Eat Your Way to Fabulous Skin by Maggie Casola, Certified Nutritional Consultant and Licensed Esthetician
There is so much literature out there on diets and special strategies to lose weight or reverse the signs of aging, it sure can be confusing. Each theory presents an interesting perspective, and most have at least one valid point, however I would maintain that optimal diet is really an individual thing. I do believe there are certain principles that the vast majority of people would benefit from, however the best diet is one that takes into consideration your lifestyle, your hormonal makeup, your metabolic efficiency and your personal health issues or predispositions.
If you take a close look, it is obvious to me that the health of the human race is in a downward spiral. We are overmedicated, overworked and experiencing more health problems now than we did 75 years ago. Yes, we live longer, but it is the quality of life that we lose in many cases. The sad reality is that in a society where food is so abundant, we are overfed and undernourished.
It's not your fault: the quality of food has changed dramatically in the last 100 years or so. So has the quality of our air and our water, our environment, and the stress levels in our lives. All of this has occurred in a fairly short period of time, much too short a period of time for our bodies to readily adapt. Biologically, our bodies have remained basically the same for thousands of years. This new food technology, plus the various other changes mentioned, have shocked our systems, and we have not yet evolved in such a way as to be able to handle it.
If I were to describe what in my opinion would be the best way to design a diet that would satisfy the needs of most people, I would say first that it has to fit into your lifestyle, and second that it would have to reflect the very foods that the human body relied upon during its evolution, devoid of chemicals and refinement to the extent possible.
In other words, it would be similar to a diet of long ago, not so modernized. Fruits and veggies, in as natural a state as possible (organic would be great, if you can do it), very few starches (agriculture is a modern science as compared to the science of the body), especially the refined ones, and a respectable amount (20-25%) of fish and quality protein, such as turkey, organic chicken, buffalo or other game meats, and free range beef. It is important to scout out proteins that are hormone free, antibiotic-free, and if at all possible grass-fed and organic.
I don't believe we survived all of these thousands of years on a vegetarian diet, and quite frankly I am largely disappointed in the skin of the vast majority of my vegetarian clients. Skin is largely protein, and if you don't take in ample amounts, the skin will be the last organ tended to by the body. This of course makes sense from a survival standpoint, better to use limited resources for more "vital" organs, such as the heart and lungs.
However, if you are a vegetarian, just be mindful of overindulging in carbohydrates, which tends to set insulin levels out or balance and can result in other health concerns.
Lo-carbing seems to be the ticket out of the obesity epidemic we are seemingly all affected by, however be careful not to fall for all of these processed and fake low carb foods. Thankfully, nature has created plenty of low carb foods for us, and I am skeptical of anyone who tells me I shouldn't eat them. Common sense tells me that a carrot really can't be all that bad, and I question how much better a 150-calorie fat-full low-carb chocolate bar that costs $2.00 can possibly be. It sounds like a lot of fast marketing to me...
So what we are aiming for here is a diet higher in quality proteins (50-100 grams daily, depending on how active your are), very low in starches, and high in fruits and veggies. I dislike dairy intensely, at least in the form we find it in most places today. Our milk is a far cry from the fresh milk found on farms decades ago. The milk we drink today encourages the growth of mucus in the digestive tract, which leads to all sorts of troubles, allergies, sinus issues, asthma, and bad skin included. Unless you can locate cheese made from RAW milk (ask your local healthfood store), dairy is best left for a RARE treat. Cheese made from the milk or goats or sheep is a little better, being less processed.
Finally, one good thing that has come out of this low-carb insanity is that people are learning to balance carbohydrates with proteins, which is important on various levels, not just for weight issues. Keeping hormone levels balanced starts here, with keeping insulin levels in check. Proteins will reduce the levels of insulin secreted in response to starches and sugars. Because hormones work synergistically, insulin levels kept at an even level will help keep other hormones working in balance. This is a very good thing for sex hormones (e.g., estrogen), and ultimately even helps metabolism (thyroid hormones), which will ultimately be reflected in your clear skin!
Supplementation can go a long way towards boosting vitality and health. Here are the essentials:
STEP ONE: Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
An outstanding multivitamin is excellent and relatively inexpensive health insurance. A good one will probably require at least two doses daily. One tablet alone is not large enough to hold the wide range of nutrients you should be getting.
I never recommend that clients simply supplement with the nutrients they think they need, without first taking a good multi-vitamin. Vitamins work synergistically together, and taking only a few without the full range of vitamins and minerals can cause rebound deficiencies. Therefore, ALWAYS start off with a superior multi-vitamin.
I am please to introduce a truly superior multi-vitamin that is not available in stores and is only available through licensed nutrional counselors. Physician’s Choice Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Formula is a superior formulation that allows you the flexibility to take as little as four capsules a day or as many as six, depending on how good or bad a day your are having (in terms of stress, diet, energy, etc.) You get a far more comprehensive formula this way than you would with just one capsule daily. Sorry, we don't live in a one-a-day world anymore.
STEP TWO: ANTIOXIDANTS: THE AGE FIGHTERS
In addition to taking a multi-vitamin, it is advisable to take a range of antioxidants to ward off the aging and disease causing effects of free radicals. What are free radicals? They are at the root of much evil: they are unstable compounds that create havoc in our bodies, robbing healthy cells of their electrons and causing cellular instability. They are the beginning of premature aging and many diseases we associate with aging, including many cancers.
Where are free radicals? Everywhere. In sunlight, in pollution, in the chemicals and pesticides we ingest daily. Our body even produces free radicals naturally. Your body was created to handle free radicals effectively, however in this day and age there are so many of them that we need a little help. While you can't always avoid free radicals, you can certainly boost your ability to deal with them if you take the precautionary measures.
Antioxidants fight free radical damage. They work well as a team, somewhat like the cavalry, supporting one another's ability to defend the body and replenishing one another's strength as they weaken. I do not advise supplementing with individual antioxidants, and much prefer a blend of nutrients or whole-food type supplements, because they are far better utilized by the body.
I analogize antioxidant teamwork to a baton-race. If one player is down, the race stops, and the goal can not be achieved. Similarly, without a full range of antioxidants on the team, the remaining singles can not do their job effectively.
There are many compounds that function in the system as very powerful antioxidants, way beyond the vitamins A, C and E that the average garden-variety multi-vitamin contains.
A good multi will have a base-line amount of antioxidants, but those of us who are interested in aging gracefully want more.
To start, I look for a blend, or antioxidant cocktail, that includes more than the usual vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, etc. Why? Because if you are taking my Physician's Choice Multi, you probably already have enough of those to cover you adequately. I look for the more unusual antioxidants, present in adequate amounts (many brands include tiny fractions of the more expensive anitoxidants, hardly enough to do anything at all.) I love my new antioxidant formula Cyto-Redoxin Antioxidant Formula. This pharmaceutical-grade supplement, not sold over the counters but available only through licensed professionals,contains an excellent blend of the heavy-hitters (alpha-lipoic acid, co-enzyme Q10)as well as some excellent whole-food source antioxidants (Beet Root, Bilberry Berry, Elder Berry, for example.)
To further boost my body's energy level and normalize the body's pH balance, I heartily recommend a "green" supplement. A good one provides a generous dose of natural phytochemicals found in greens that you can't really eat enough of, such as spirulina, chlorella, barley, alfalfa, wheat grass, etc. Raw Green , a blend of power greens that come from a raw food source (unprocesses, not treated with heat which destroys vital enzymes) is a formula that will pour life-preserving antioxidants directly into your body without your having to drink anything that tastes nasty... they come in convenient capsules, even my kids take them! This is such a quick and easy way to increase the green value of your diet.
One antioxidant you can hardly get enough of is vitamin C. I don't think that anyone serious about aging can skip this one. While the RDA's for this nutrient are quite low, RDA's are established at levels that will prevent disease in most people, not nearly enough to maintain robust health AND age beautifully.
Vitamin C is a critical ingredient that must be present in order for your dermis to manufacture collagen. Collagen is a substance in the dermis that helps make the skin strong and "drum-tight." A steady concentration of vitamin C in the body will help build radiant, incredible skin, and will also help with a host of body functions such as immunity, healing and cancer prevention.
STEP THREE: Essential Fatty Acids
These precious fats are not called "essential" by coincidence. Even the RDA people are silently admitting that if we ate more of these we would be in better shape and could pay less attention to the total amount of fat in our diet. These fats build healthy tissues in every cell of our body. They help regulate the skin, balance hormones, accelerate the transmission of nerve impulses... the list goes on. Where do you find them? Mostly in seeds and nuts, and in fish. If you are not big on eating these daily, supplements are highly recommended. Read This: The Fats that Heal.
If you only make one change for better health, it should be supplementing with essential fats. I highly recommend either one of the following two: High Lignan Flax Oil. Flax is the most potent vegetarian source of the omega-3 fatty acids, and I have been using it with my clients for years successfully.
Until recently, I didn't endorse fish oils because of the toxicity issues surrounding fish today. Farm raised fish may not be as toxic, however most of them are fed diets rich in grains rather than algae, and that changes their fatty acid composition, making them a less reliable omega-3 source. However, all of that has changed now that Eskimo-3 Natural Stable Fish Oil Supplement is on the market. Check out this incredible stable and pure omega-3 supplement, packing a whopping 1500 mg. of omega-3's into just one teaspoon of oil.
The most dramatic and positive skin changes come under the influence of the omega-3 supplementation. By maintaining fluidity of cell membranes, this nutrient prevents hardening of cells and blood vessels, which inevitably occur over time because of our too-high intake of animal food products, including dairy, refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated fats. When cells harden, they can't pick up water and nutrition easily, nor can they rid themselves of waste. This is the beginning of many diseases and disorders. This precious fat will begin to reverse the process, and even dissolve fat deposits in arterial walls, lowering cholesterol. Omega-3's are powerful skin regenerators, and you want them on your side if you are planning to age gracefully and beautifully!
STEP FOUR: Calcium
Think of Calcium as a bank, and you only make deposits until about the age of 30, and from that point forward for the rest of your life you are making only withdrawals. To worsen matters, we live in a society that tends to eat too much protein, and researchers believe that too much protein causes calcium to be pulled out of the body.
If you have children, now is the time to give their growing bodies plenty of this essential mineral. And calcium alone doesn't cut it, research indicates that calcium is best absorbed when accompanied by other minerals, such as magnesium and Vitamin D.
STEP FIVE: Diet
Taking the appropriate supplements can generate some very positive results in both health and appearance, however they CAN NOT completely undo damage done by poor eating. Here are some simple steps to start incorporating into your lifestyle:
1. Drastically limit breads, pastas and rice. And limit those that you DO eat to whole grain or brown varieties. Try to cut wheat down as a whole. Too many of us have wheat sensitivities that we are unaware of, and that can aggravate skin conditions such as acne, eczema or psoriasis, not to mention mood disorders and a host of other disfunctions. Especially in children. Health food stores sell breads, pretzels and cookies made with alternative grains, and many of them taste pretty good. And remember, always balance starches with proteins to keep insulin in check.
2. Try to eat more of the carbs that nature created: veggies and fruits, and less of the ones man created, breads, crackers and pastas.
3. Drink lots of water purified by reverse osmosis, or distilled. These are the purest forms of water available. Your body is 65-70% water, and cells dry out long before thirst sets in. Subclinical dehydration sets off an imbalance in the body that can create a concentration of toxicity, resulting in all sorts of skin disorders, especially acne.
4. Cut back on caffeine. Better yet, eliminate it. Caffeine makes it very unlikely that the skin cells will ever pick up enough water, even if you drink a gallon of water a day.
Love that caffeine boost? Drink green tea. Its gentle caffeine will give you a soft lift, and it is rich in antioxidants as well. Ice it and keep it in the fridge for those hot afternoons. Water it down with lots of ice so you don't need sweetener, or sweeten it with a little honey. Green Tea is anti-inflammatory, meaning it calms sensitive skin, and rich in antioxidants, preventing and possibly even reversing sun damage.
5. Reduce or eliminate dairy. Dairy products are for many people difficult to digest and mucous-forming, so consider substitutions such as soy or rice milk products. If you must indulge in occasional dairy, buy organic, unprocessed varietes. No one need an extra dose of hormones and antibiotics, as well as various other chemicals contained in the feed given to these poor animals.
6. I love chocolate. The thought of chocolate causing acne troubles me greatly. There is no direct connection between chocolate and acne, however there IS a connection between excessive refined carbohydrate and sugar intake, collectively, and acne. Moderation is the key here.
Refined carbohydrates are immediately converted into sugar by the body, and if we cut back on the simple carbohydrates we eat, especially the less useful ones such as refined breads, we can enjoy a small piece of chocolate regularly!
There is a definite connection between looking good and feeling good. And nothing feels or looks better than both combined!
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