Hidden Beauty Benefits in Your Food

beauty-benefits-in-your-food.jpgDid you know that some of the food you eat can help fight free radicals, moisturize your skin and even keep you trim?  Ah! Now you're paying attention.  Yes, there are hidden beauty benefits in your food.  Through a survey conducted by Simple Skincare, 50%of women claim they strive for a healthy diet. However, they are missing key foods that can do wonders for their beauty health. We talked with Nicole Avena, PhD, author of Why Diets Fail to get the scoop on how these foods can benefit us and some tips on how to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Brussels sprouts are one of the most beneficial foods when it comes to your long-term health. “They can lower cholesterol and help with DNA protection,” Dr. Avena explains. “And they are among the highest content when it comes to glucosinolate, which is a cancer-protective element.”  Avena suggests steaming brussels sprouts for your lunch or dinner veggie.

If you’re looking for a food to increase your mood (and who isn't), walnuts are the food for you. And believe it or not, improving your mood goes hand in hand with improving your skin. Avena explains that they are packed with B-vitamins, which is good for stress and mood management. “B-vitamins, together with Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, help fight the free radicals induced due to stress. This further delays the ageing process.” And who doesn’t want that, right?

Another food that benefits your skin is wild salmon. It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps keep your skin supple and moisturized. Salmon is also great during summer because it contains selenium, a mineral that protects the skin from UV-exposure.

Looking to maintain a healthy figure?  Avocados will help keep you lean and trim. "They're a great source of both insoluble and soluble fiber," Avena explains. Insoluable fiber keeps you regular, while soluable fiber helps control appetite by making you feel fuller.  This is a favorite of Avena’s. “I’m really liking avocados right now. They are easy to turn into a dip by mashing 1-2 up and adding some spices. Also, they are delicious on their own for a quick healthy snack. I cut them in half and eat then out of the skin with a spoon.”

What's your favorite beauty food?  According the the survey, 68% of women are missing out on Brussels sprouts, 62% on walnuts, 57% on salmon and 56% miss avocados.  Ladies, let's get munching on the right stuff!

The Truth About Dairy Consumption & Why Milk Doesn't Do A Body Good

I gave up dairy.  Being a strict vegetarian (yes, that means no fish either) for the past six years, everyone thinks I'm nuts to eliminate dairy too.  But guess what, the more educated on nutrition I became, the stricter I became with my diet and I've never felt better.  Healthy and energized, I learned that even though it's a highly controversial subject, milk doesn't necessarily do a body good.  (Thank God I'm a dark chocolate girl).  Don't believe me?  I spoke with exhale's National Director of Nutrition, Melissa O'Shea to find out the facts. Is it true that drinking cow's milk is not in our genetic code?

It is true that most of us (75%) cannot digest dairy. Lactase (the enzyme needed to breakdown lactose) production begins to decline after infancy. The ability to digest milk is actually a genetic mutation that occurred 10,000 years ago in areas that needed to consume dairy due to other diet deprivations. Sweden and Denmark tend to have a high percentage of people who have this mutation and can tolerate milk and dairy products. Most people cannot tolerate the three servings of dairy that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends, but seem to be ok with small to moderate amounts.

What affects does drinking cow's milk have on a person? Is it harmful?

For some who are intolerant to lactose, cramping, bloating, gas and diarrhea are common side effects. These symptoms may not occur in everyone who is intolerant and it often has to do with the amount of lactose that is consumed. Many people can tolerate one cup of milk (or lactose equivalent) at a time. For those who are intolerant, intake can cause inflammation in the body, which can affect not only our digestive tract, but also our skin and risk for heart disease. Currently, conventional dairy is being pumped with hormones and there are studies that have associated a high intake of dairy with increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers.

Why have children and women been encouraged to drink milk? Does cow's milk aid in helping our bones?

The main reason why children and women are encouraged to drink milk is because of the proposed benefit to our bones. It is true that Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients important for bone health and milk is a convenient source of these nutrients, but according to the Harvard School of Public Health, there is actually very little evidence that milk consumption is associated with reduced risk of bone fractures.

What are healthy alternatives to living a dairy free lifestyle? What advice do you have for women who are concerned with calcium? 

You can rely on dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens, as well as beans and legumes for calcium intake. There are also plenty of fortified non-dairy sources that contain both calcium and vitamin D, such as almond milk, coconut milk and orange juice. Just check the nutrition facts panel and make sure the brand you buy is in fact fortified. Physical activity is also an important component to bone health and remaining active as we get older is one of the best things you can do for your bone health. If you are dairy free and are still concerned about getting enough calcium in your diet, you can rely on a supplement, but go for one that contains a combination of both calcium and vitamin D, since D is required for calcium absorption. As for whether or not to quit dairy all together, if you can tolerate small amounts and want to include some in your diet, make sure you pick high quality organic varieties and choose products like kefir or yogurt, which offer up a healthy dose of probiotics, and are good for your immune system and digestive tract. Kefir is also 99% lactose free, making it a good option for the lactose intolerant.


How to Eat Your Way to Healthier Hair

Believe it or not it is possible to eat your way to healthier hair... and skin... and nails.  I'm was addicted to Viviscal, which are hair growth supplements (and actually stopped taking them because Bob was growing like cray), but after talking with Dr. Jessica Wu, author of Feed Your Face, I had to share what I learned about how your food choices affect your hair and complexion.  It's intriguing and really makes sense.  After all, we are what we eat. How is it possible to eat your way to healthier hair?

Although the hair that grows out of your head is dead, the living part of the follicle is very much alive and needs the right nutrients.

Nutrition plays a major role in the look and feel of your hair, so it’s important to eat the right diet to help your scalp grow thicker, stronger, healthier hair. If your diet is deficient, your hair may notice your hair becoming finer, thinner, and even lighter.  In addition, your strands will be weaker.

I tell my patients to make sure they eat protein as well as certain vitamins and micronutrients that have been shown to help grow thicker, healthier hair.

What ingredients should we look for and why?

Protein:  hair is make of keratin, a type of protein.  Eating protein will provide your body with the amino acids it needs to produce strong hair.

Iron: Low levels of iron can cause anemia, one of the most common causes of thinning hair in otherwise healthy women.

Zinc: Zinc is essential for producing keratin, so those with low levels of zinc may have finer, sparser, weaker hair.

Can you recommend some foods with these ingredients in them?

Protein is found in meat, poultry, eggs, and tofu.  If you’re on the go or need a snack in between meals, KIND Almond Walnut Macadamia with Peanuts + Protein bars provide a great option.  Each bar contains 10 grams of protein, and it’s delicious.

Turkey, clams, chicken liver, and red meat are excellent sources of iron. Pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, and spinach are also good sources of iron.

Peanuts, cashews, dark chocolate, and oysters are great sources of zinc. Again, if you are on the go, try a KIND Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidant bar.

What exactly should we expect from our hair?

Healthy hair is thick, bouncy, and shiny.  It should feel soft and flexible, and be easy to style.  Hair can also help protect you from UV rays.  The thicker your hair, the more UV protection it provides.

Will eating these ingredients/foods also affect our skin and nails?  

Nails, like hair, are also made of keratin, so eating these foods will help you grow strong nails.  Collagen, which makes your skin firm, is also a protein, so I advise my patients to eat plenty of protein to fight the aging process.  I also recommend eating zinc for firmer skin, since zinc helps build strong collagen and elastic tissue (which makes your skin more resilient).



Everything You Need to Know About Cleansing

If you're feeling less than anxious to throw on that bikini and head to the beach and anything like my friends you've definitely toyed with the idea of doing a cleanse. Sure, healthy dieting and exercising are an absolute must, but sometimes you just need a little jump-start.  Since juicing and cleansing seem to be the new “black” this year, I turned to Nutritionist Heather Bauer, and Founder of to get 411 on cleansing (the true benefits) and most honest tips for beginners.

What type of cleanses would you recommend for a first time "cleanser?"

If you're nervous about trying a cleanse I would recommend trying Organic Avenue. This cleanse gives you 3 - 4 juices throughout the day and then an actual meal for dinner - this way you are not going cold turkey. But if you're ready to go full force, the BluePrintCleanse is a great option. It's very easy to find (sold in Whole Foods) and they are sold separately so you can customize it according to which you like best.

What are the benefits of doing a cleanse?

Cleansing gets rid of all the unhealthy cravings that people have by eliminating caffeine, salt, white refined processed sugars etc. You lose a lot of water weight with a cleanse which makes people feel good and want to continue to eat healthy. It’s a great jump start to a healthier lifestyle.

Who are the right candidates for cleanses?

First and foremost, always check with your doctor first. Generally, a good candidate is someone who is busy and doesn't have time to cook and prepare lots of food. It's someone who feels unhealthy because they haven't been eating properly and is looking for a jump start to lose a good amount of weight.

 What are the common side effects?  Will I feel tired, hungry...?

All of the above. Modify the cleanse if it feels too aggressive. Try it on a weekend so it doesn't affect your current lifestyle. If you're an avid coffee drinker, incorporate a cup of green tea so it's not as difficult of a transition. 

What's are some key ingredients in cleanses and how do they help?

Lettuce, celery, cucumber, kale, parsley, green apple, spinach, cashews, agave nectar and cinnamon are some common ingredients found in a lot of cleanses. These foods contain important vitamins, minerals, nutrients, anti-oxidants, flavanoids, and enzymes that will gently rid your body of impurities, regain an alkaline balance and normalize digestion and metabolism.

How often can you do a cleanse?

This is where people go wrong because they do them too frequently. I wouldn't recommend doing a cleanse more than 2-3 times a year because you wont get optimal results.

Is there anything else I can do to achieve optimal results?

Don't overdo cleanses! Use the cleanse as a segue into healthier eating and an overall healthier lifestyle. Once you're done cleansing, concentrate on eating LESS caffeine, salt and white refined processed sugar and MORE lean proteins, fruits and veggies and healthy grains!


Advice from a Top Nutritionist

Last week I met with nutritionist, Dara Godfrey, and got to pick her brain.  I'm a huge foodie, but am also obsessed with working out and wellness.  It was great to sit down with Dara and get some advice not only on what to eat, but more importantly on how to eat it.  Allow me to share: "If you eat every three to four hours throughout the day it will prevent you from over eating," stated Dara.  "Unless of course, you're not hungry."

Try having three meals and two snacks in between per day. Depending on your needs (every one's different), meals can be between 350-500 calories each and snacks can be almost 200. Dara's not huge on counting calories and believes you should enjoy your food, but know your portions.  (That's why I love her!)

We're all guilty of going for a walk to get out of the office and grabbing a cup of coffee around 4pm when our bodies and minds begin to crash.  Instead, opt for an apple with peanut butter and make it your afternoon snack. The protein and carbs will wake you up and satisfy you longer.

During meals, look at your portion size.  Restaurants always over serve, so watch what you eat.  You should have no more than a fist worth of carbs and your protein should be about 3-6 ounces.  That's about the size of two Blackberries stacked on top of one another.  It's not easy to do when the smallest filet on the menu is about 9 oz.  As far as veggies go, eat away!  Just make sure they're grilled or broiled.

I felt super refreshed and recharged after our session and strongly advise anyone to visit a nutritionist every once in a while to get on track and make sure you stay on track.  If you're in the NYC area, I highly recommend Dara.  You can reach her directly at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @daragodfrey for nutritional advice and great restaurant recommendations.