health

Nutrition for Healthy Skin

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cutest little avocado ever
cutest little avocado ever

So, remember that time I smeared avocado on my face? Eating it also happens to be pretty good for your skin.

Tuesday night, I spoke about nutrition for healthy skin at a super-fun fitness event in New Jersey, put together by a consultant from Rodan & Fields, who talked about some of their awesome products. Participants were also treated to healthy snacks and a free kickboxing class.

Here’s a little cheat sheet version of what I covered at the event. Here’s how to nourish your skin from the inside out!

Eat a Balanced Diet: Consume regular, balanced meals and snacks including: fruits and veggies along with lean sources of protein, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy fats. 

Eat the Rainbow: Pigments in fruits and vegetables such as the beta-carotene that gives carrots their brilliant orange color can also make your skin glow.

Pay Attention to Antioxidants: Antioxidants are substances that may prevent or delay cell damage caused by free radicals. Popular sources include: fruits, vegetables, red wine (and champagne!), dark chocolate, coffee, and tea.

Choose Supplements Carefully: Aim to get your vitamins and minerals from food first and use supplements to fill in any gaps (for example, iron and vitamin B12 for vegans). A few exceptions: many of us, especially in the northern states (especially in winter), would benefit from a vitamin D supplement. You might want to consider fish oil as well.

Use Sugar Sparingly: Inflammation caused by rapid sugar breakdown leads to sagging, wrinkles, and exacerbation of conditions like rosacea and acne. Sugar also deactivates the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes. Save the sweet stuff for special occasions and check labels for hidden sources in processed foods.

Drink Plenty of Water: Hydrated skin is happy skin. Aim for 8 cups a day to get your glow on. Your needs may be more or less, depending on age, activity level, and other factors.

Go Easy on Alcohol: To avoid wrinkles and blotchy, tired-looking skin, stick to one drink per day for women or two for men.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight has been linked to inflammation and related skin problems like acne, sweating, and impaired wound healing. Being underweight can cause skin dryness and a pallid appearance.

Get Enough Sleep: Aside from keeping “hunger hormones” leptin and ghrelin in check, sleep gives the body a chance to repair and regenerate tissue. Also, when we’re tired, we’re more prone to stress, another known skin irritant.

Know Your Triggers: Keep a food journal and note skin’s appearance before and after eating to help you identify problem-foods if you suspect something is causing a reaction.

Don’t Smoke: All the antioxidants in the world won’t offset damage caused by the free radicals introduced to your body when you light up.

Are there any particular foods you try to include—or avoid—to keep your skin healthy? 

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Awesome Corrected Fitspiration

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Good morning and happy Friday! So…I saw these “corrected” fitspiration posters floating around Facebook yesterday and thought they were so great, I had to share.

This one cracked me up the most: 

But this one made me happy in that teary-grateful kinda way: 

Is post-menstrual syndrome a thing? I think I have that. Either that or it’s just been one of those weeks. Good news, though! I’m off to visit a friend in Toronto for the weekend and am super-excited to experience a new-to-me city.

What are you up to this weekend? 

5 Reasons to Eat an Apple a Day

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So last week, my manager asked me to provide an article for the upcoming fall health fair,  and yesterday let me know that actually, said health fair was canceled because there aren’t enough people (outside our department, anyway) who actively give a sh!t to make it happen.  Oh, and resources. Always, always, always $$$$. Anyway, though fall doesn’t officially happen for another few weeks, here’s what I wrote: 

5 Reasons to Eat an Apple a Day

Though many of us are sad to say goodbye to summer fruit for another year, fall welcomes the arrival of its own fantastic seasonal lineup of produce. Apples are one of the classic fall fruits. Here are just a few good reasons to enjoy “an apple a day”:

  1. They’re seasonal and local: New York State is the second largest producer of apples in the US, producing over 29 million bushells of apples annually.
  2. They’re a great source of soluble fiber: One medium-sized apple packs 2-3 g each for only about 85 calories. Research has shown that soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, protect against some cancers, and promote healthy digestion. It can also help manage weight, as fiber fills you up without a lot of calories, so you feel full for longer.
  3. A daily apple boosts your vitamin C intake: A medium-sized fresh apple contains about 10% of your daily vitamin C needs. Getting adequate vitamin C helps keep the immune system working and allows the body to make collagen, which helps heal wounds. It also acts as an antioxidant to protect the body from free-radical damage.
  4.  They’ll help keep your teeth clean: Chewing on a fresh apple stimulates saliva production in the mouth, helping prevent tooth decay. Can’t brush after lunch? Try having an apple for dessert to freshen breath and polish your teeth!
  5. They’re a natural convenience food: Apples are super-easy to grab & go. They’re also incredibly versatile. Use them in breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert! Leave the skins on for optimal nutrition.

cold remediesMy favorite apple varieties are granny smith and macintosh—I’m all about the tart factor.

What are your favorite apples and apple recipes? I’ve got some red lentil butternut squash apple soup in my near future, I think. I also love apple in oatmeal, salads, and simply, thinly sliced. 

Is everyone an expert?

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Opinions are like assholes—everybody has one. At least that’s what my mother always said.

A couple weeks ago, I read a piece by David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, that really hit home for me. In the article, Katz calls into question the way that our culture tends to be okay with the fact that lots of people declare themselves nutrition experts despite a lack of training. To illustrate his point, he uses scenarios that we would consider ridiculous in other fields. For example:

“I’m not convinced that someone who happens to live through a bad car crash to drive again is automatically qualified to take over NHTSA, or set up shop as a motor vehicle safety expert, and dispense advice accordingly. Call me crazy.

“I am not at all sure that someone who inadvertently sets fire to his kitchen, and manages to put out the fire before burning everything entirely down, is a shoe-in as fire commissioner, or qualifies as a fire safety expert. I am not sure that he should go on to establish a cottage industry in fire safety, selling expert advice in books, blogs, and programs.”

Sure, he employs hyperbole and dry humor, but he hits on a very serious issue. Nutrition has a huge impact on our health and well-being, and though we look to experts for insight into other aspects of our lives, we treat nutrition differently.

Now, I’m not talking about people who share what works for them and acknowledge upfront that they are not a doctor/dietitian/etc. What upsets me is people who dispense diet advice (which may or may not be sound) without being qualified to do so. It can get a little scary, at times. One thing I love about the blog world is the open communication and sharing of ideas, but whenever I come across a bit of “this is what you should do,” I immediately start looking for credentials or at least appropriate research to back up the claim. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, I move on, but that’s because I’ve been taught to look for these things. I’ve met many people who get all their health information from resources you wouldn’t be allowed to cite in a research paper.

As an RD, obviously, I’m biased. I’ve devoted many years of my life to learning a science. I work with this science every day and continue to educate myself so that I can stay current and maintain my credentials. I’ve earned my gray hairs and am working on earning more of them. I don’t expect to get fabulously wealthy doing what I do (though if I did that would be awesome), but I love the field I work in and am passionate about helping people enjoy a better quality of life through good nutrition. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it upsets me to hear people dispensing less-than-helpful advice as if it were gospel.

I rarely speak up, but sometimes I wish I had. Like that trainer I overheard at the gym recommending a scary-sounding deprivation diet…I don’t tell people I counsel for nutrition how to do burpees or what kind of HIIT will make them burn calories most efficiently—don’t preach dangerous holy grail fad diets to your clients! And what about that mom at the coffee shop trying to coach her teenage daughter on carbs? Or when I overhear things like, “Eating meat makes you fat,” or “white potatoes are bad.” Says who?

These are just some of my thoughts. While I think it’s important for everyone to have access to information on health and nutrition, I agree with Katz when he says we need to “treat nutrition and weight management like every other legitimate field of inquiry. With no more respect than all the others, but no less either.”

So wow, thank you for reading to the end of this lengthy post. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What did you think of Katz’s article? Do you look for credentials when seeking health or nutrition advice online? Was there ever a time you wish you’d stepped in when you overheard something that you felt could put someone else at risk? 

 

Avocado Face Mask

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I never thought it would happen, but I finally have to deal with dry skin. From a distance, age 27 always sounded too young—but my mother has dry skin! I still listen to Bright Eyes when no one’s around! And then I recently remembered that, well, my mom had me when she was 26, so maybe it’s not so ridiculous. So it goes.

After making sure I was eating enough healthy fats and drinking enough water, I even cracked open a few Chinese medicine textbooks  (long story, but working for a wonderful acupuncturist is basically what led me to go back to school to become an RD) to see if there were certain nourishing foods to include on my shopping list to address what I had going on or whether I was neglecting a certain flavor (sweet/sour/bitter/etc) I might benefit from using more. Say what you will about  Eastern medicine, but I think a balance of east-west is a very sane way to take care of ourselves.

Anyway, though I can’t say the yin-nourishing, “sweet” foods (like brown rice, cabbage, white mushrooms, and other things I swapped in for other foods) hurt, I wanted some quicker results (God bless America). A little “It’s okay…” blurb from Glamour magazine about using half the avocado for a face mask and eating the other half reminded me that nature really does provide some of the best beauty treatments around—f*** wandering the aisles of Duane Reade and emerging $40 poorer with an assortment of stuff that doesn’t work!

IMG_2132This face masks costs around 55 cents and made my skin feel amazing. It’s even better if you listen to whatever your guilty-pleasure music is because that’s, like, what girls do when we’re wearing face masks or something…Or you could just work on your super-nerdy stats assignment, like I did.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a ripe avocado
  • ~2 tbsp honey

Directions: 

  1. Mash avocado in a bowl or other container. Stir in honey.
  2. Spread on face. Leave for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Wipe off mask with a damp washcloth and rinse.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite at-home beauty ritual? 

Best Foods for Digestive Health

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On Saturday night, I found myself engaged in a discussion on the immune system and its reliance on digestive health. Whenever I talk about “feeding” the immune system, what I’m talking about is feeding the gut things that will keep it happy and in good working order. I know that this weekend and this week I’m paying extra close attention to making sure I

Some of those foods include:

  • fiber—especially in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • probiotics—try yogurt or kefir
  • prebiotics—found in fibrous foods like asparagus and oatmeal (it gives the “good” probiotic bacteria in the GI tract something to feed off and keep multiplying
  • water
Rubber—not good for digestive health.
Rubber—not good for digestive health.

The Huffington Post recently rounded up a list of the best and worst foods for digestive health.  I’m kind of sad that coffee and alcohol are on the no-fly list, but it’s all about balance. In the context of a day full of foods mostly good for the gut, a cup of coffee isn’t going to upset the system too much.

What are your favorite foods to eat for good digestion? On the flip side, what’s on your no-fly list? 

Eclipse Weather

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Good morning and happy Tuesday! Today happens to bring a solar eclipse, which will be visible from parts of Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica. Pretty cool, right? Also cool—this is my 1,234th blog post. I’m amused. 

Astrologically speaking, eclipses bring changes that tend to be long-term. While change often involves things that are often out of our control, an eclipse is a great time to harness that “new phase” energy by adopting a healthy new habit. For me, that means using my rest days days off more effectively—aka practice relaxing a little. This is a huge challenge for me, so we’ll see how it goes, but it’s good to at least have a goal!

What do you want your healthy new habit to be?