerprint of inner health. That means that when it comes to food choices, your skin should have a lot of input. What would your skin pick from the buffet table? While you can’t directly ask it, luckily researchers have done a lot of the work in  taking the guesswork out of it for you. Here is a sample of what they have to say.

Olive Oil

You may have heard of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and its superfood status. That comes in part from its reputation as an anti-ager for the skin. According to a 2012 study in PLOS One, women who consumed more than 2 teaspoons of olive oil per day showed 31% fewer signs of aging that those who ate less than one teaspoon. The fat in olive oil is 75% mono saturated fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease skin aging, and the antioxidant polyphenols in the oil help to fight free radicals which can contribute to the aging process.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are another great addition to your Skin Menu. A 2008 UK study showed that people who consumed 5 tablespoons of tomato paste and a tablespoon of olive oil daily, for a period of 12 weeks, showed a 33% greater increase in sun protection than those who ate only olive oil. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been associated with increasing the skin’s natural SPF. Note: Cooking tomatoes raises lycopene levels.

Chocolate

Chocolate, good for your skin? Apparently, aside from the sugar level, chocolate is a definite skin friendly ingredient. The flavanols in chocolate contain antioxidant properties to improve circulation and keep skin hydrated. In fact, women who consumed a flavanol-enriched cocoa powdered drink for a 12-week period reported less skin dryness and roughness compared to those who did not drink the cocoa. While the test group consumed the equivalent of 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate, Lisa Drayer, MA, RD, suggests keeping chocolate consumption down to a one ounce portion to reap the benefits without the calories.

Oatmeal

If your idea of a typical breakfast is a bagel and jelly, you may want to rethink your choice. Apparently the bagel and jelly combo is a double threat to the skin, offering refined carbs which stimulate insulin and androgens in the body. Drayer says,”Elevated androgens cause sebaceous glands in the skin to secrete more oil that gets trapped inside pores, causing pimples.” Apparently, this is not the case with oatmeal, although experts advise swapping out the brown sugar for natural fruit.

Sardines

Big things come in little packages. One serving of sardines contains 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, putting it at the top of the list of good fat sources. Like other fatty fish, sardines are rich in an anti inflammatory omega-3, called DHA. Dr. Jessica Wu, MD, says, “inflammation is now known as the root cause of acne.” Eat sardines for clear skin.

What’s your skin menu like? Let us know what the best diet is for your face. We want to know!

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Curb Your White Sugar Cravings

Friends enjoying cupcakes at a cafe

Stevia, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, advantame, aspartame, neotame, sorbitol and xylitol—these are all sugar substitutes approved for use by government. If the sheer number is not enough to confuse you, the spelling and pronunciation surely will. And, to add to the confusion, not all sugar substitutes are created equal. Here’s the lowdown on healthy (and not so healthy) alternatives to the white stuff.

Natural Sugars

Stevia

Imported from Latin America, Stevia has only recently become popular in the US. With a taste 30 times sweeter then sugar, Julie Daniluk, RHN, says, “It’s calorie-free and it is the safest sugar substitute because all the others are chemicals that can have serious side effects. As for the taste, when refined into a white substance, Stevia loses its hints of licorice and most of its aftertaste, the rest of which can be completely eliminated with lemon. Not great for coffee, which won’t do much to hide the flavor, better in tea.”

Honey

Honey is a natural sweetener and natural healant. Daniluk says, “When unrefined and unpasteurized, it contains B vitamins, minerals like manganese and iron.” She adds, “The coolest part it is it contains antibiotic properties.”

This means that honey is high in peroxide which can kill any microbe in its orbit. However, cooking the honey will remove the peroxide as well as said antibiotic properties.

Rachel Begun, MS, RD, says that honey “is also considered to better promote blood sugar control.” Nutritionally, honey contains approximately 32 calories per teaspoon, but since it is 20% sweeter than sugar, you’ll end up using less

Agave

Not so good for us, not so good for bats. Although it may be a great alternative to sugar in terms of taste, it seems like this cactus extract from Mexico is a substance that bats need to survive, which means our harvesting it is harmful to bat populations. Agave can also be harmful to the liver when eaten in large amounts. In addition, there is reason to believe cheap agave is cut with corn syrup, so health-conscious consumers should look for organic, sustainable brands. As for calories, it weighs in at about the same as honey, containing 30 calories per teaspoon.

Artifical Substitutes

Aspartame

Aspartame is a chemically-created, low-calorie alternative to sugar, with 200 times its sweetness. It contains an enzyme which can cause problems for people who can’t metabolize it properly, some of whom report headaches. Aspartame is not recommended for baking because it loses its sweetness when exposed to high temperatures. You’re most likely to have seen it marketed as Equal or NutraSweet.

Sucralose

Sucralose is a sugar substitute 600 times sweeter than the original. It contains no calories and is a combination of sucrose with chlorine attached. The chlorine prevents the absorption of calories because the body is unable to break down chlorine. “Problem is,” Daniluk says, “it kills the bacteria in your bowels just like it kills the bacteria in your swimming pool.” In essence, sucralose may be great for your weight loss, but it’s no friend to your bowels. Splenda is the brand name for sucralose, which according to a study by the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, causes blood cancers in mice who ate it daily. The Center for Science in the Public Interest now warns consumers against it.

What are your top choices for sugar substitutes? Natural, artificial, or back to sugar?  Let us know what team you’re on.

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Sleep More, Eat Better, Exercise Daily

Woman stretching in the gym

Sleep more, eat better, and exercise.  If health is the new religion, this is the Holy Trinity, and our body is our temple.  In order to say feeling and looking great, we need to create a balance of all three.  Here are some ways we can incorporate all three into our lives to stay happy and healthy.

Sleep

We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep.  Without it, your mind and body won’t work as effectively as it might otherwise. When you work out, you break muscles by putting stress on them, which makes them stronger, but to do this, you need to give your body adequate recovery time.

Sleep also restores attentiveness and brain function and can boost your daily productivity and effectiveness.  Try to get 8-10 hours a night. Getting less than this can hinder a person’s ability to lose weight.

According to a 1999 University of Chicago study, restricting sleep of healthy young adults to four hours a night was enough to produce insulin and glucose characteristics similar to those of diabetics. Although four hours may seem a bit extreme, it is not uncommon to see such links between lack of sleep and obesity, so be sure to get those zzz’s in.

Eat

When hunger strikes, the most convenient options are often not the most healthy, and sometimes convenience is a priority, but beware.  Journalist and nutritionist Rob Friedman cites a study reporting that participants who ate more fruits and vegetables and decreased fat intake were “happier, more engaged and more creative” than their less healthy counterparts.

The common misconception about food is that we think of it as “fuel”. According to Friedman, food is less predictable and what you eat can affect you in different ways so you need to “eat smart.”

Try to moderate the amount of sugar and caffeine in your diet, eat lean sources of protein and replace sweets with whole grain carbohydrates and fruits.  Drink plenty of water and make sure you get your key nutrients.

Exercise

Current studies show that exercising four to five times weekly for thirty minutes is best, however even ten minute energy walks can be effective for increasing energy levels and improving mood. Try to schedule regular exercise into your routine each day and try to do a variety of exercises to target different muscles and to keep from getting bored.

Although exercise is always beneficial, proper timing may help to optimize the benefits.  Because exercise speeds the metabolism it may be a good idea to get in a good workout at the start of the day, but exercising right before bedtime may interfere with sleep.  Sleep experts advise exercise in at least three hours before you turn in for the night and say the best time for exercise is actually late afternoon. This is because body temperature can take up to six hours to begin to drop after exercising.  Since cooler body temperatures are best for the onset of sleep, late afternoon exercise provides the proper amount of time for a cool down.

What do you think? Are good nutrition, a balanced diet and adequate sleep the three golden rules for staying healthy?  Let us know how you do it!  We love to hear it.