How Foods Transform You: Eating from the Inside Out

By Fabiana Santana

Facial maskAs single women, we are always striving to be healthier – that means a diet rich in vitamin and nutrients. While feeling better is certainly high on the agenda, looking better sometimes can be a better motivator for the women of the world. Before you splurge on anti-wrinkle creams, anti-aging gels, and endless varieties of skin clearing lotions, consider this fact: what you eat can offer the same results as what you buy in the drug store.

That’s right, ladies – food does more than just feed the body. The choices we make for dinner can have a direct impact on the way we look, and we are not just talking about fitting into your skinny jeans.

Natural fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants — natural chemicals found in plants. Antioxidants help protect the body from free radical damage, also known as the damaging substances in our bodies caused by chemical food additives, pollution, stress and UV rays. Some familiar damaging effects include wrinkles, premature aging of the skin and dark sunspots. Thanks to antioxidants, we can work to reverse that damage.

So what should you eat? It’s easy – just imagine a rainbow. Red or pink foods include watermelon, strawberries and juicy tomatoes. Purple and blue foods include berries and the eggplant. Orange antioxidant and carotene rich foods are carrots, mangoes and sweet potatoes. Yellow and green foods include creamy avocados, broccoli, vibrant melons like the honeydew, and leafy greens.

Here are some beautifying foods that do good, and taste good, too!

Avocados: Avocados have long been loved for their ability to take dip to the next level, but did you know that your favorite Mexican restaurant condiment was not only filling you up but also making you pretty? Avocados are amazingly healthy, despite their bad rep for having too much fat. Yes, they do contain up to 15 percent of the daily-recommended amount of fat, but it’s the good fat – the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat that actually helps to moisturize our skin and keep us feeling satisfied. And two tablespoons have just 50 calories, so it is the perfect way to make salads more luxurious and add a creamy feel to rice dishes. Avocados are rich in potassium (60 percent more than bananas), vitamin A, Vitamin E – an effective fat-soluble antioxidant vital to the normalcy of our body’s functions, and B vitamins, which help with metabolism and energy levels. They contain folate, which helps blood formation and is essential for cell regeneration and the oil that avocado extracts aids in triggering the production of collagens. So incorporating more avocados into your diet will mean less wrinkles and more tone, even skin appearance.

When shopping for avocados, look for bright green skin. The brighter the fruit the more beta-carotene they contain, so look for vibrant green ones that are slightly soft to the touch. If only harder, unripe avocados are on offer, just allow them to ripen in a brown bag for two to three days. Adding a banana or apple will speed up the process. Never put it in the fridge, that will slow things down.

For a quick, one serving guacamole mix a half of a mashed avocado with chopped garlic, a few chopped cilantro leaves, and the juice of one lemon. You can also easily incorporate more avocados into your diet by asking for a couple slices to be added to your deli breakfast or lunch sandwich. They work way better than mayo!

Watermelon: It’s not a proper BBQ unless juicy, red watermelon makes an appearance. And summer’s sweet crimson colored melon does more than keep us well fed throughout the season – it does wonderful things for our body and skin, too. Since watermelon is 93% water, it is quite filling and refreshing at the same time, increasing your water intake by glasses if you indulge heavily. In addition to its rich H20 content, watermelon is wealthy vitamins A, B6 and C and also in electrolytes (sodium and potassium) which we lose when we sweat, so it is truly the ideal snack for hydrating on a sultry summer day. And at just 50 calories a cup, your waistline won’t suffer.

Watermelon’s rosy complexion is courtesy of lycopene (also found in tomatoes), which has been linked with a decreased risk of some cancers and is a skin soothing antioxidant that protects the skin from oxygen damage. Oxygen damage can weaken the skin’s outer layer and that makes it easier for acne causing bacteria to thrive. As if that wasn’t enough reason whet your appetite for watermelon, it also has some other pretty amazing beauty benefits. Its luscious fruity aroma is not the only reason it has become a ubiquitous ingredient in many natural beauty products like lip balm, shampoo and exfoliaters. Watermelon juice protects skin from the suns harmful rays and the acids in those juices can act as an natural exfoliatiant on skin, which also help to clear it free from blemishes, and can aid in the regenerative process of skin cells.

Sweet watermelon is wonderful on its own, but just a bit of salt can totally change the flavor, making it an ideal accompaniment to an array of summer salads that include tangy goat cheese and briny olives. Once you get started experimenting with watermelon in the kitchen, you will find it hard to say good bye to one of summer’s most delicious, and beautifying, foods.

Olives: And olive oil, too! Olives are one of the most mineral and calcium rich foods you can find. They are chock full of beneficial omega fatty acids and unsaturated oil called squalene that is a natural moisturizer that penetrates and smoothes skin quickly. That is why people in the Mediterranean often substitute olive oil for their lip balm.

Herbs and Spices: Nothing make a mediocre dish instantly delicious than fresh herbs and spices. A basic omelet can be turned exotic with the addition of some fresh parsley or tarragon, and tofu and veggie burgers can only benefit with the added mix in sautéed fennel seed or garlic, cayenne pepper or spicy Indian curry like turmeric, or maybe an Italian seasoning blend off oregano and basil – sinful when matched with fresh olive oil and tomatoes. In addition to kicking things up a notch in the kitchen, herbs and spices will benefit your health as well. Bitter herbs, like artichoke or dandelion, can also aid in digestion since bitter tasting things help the glands to salivate. When those salivary glands are working in full speed, the stomach will begin to secrete digestive juices that will alert your liver and intestines to the fact that they better start their engines. Ginger also has a soothing effect on the stomach and can help to relieve nausea and also to breakdown high fat foods and proteins.

Spicy spices like cayenne pepper not only add a bit of bite to foods, but it also improves circulation and blood flow which can help to relieve pain and can improve heart rate which aids in to weight loss. Similarly spicy but a bit sweet, cinnamon has similar blood pumping properties and has been found to help control blood sugar level, helpful for those suffering form diabetes and those who want to indulge their sweet tooth without the guilt.

Onions: They may not be the most date-friendly food out there, but after hearing the benefits that onions have on your skin, a few lost kisses will be worth the sacrifice. Sure, onions add a lot of flavor to foods, but their therapeutic properties and benefits might interest you more than their taste. Onions have antibacterial and antifungal properties that will ultimately bring beauty to your skin. They are full of sulfur – they actually contain more than one hundred sulfur-containing compounds (these compounds are why we tear up when cutting onions), which helps cleanse the skin by purifying the liver. A cleaner liver will ease food digestion and keep blood flowing properly throughout the body. Since one cup of onions provide you with 20% of the recommended daily intake of chromium, a bacteria-reducing mineral, onions will aid in the battle against acne, too. Replace the vinegar with honey or good olive oil in that last remedy and you have yourself an at-home sulfur acne spot treatment.

So what is the best onion to eat? There are many different types: Vidalia, Spanish, scallions, pearl, etc. And all offer similar healing and nutritional benefits. They don’t all add the same flavor to foods, so the decision of which one to eat depends on dinner. Get to chopping! So what if there are a few tears shed in the process, you will look good doing it.

Skin Clearing Salad Recipe

  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • Half of a small watermelon cut into bite sized cubes or balls
  • ¾ cup of goat cheese
  • ½ cup of chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1 small bunch of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 small lime, halved
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

Mix the onions, watermelon and olives with the fresh herbs in a large bowl. Squeeze the limes over the salad and mix well. Crumble the goat cheese over the salad and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to mix and enjoy!

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