Food as Skin Medicine

Food doesn’t only have to nourish us from the inside out. There are a lot of reasons to consider using food as a medicine directly on your skin. One thing to consider is that many beauty products contain ingredients that are known carcinogens (pose a cancer risk), endocrine disrupters (may alter hormones) and irritants. In fact many of the products that are sold in the United States have to be altered to be sold in Europe because commonly used ingredients are banned there. When you use food on your skin you know exactly what you are getting. Its also often cheaper.

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I enjoyed this blog post about some common food items that can be used on your skin.  The author recommends coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, oatmeal and brown sugar. A couple other items to consider are honey and plain yogurt. Honey has natural antiseptic and healing properties and can be applied to irritated skin or used in face masks. Plain yogurt is a great one to rub on areas of dry rough skin or to use in face masks as the lactic acid acts as a natural exfoliator.

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Are there any other suggestions that you have?

If you are interested in finding out more about what is in your various skin and beauty products I highly recommend visiting the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database page. I also recommend downloading their app Skin Deep that can be used to search or scan barcodes on beauty items to get an ingredient hazard score and a data availability score right when you’re making the decision about whether to purchase it.

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What to do in a World of Pumpkin Spice Obsession

The pumpkin flavor season is upon us! Unfortunately it turns out that many of the pumpkin-flavored treats contain much more than just healthy pumpkin, actually most of them don’t really even contain pumpkin at all. For those of us who follow a more restricted diet for health reasons this season can seem cruel as pumpkin spiced lattes and pumpkin spice cookies are rubbed in our faces. On a quest to come up with some great pumpkin treats that I can eat I have made pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin scones and some autumn harvest pumpkin granola. All of which have been delicious and maybe I’ll share those recipes in coming weeks! The mother of all pumpkin treats of course is the original pumpkin pie. I was intrigued when I saw the claim by Sarah Ballantyne of The Paleo Mom for the “best paleo pumpkin pie”!

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We had to try that recipe out. The recipe gets points for its simplicity and straight forwardness. Some “healthy” or “paleo” recipes seem to get so caught up with themselves that the recipe can contain 50 ingredients and 50 steps. The crust on this pie was really easy with just 4 ingredients. Although, the crust in taste and texture was probably my least favorite part. In the future I think I would try to add some ginger or other spices, maybe something sweet or try to figure out a way to incorporate some butter into the crust to give it a more traditional flavor. The filling was excellent! It turned out creamy, smooth and had just the right pumpkin pie flavor. She recommended adding one cup of water to the custard mix and we didn’t. I’m glad we didn’t because I think that would have made the mixture two moist and watery. Instead of all of her individual spices I just picked up a pumpkin pie spice mix that has all the spices in one container. I don’t know how I feel about her suggestion to omit cinnamon as I feel like that is one of the key flavors, so we did add cinnamon into our version.

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My husband tried it out and agreed that besides the crust he couldn’t tell that this wasn’t a “normal” pumpkin pie. He doesn’t like pie crust anyways so he suggested just baking the pumpkin custard in small ramekins next time. It could be tasty to do that and serve it topped with some kind of nut and pumpkin seed crumble for crunch.

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With a few small tweaks this pie may even be good enough to serve my family at Thanksgiving without even having to tell them that they are eating paleo!

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Find Sunlight in Your Food This Winter

Well, it’s that time of year again. The clock rolled back and we (everyone except Arizona) got a fabulous extra hour of sleep. But, we also now have to deal with the reality of a morning and evening commute in the dark. This fact can be a little depressing on its own but this lack of daylight really may contribute to depression on a biochemical level. As you probably already know we need sunlight to produce Vitamin D, which is actually really a hormone. It is a hormone whose widespread duties in our body are still being discovered. Interest in the connection between low Vitamin D levels and depressed mood is growing, especially in light of statistics that show that a full 1/3 of Americans have insufficient levels of Vitamin D.

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Many studies including this meta-analysis from researchers in Canada show that there is a correlation between low Vitamin D levels and depression. Studies showing the nature of that relationship in terms of direct causation are lacking, but definitely needed.

Low Vitamin D levels have also been linked to many other chronic illnesses. This prospective population study out of the United Kingdom followed a group of people over a period of 13 years and found decreased all cause mortality, decreased incidence of cardiovascular diseased, decreased incidence of respiratory disease and decreased incidence of fractures in those who had higher Vitamin D levels. Those with the lowest risk had Vitamin D levels over 90 nmol/L.

There are many reasons why so many of us have inadequate levels of Vitamin D. We spend much more time inside than our ancestors ever did. And no, the sun that you get while you’re driving in your car doesn’t count as we don’t synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight through glass. We also, especially women, wear sunscreen and other beauty products with high SPF.

There are several ways to up your Vitamin D levels this winter. One is to try to spend some time outside during the day. Another is to consider starting a daily vitamin D3 supplement. The third, which is in line with our mission, is to think about getting that nourishment through your food. The best source of Vitamin D is in fatty cold water fish, such as wild caught salmon and tuna. There are concerns about the mercury levels of such large fish that are at the top of the food chain. Other cold water fish to try that may be a little safer are fish such as herring, anchovies and sardines. Eggs yolks, especially those from pasture-raised eggs have a good amount of vitamin D. If you’re up for it liver, either in the form of cod liver oil or eating beef liver, has high levels of vitamin D. Fortified foods such as milk and cereals advertise that they have vitamin D but it is mostly in the form of D2, which is less usable by your body. I would also in general encourage getting nutrients from whole foods rather than fortified processed foods.

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Many call vitamin D our most important micronutrient. Whether you’re feeling depressed or not, I highly recommend getting your vitamin D level checked, in the form of 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D, and trying to get good forms of vitamin D into your diet this winter.