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Food For Thought

With Thanksgiving over, and Christmas just around the corner, many of us are thinking about our waistlines –and delicious Christmas cookies, of course. And pie. And ham. And…I’ll just stop there. Since we’ll all be eating so many yummy foods, it seems like a great time to talk about how food affects your overall skincare regime. You’ve almost certainly heard about how bad or good most of these foods are for the rest of you, but we’re going to look at how they affect skin specifically. Great skin starts from the inside out after all!

The Not-So-Great Foods:

  • Refined Sugar – No surprise here, but processed sugars and hydrogenated corn syrup are basically the Grinch for your skin. When sugar breaks down in your body, it can bind to proteins like collagen. Collagen keeps the skin firm and taut, so when sugar binds to it, it can sag and lose its firmness. Sugar has also been linked to acne in multiple studies.

  • White Bread – White bread has been connected to an increase in acne and inflammation. White flour is typically stripped of important vitamins and nutrients during processing. For a healthier option, try whole wheat and oats, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

  • Too Much Salt – We of course need a certain amount of salt in our diet. But too much iodized salt leads to water retention and puffy skin. Some studies even link diets high in iodized salt to acne. To maintain rich flavor in food without bloating your skin, use sea salt when possible and stronger spice blends to decrease the need for excess iodized salt.

  • Excess Caffeine – This breaks my heart. I love coffee. Sooo much. But the good news is, if you stay under 2-3 cups of coffee per day, it’s not too bad. An excess of caffeine can stimulate adrenocorticol levels in the body, which in turns leads to more of the hormone cortisol floating around. You’ve probably heard of cortisol, or of its other name, the “stress hormone”. Oh dear, sounds terrifying! Like all hormones, your body needs a balanced amount, but we can often end up with too much cortisol, which accelerates the aging process and thins skin.

The Awesome, Skintastic Foods:

  • Sweet Potatoes! These puppies are loaded with beta-carotene, which has been shown to have an anti-aging affect. Orange-y foods like squash and carrots also contain high amounts of beta-carotene.

  • Salmon! And fish oils in general. These all contain omega-3 fatty acids –something that lines healthy cell membranes and strengthens cell walls. Stronger cells means that skin retains more moisture and looks firmer and more vibrant.

  • Blueberries! These are a wonderful antioxidant. In fact, most berries contain antioxidants, vitamin C, and other nutrients that directly enrich your skin. Blueberries happen to contain one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants –and those little buggers attack free radicals (which are often caused by UV damage and pollution – and which speed up the aging process).

  • Olive Oil! This oil has long been associated with healthy skin. Olive oil has antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids work to keep skin youthful, while antioxidants remove damaging free radicals.

  • Dark Chocolate! Yes. Please. The cocoa in dark chocolate has flavanol, which helps promote circulation and hydrate skin. Why is it better than milk chocolate for you? Simple answer: less sugar, less dairy, and a higher concentration of cocoa.

Foods rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and detoxifying agents all help skin maintain a healthy glow. Look for ways to add tomatoes, oats, green tea, kale, citrus, and walnuts and other natural foods to your diet to give your skin an extra boost! There are many other foods to avoid too. Hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, and an excess of hormones from dairy and meat can all negatively impact how your body functions –which in turn affects your skin. Ultimately, being more thoughtful and intentional about what we eat has benefits from the inside out.

Bonus Recipe for a healthier holiday side dish:

  • 1 large butternut squash

  • 2 TBSP olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic – pressed or crushed

  • ½ C. whole wheat bread crumbs

  • ¼ C. parmesan cheese

  • Parsley for garnish

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Peel squash, and slice into ½ inch sections. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper before arranging in baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and parmesan and bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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