Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Hidden Beauty in Foods

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”  Well, it’s true. 

Food is magical.  It not only nourishes your body, but it contains hidden beauty secrets.  If you choose wisely, the foods you eat can help you show off long and lustrous hair, soft and clear skin, bright eyes, a gleaming smile and strong nails.

Skeptical?  Let us prove it to you.

While there’s really no such thing as anti-aging lotions or potions—we’re all going to age through the years, whether we like it or not—you can age gracefully, and feel beautiful through those years.  And food can help.

Beauty-boosting foods are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Antioxidants protect the body from damage from free radicals.  As we age, free radicals and sun exposure destroys the essential building blocks for the cells in your skin—collagen and elastin—weakening the structure of our skin and allowing wrinkles to form.  Anti-inflammatory foods help to fight chronic infections, a cause of accelerated aging.

Here are our top 10 foods with hidden beauty secrets.

Almonds, walnuts and other nuts are like the magical fountain of youth, helping you keep your smooth, youthful skin and thick, shiny hair.  Almonds are rich in Vitamin E—a free radical-fighting antioxidant—and catalase, an enzyme that may keep those gray hairs at bay by breaking down hydrogen peroxide build-up—the cause of gray.  Walnuts are the only nut rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to keep skin moist and supple.  They are also a good source of zinc, which keeps your nails strong and helps prevent your hair from shedding, keeping your thick locks.  Keep nuts in your car for easy snacking, toss in salads and vegetable side dishes or grind into a pesto.    

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Kale, and other dark, leafy greens contain carotenoids, antioxidants that reduce skin’s inflammation from the sun and helps to prevent wrinkles.  The vitamins A and C in greens keep your hair shiny and healthy by helping your hair follicles produce sebum, the body’s natural hair conditioner.  Greens simply sautéed with garlic and olive oil make a delicious side dish!  You can also add to frittatas and soups, or bake them into chips.

Raspberries are actually a member of the rose family and contain many phytochemicals beneficial to your skin and hair.  Like strawberries, raspberries are rich in Vitamin C, but they also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant which keeps your skin moist, helps fade dark spots and gives you a bright, glowing complexion.  Keep frozen raspberries in the freezer to blend into smoothies or to make easy sauces for dessert.  

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Strawberries are a rich source of Vitamin C, which is an essential building block of collagen.  One cup of strawberries gives you 100% of your daily dose of vitamin C, helping to reduce wrinkles and skin dryness.  And like raspberries, strawberries also contain ellagic acid, so add strawberries to your morning yogurt or oatmeal, toss in your salad, or dip in dark chocolate for a sweet treat! 

Apples skins contain quercetin, a flavenoid that is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.  It has been shown to reduce skin damage, keeping skin plump and elastic and wrinkles at bay.  Don’t forget—the anti-wrinkle benefit is in the skin, so don’t peel those apples!  While raw apples are delicious, try sautéing, roasting or baking them for a sweet and savory addition to dinner.

Avocados contain antioxidants and essential fatty acids and are rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which help maintain healthy skin.  Avocados will help keep your eyes clear and bright—they contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps keep your eyes healthy as we age.  Avocados are nature’s mayonnaise—mash and spread on your sandwich or combine with Greek yogurt for a delicious dip.    

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Tomatoes are nature’s sunscreen.  The lycopene in tomatoes—a potent antioxidant—may help prevent sunburn, reducing the aging skin damage from the sun.  In addition, antioxidant-rich tomatoes help your skin retain moisture, keeping your skin healthy during the long, dry days of winter and the sun-drenched days of summer.  Out of season, try oven roasting tomatoes at 250 degrees for a few hours, to concentrate their flavor and bring out that summer sweetness. 

Greek yogurt is high in both calcium and phosphorus, which helps to strengthen tooth enamel, giving you a strong, bright smile.  Greek yogurt is higher in protein than other yogurts, and protein is essential for collagen production, making your skin supple and youthful.  Use Greek yogurt as you would sour cream—as a topping for soup or potatoes and in dips and other recipes.

Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been shown to reduce the skin’s sensitivity to sun, thereby preventing wrinkles, and reduce inflammation in the skin, helping inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis.  Omega-3 fatty acids also support the health of your scalp, preventing dryness and keeping your hair shiny.  As an added benefit, salmon contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, a carotenoid that gives salmon its red color and can help improve vision and reduce wrinkles.  For a new twist on salmon, try making salmon cakes.  Combine chopped salmon with a little shallot, Dijon mustard, egg, breadcrumbs and your favorite herbs.  Sauté in a little olive oil until crispy and cooked through.  Makes a delicious appetizer!   

Red Wine contains polyphenols, including resveratrol, which provide powerful protection against free radicals, reducing the aging process.  Resveratrol, specifically, protects the skin against UV radiation from the sun, preventing wrinkles from forming.  You don’t get the same benefit from grape juice, because the skin and seeds are left in the fermenting process with wine.  People who regularly drink red wine have fewer precancerous skin lesions, lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes and other age-related diseases. Regular wine drinkers have an 80% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.  We’ll toast to that!

And don’t forget to drink lots of water. Water is nature’s natural moisturizer, carrying nutrients and moisture to every cell in your body.

Lastly, when you look good, you feel good.  And inner beauty is really the goal, isn’t it?  When you radiate with confidence, everyone sees your clear eyes and bright smile for a reflection of what they really are—your beautiful soul.

This article appears in the July/August edition of Bellingham Alive

Grilled Sockeye Salmon with Lavender Butter

This recipe is perfect for celebrating the early months of summer, when wild salmon are plentiful and lavender can be found in the farmer's markets. Use just a little bit of the lavender butter to top the salmon. Store the rest in the freezer, cutting off pieces as you need it. It's also delicious on top of hot baby potatoes.

Serves 6

½ stick softened butter
Zest of one lemon
½ teaspoon culinary lavender, ground
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6, six ounce wild salmon filets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the lavender butter by combining the softened butter, lemon zest, lavender, thyme, rosemary and black pepper.  Place mixture on piece of plastic wrap and form into a log.  Roll the plastic wrap tightly around the lavender butter and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 1 hour.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Turn each salmon filet skin side up.  Take a sharp knife and run the knife down the scales, to remove moisture (this will help to make the salmon skin crispy).  Drizzle with olive oil.

Liberally season the flesh side of the salmon with sea salt and black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Place salmon on the grill, skin side down.  Close the grill cover and grill for 8 minutes for medium and 10 for medium-well.  There is no need to turn the salmon.  Remove from the grill.  To serve, top with a small pat of the lavender butter.

Enjoy, preferably with those you love! 

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