Now that the Summer Solstice is here, the cookouts, weddings, parties, and happy hours are rotating in our schedules. With all these Orange Crushes and wine tastings, hangovers seem inevitable. The science of hangovers (and how to prevent them) is largely unstudied, which is why people have been inventing their own “cures” for centuries. Though no one meal or drink can cure a hangover, certain foods are better for refueling than others. After waking up with a pounding head, aim to restock your body with necessary fluids and nutrients like vitamins, amino acids, and minerals that can help break down toxins your liver metabolize all the alcohol in your system. Eating certain foods like beets and cruciferous vegetables can speed up that process.
Old-school wisdom preaches reaching for cold pizza or a greasy bacon sandwich, but wait—some foods are scientifically proven to help cure a hangover! Read on to learn which foods can alleviate post-party symptoms and which should be avoided.
What to Reach for
2. Ginger or Peppermint Tea For a soothing brew, look no further than your favorite herbal tea. Studies show that ginger tea may reduce nausea and motion sickness. Peppermint tea (a common morning sickness cure for pregnant women) may also ease stomach pain and decrease nausea.
3. Pickle Juice
This hangover remedy is weird, but sources swear it works! The sour liquid contains vinegar, salt, and water, which can help rehydrate and replenish electrolyte and sodium levels. To make the most of it, sip 2oz (measure it out in a standard shotglass) before hitting the bars and another 2oz in the morning.
While waking up with zero energy sounds like the perfect time for a cup of Joe, it actually could worsen that headache, since caffeine is a mild diuretic. Still, if you drink coffee daily, stick with your habit; The liquid in coffee can help rehydrate your body, and it does give you a little boost of energy. Plus, a study showed that the combo of caffeine and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil or aspirin) may help counteract the head-pounding effects of a hangover.
This breakfast staple is a brunch all-star for a reason. Eggs are chock full of hardworking amino acids like cysteine and taurine. Taurine boosts liver function and may help prevent liver disease. Cysteine breaks down acetaldehyde, the yucky headache-causing chemical that’s left over when the liver breaks down ethanol (alcohol).
6. Bananas, Dates, and Leafy Greens
These brightly colored foods contain potassium, an important electrolyte that is often depleted due to alcohol’s diuretic effect. Not feeling a salad first thing in the morning? Add some yogurt (which contains even more potassium) and blend into a hangover-fighting smoothie.
7. Chicken Soup
Nothing says “wild night out” like a bowl of mom’s famous chicken soup, right? It might not be the most conventional hangover food, but chicken soup can help restock sodium and water levels in the body. Chicken also contains cysteine, which give the liver a much-needed boost.
8. Miso Soup
Sushi is the last thing most people want to eat with a hangover, but there’s no reason to shun all Japanese food. Like traditional chicken noodle, miso soup is a great morning-after remedy—the broth rehydrates and restocks sodium levels while the fermented miso can help aid digestion.
9. Whole Grain Crackers or Toast with Honey
Since crackers can be loaded with preservatives, pick a healthier option like Wasa or a 100% whole-wheat variety. Crackers and whole-wheat toast are both bland carbs that slowly raise low blood sugar, without upsetting the stomach. Add a drizzle of mineral-rich honey for even more instant energy. Just remember to follow it with some protein later in the day to offset the blood-sugar surge.
This whole grain is a super food when you’re feeling less than stellar in the morning. A hot bowl of oatmeal has plenty of essential nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Plus, oats can help neutralize acids in the body and raise blood sugar levels, giving you an instant energy boost.
What to Avoid
2. Hair of the Dog
This wacky expression comes from a Norwegian folk saying that claims the best cure incorporates the substance that did the damage in the first place. Scandinavian wisdom aside, drinking in the morning is never the solution. An alcoholic beverage can help take the edge off in the morning, but it will further dehydrate the body and lead to even worse hangover symptoms later in the day.
3. Orange Juice
Lay off the OJ after a night on the town. Sour citrus like orange and grapefruit can irritate an already sensitive stomach. Also, skip tomato juice—it is also acidic, making a Bloody Mary at brunch probably the worst choice for a hungover morning.
When hungover, your body is screaming its loudest. Take the time to listen to your body and give it the break from toxins it needs to heal.
Jacqueline Corbett, MS RD LD
Registered Dietitian, #NKFitSquad Dietitian.
Making your own smoothie or protein shake may seem simple, but it can actually get tricky; adding too much of a healthy ingredient or adding ingredients that you think are healthy but actually aren't can lead to calorie overload or a messed up macro ratio.
Shakes should fall around 350 to 450 calories for a snack and up to 600 for a meal. You should use ingredients that contribute nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and meet your goals, not just add empty calories, like fruit juices or sorbet. Here’s what to consider when blending a shake:
You’ve just finished a great pump session with Natalie and feel ravenous for nutrients. For a muscle-building shake, aim for a 40:30:30 ratio of macros, 40% carbs, 30 % fat, and 30% protein. Focus on the protein for this goal and get at least 30g protein per shake to help build muscle mass. Protein powder, dairy, and nut butters should be calculated into your protein and fat macro ratios. There is no need to double down on the protein powder though. Any more than 40g protein at a time is wasted. Your body cannot process more than 40g. Therefore, you’re more likely to clog up your kidneys and experience constipation. That’s why bowel issues are the biggest complaints for those on the Atkins or carnivore diets.
The carbs in your shake should come from fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, spinach, and carrots. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Skip grains like oats or sweeteners such as honey. While these carbs also contain vitamins and minerals, they don’t have as many as actual fruits and veggies and will knock your macros out of proportion.
Still confused about which ingredients are best for you? Here are 10 ideas to make your shake healthier:
You shake should contain nutrient-dense ingredients for exercise recovery, muscle building, and cell nourishment. Get creative and make you nutrition powerhouse a perfect shake!
Jacqueline Corbett, MS RD LD
Registered Dietitian, NKFitSquad Dietitian
There are so many things that can disrupt your sleep — from stress about work deadlines to the temperature of the room —you find yourself tossing and turning after a late night with friends or an indulgent meal at home, you may need to reevaluate your eating habits. Read on for what to avoid and then some suggested foods to try for better sleep.
Eating too close to bedtime can be especially problematic if you're prone to heartburn. Laying horizontally after a meal can allow stomach acid to travel back up the esophagus, leading to a bitter taste in the mouth or burning in the chest.
TYPES OF FOOD
Spicy and acidic foods like tomatoes, tomato sauce, and citrus fruits may be problematic, and chocolate may also worsen reflux. Also, foods and beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and soda, should be avoided as well. Caffeine blocks a chemical that helps make you sleepy, and it's also a diuretic, which can cause you to make a trip to the bathroom during the night. Try cutting yourself off from caffeine before lunchtime.
Eating a large meal right before bedtime can also affect your ability to sleep. If your stomach feels overly full and you can feel the contents churning, this can cause discomfort and prevent you from falling asleep. A high-protein or high-fat meal is more difficult to digest and should be avoided before bed.
So what should you eat if you’re hungry and can’t sleep? Melatonin! Melatonin is the chemical that makes us sleepy at night. Light — either from the sun or the blue light from your laptop — suppresses melatonin. That means you should power down your devices in the evening, but supplementing with melatonin can also help improve sleep and combat insomnia. That said, taking it in the over-the-counter form you find in pharmacies may not be safe, particularly over the long-term. Instead, try one of these melatonin-packed foods:
Sleep is both one of the easiest activities and potentially frustrating things our bodies do. Research is still unclear on so many aspects of our sleep. Everybody sleeps differently. With time focusing on your body and brain connection, you will learn what works for your body.
Happy Fourth Everyone!
Backyard BBQ and beach days begin. With summer, I see an influx of patients with Plantar Fasciitis. Why does summer coincide with Plantar Fasciitis and foot pain you may ask? Two words: FLIP FLOPS.
Last year, I bit the bullet and actually bought a nice pair of $30 flip flops with arch support. Never again will I peruse the Old Navy 5$ flip flop wall buying every color imaginable. Not only are they not good for my feet, but honestly they didn’t last very long.
CLICK HERE for the flip flops I wear
So why are flip flops such an issue? The lack of arch support puts you at risk for Plantar Fasciitis.
Before we go into the how, let me explain what Plantar Fasciitis is. Fascia is a band or sheet of collagen connective tissue that connects muscle to bone. However, it also surrounds each muscle so that the muscles can glide on each other without getting “stuck”. In this case, the plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that starts at the base of the heel and fans out to the toes. It also has connections to the Achilles tendon. It’s job is to stabilize the arch of the foot. When irritated it causes pain in the origin of the heel. Some symptoms include pain when first waking up in the morning or after sitting for a long period of time. Overtime if you don’t improve your symptoms, the tissue can begin to calcify and cause a bone spur.
Most flip flops don’t have the arch support needed for your foot. They have flat skinny soles that don’t absorb the necessary impact of the ground, leaving your arch to do all the work. On top of that your body weight is not supported properly. How many times have your heel slipped when walking in your flip flips. This causes the Plantar Fasciitis to become strained.
Follow these steps to improve your plantar fasciitis:
1. Buy appropriate flip flops that support your arch.
2. Wear them moderately
3. Perform exercises that are going to stretch your 2 calf muscles: the gastroc and soleus
4. Perform exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the arch of the foot
5. Roll the bottom of your foot with a ball or a water bottle placed in the freezer
6. Possible to wear a night splint at night to keep your foot in dorsiflexion (or up) to reduce pain in the morning.
Want more specific exercises?
Join NKfitsquad online program for a cohesive plan to improve not only your overall health with a personal trainer but a comprehensive physical therapy movement assessment and nutrition plan specific to your goals
Carving out time to meal prep is challenging and can frankly be overwhelming for beginners. However, there is truth in the saying “failure to plan is planning to fail.” You need a surefire game plan that's most supportive of your goals. With time, you'll learn how to design your own dishes, and making meals ahead will become second nature. Read below for meal preparation design as fabulous as you are!
1. Protein for fat loss and muscle growth: Lean protein is essential for weight loss. It helps you feel full and aids in muscle recovery and growth — and the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn. But that doesn't mean you have to eat the same baked chicken at every meal. Try mixing things up with other picks.
2. Vegetables and fruit for weight loss and gut health:
If you're monitoring your digestion or trying to lose weight, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables should be the star of your plate. They're filling, and fiber helps regulate blood sugar, preventing cravings. All fruits and vegetables have different health benefits, so aim for variety — the more colors, the better. Here are some great ones to add:
3. Grains to round out the meals:
Carbs are not the enemy, as long as you pair them with a source of protein and some healthy fats for a well-balanced meal. Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa have more fiber and nutrients than refined grains like white bread. Try these picks.
4. Healthy fats to nutrient absorption:
Healthy fats are more calorie-dense than carbs and protein, but that only serves to make your meals more satiating and help you absorb your veggies’ nutrients. Plus, fats are crucial for a healthy brain and hormone function. These are the ones worth adding to your list.
5. Get cooking!
Once you get all those healthy foods home, and you're ready to start cooking, remember that certain methods will better serve your goals than others. Stick with grilling, roasting, steaming, and sautéing using low-sodium broth or water. If you're trying to eat healthier, you'll want to avoid frying your food or cooking in a lot of oil or butter.
6. Portion it out
Assemble a protein, healthy fat, and veggies or fruit with each meal. A whole grain should be an accompaniment to add texture to your meals. While portion sizes are highly individual, make sure veggies are at least half your plate. For example, to create a meal with about 400 calories, include 3/4 cup pulses (such as canned, no-salt-added chickpeas) as a protein, 10 kalamata olives as a healthy fat, 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, 1/4 cup onion, and 2 cups spinach sautéed in low-sodium broth, 1/2 cup cooked whole-wheat pasta for a whole grain topped with 1/4 cup tomato sauce. You can also add seasoning as you like, such as black pepper.
When you need to eyeball it, many experts recommend following the 50/25/25 rule, in which you fill 50% of your plate with fruits and nonstarchy vegetables, 25% with lean protein, and 25% with whole grains or starchy vegetables, with a small amount of fat (such as nuts or avocado) mixed in.
Changing how you shop and cook can be overwhelming, but totally worth the effort. Have fun and get creative. As long as you portion out your foods, you can branch out and come up with your own creations.
Forgetting to drink sounds almost as silly as forgetting to breathe, yet there's a dehydration epidemic, according to a new Harvard study. Researchers found that over half of 4,000 kids studied weren't drinking enough, with 25% saying they didn't drink any water during the day. And this isn't just a kid problem: A separate study found that adults may be doing an even worse job of hydrating. Up to 75% of us could be chronically dehydrated!
Being a little low on water won't kill you, but it can decrease muscle strength and aerobic and anaerobic ability, as well as cause poor mental performance, headaches, and make you feel sluggish. So how do you know if you're drinking enough H2O? Your urine should be pale yellow or very clear. But there are several other less-obvious signs your water tank needs a refuel.
1. You're Hungry
When your body wants a drink, it's not picky about where that water comes from and will happily accept food sources as well as glass of plain water. That's why many people assume they're hungry when they start to feel weak and tired. But it's harder to get hydrated through food (not to mention more caloric). Therefore, if you have a sudden craving (especially for ice cream or beer after a run), drink a cup of water before eating to see if that takes care of your "hunger."
2. Your Breath Reeks
One of the first things to get cut when you're dehydrated is your saliva production. Less spit means more bacteria in your mouth and more bacteria means stinky breath, according to research published in the Orthodontic Journal. In fact, the study writes that if you go see your dentist about chronic halitosis, usually the first thing they suggest is drinking more water. That often takes care of the problem.
3. You're Grouchy
A bad mood may start with your water levels, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Scientists found that young women who were just 1% dehydrated reported feeling more anger, depression, annoyance, and frustration than women who drank enough water during a lab test.
4. You're a Little Fuzzy
That afternoon brain drain may be your body crying for water, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Researchers found that people who were mildly dehydrated during the experiment performed worse on cognitive tasks and reported feelings of wanting to give up and an inability to make decisions.
5. Your Head Is Pounding
That same study that found that dehydration increased moodiness in women also found an increase in headaches in the dried-out ladies. The researchers added that dropping water levels could decrease the amount of fluid surrounding the brain in the skull, giving it less padding and protection against even mild bumping.
Your Bottom Line
A tall glass of good ol’ water should be your go-to as soon as you start feeling less than 100%. But there is no need pound gallons a day. Take half of your weight in pounds-this is the number of ounces you should reach for to start out. Once you have a consistent habit of reaching this amount, your body will develop natural cues to tell you to drink more water. It will become an afterthought to remain the hydrated, beautiful mermaid you’re meant to be!
You've been there: You had an amazing workout with Natalie and had no problem eating healthy, well-portioned meals even after Muscles and Mimosas. But the next day, your much-deserved rest day, you're suddenly ravenous. Instead of that veggie- and lean-protein-packed salad you planned to eat, you can't stop thinking about all the other delicious things around the office or around town running errands: pizza, burgers, tacos...you get the drill. You start to feel foggy-headed and irritable. This is known as Hanger, an often comical combination of hunger and anger due to the hunger. And this is not a fun state of mind to be in. So why is it so freaking hard to stay on track on the days when you're not working out? And is it all in your head, or is something else going on?
Long story short, it is not your imagination playing tricks on you when you feel hungry on rest days. As it turns out, there are quite a few factors that could be at play. Read on for 6 reasons and 6 tips for dealing with hangry rest days.
1. Your hunger hormones are affected by exercise. When you exercise, you create an energy deficit. If you're not eating more to replace that deficit (like when you're trying to lose weight), it's only natural to feel hungry. Sometimes people may feel less hungry on days when they have heavy training loads due to blood flow being distributed away from the gut into extremities. When this is the case, your body may regulate itself in the following one to two days post-exercise to compensate for the food that wasn't eaten after exercise to make up for the energy deficit. This means you see an increase in the hormone ghrelin (which makes you feel hungry) and a decrease in the hormone leptin (which makes you feel full and satisfied).
If you don't have a specific caloric or macro goal for the day, then the solution to being hungry on a rest day is simple: Eat more. If you're someone who is trying to maintain your weight, then you should eat more to make up for the calories you burnt off after intense exercise. If not, you will lose weight unintentionally, which can hinder your athletic performance.
But if you do have a reason to limit your food intake on rest days, such as weight loss or body composition goals, here are some strategies to try:
When in doubt, there is truth in math. Have your nutrient needs calculated and plan you macros. Be sure to incorporate enough protein especially on your rest days for muscle recovery and to keep you satiated enough to truly relax and enjoy your hard earned rest days.
Today we are going to go over different types of strength training. There is 3 different types: isometric, concentric and eccentric.
1. Isometric: This type of strength training occurs when the muscle length and joint angle do not change during the contraction. They are done in static positions; not through the range of motion. Isometric exercises are good post surgically or for abdominal strengthening post pregnancy. For example, you know when you really have to pee and you’re holding it. That is working on isometric strengthening of the pelvic girdle muscles. Isometric strength training can work multiple muscles at once. For instance, a plank is an example of isometric strength training of multiple muscles.
2. Concentric: This type of strength training is when tension on a muscle increases as it shortens. They are important in achieving hypertrophy of a muscle. The best example of this is a bicep curl. As your lift the dumbbell the bicep muscle will shorten causing concentric activation. Like isometric muscle activation, concentric muscle activation can occur with multiple muscle groups at the same time. For example, the upward motion of a jump squat.
3. Eccentric: This type of strength training is when tension is placed on a muscle while it lengthens. Eccentric muscle training slows down the elongation of the muscle fibers in order to challenge the muscle. It can lead to stronger muscles and improves muscle repair speed. Eccentric muscle training is one of the best things you can do for your body. It helps with the following:
a. Improves muscle force
b. Stores more energy in the muscles for the next movement
c. Less vulnerable to injury
An example of eccentric strength training is an eccentric split squat
Let’s break each down in a specific exercise. For a squat, the down motion if done slowly is working on eccentric strength while the upward motion is working on concentric. You can perform isometric strength by doing a hold halfway.
Eccentric strength is harder than Concentric strength but it is also more functional. For example an easy way to remember it is: let’s say you are sitting on your couch. You are about to use your right arm to put a potato chip in your mouth. This would be concentric strengthening of the biceps. Putting the potato chip back in the bag is eccentric strength of the biceps because it is lengthening. It is harder to put the potato chip back in the bag and not eat it than to put it in your mouth. Make sense?!
So how can I get the most bang for my buck when performing a workout with Nkfitsquad?
Natalie will definitely help you with this. However, always remember that combination of movements is always the best so that the muscles can be challenged. Concentric strengthening will help with girth of the muscle and eccentric strength will help with power. So remember to slow down with the exercises in order to achieve the results you want. Join the new 3 month Online program for the best results!
For more information, contact NKfitsquad to join!
amy carollo, dpt,gts
Having a healthy gut might seem like a nitpicky concept that's being sprung upon you because of the current popularity of probiotics. But considering how your gut affects different aspects of your health, including your immune system and balancing your hormones, it's important to keep it in good health.
Read on for six ways to keep your gut healthy.
1. Eat More Fiber
As we all learned early on, fiber is an important component in keeping digested foods moving through our bodies. Making sure you're eating enough fibrous foods ensures healthy movement, which means your body isn't holding onto any toxins. Skip the inulin supplements, as they can make irritable bowel symptoms worse.
2. Take a Probiotic
Taking a probiotic is highly beneficial to your health because it can be engineered to contain potent strains of bacteria that can help balance and restore the good bacteria in your gut. With the popularity of probiotics supplements, however, it seems that every brand is different with a different regimen. Many probiotics come with prebiotics, which is fiber built into the capsule or powder to serve as food for the probiotic strains. If you plan on taking your probiotics on an empty stomach, this is fine. However, because the pH in the stomach is so acidic, it could destroy the supplement’s bacteria. Eating food increases the pH and decreases the acidity. A 2011 study tested taking probiotics with oatmeal and milk found that taking the probiotic 30 minutes before or when eating increased probiotic absorption. Another thing the study noted was that absorption also improved when the meal contained some fats, so be sure to include healthy fats.
If you choose to take your probiotic with your meal, opt for a supplement without prebiotics, as the fiber in the food you eat is actually more beneficial to your gut than synthetic add-ins.
Not sure of your dosage? Start out small and build your way up. Your first bottle should measure 5 to 10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units). After you finish that bottle without GI upset, buy a stronger probiotic up to 25 billion CFUs. Move up as you feel your best. If you struggle with consistency, watch the expiration date and continue the same strength until you feel your body has adapted.
Another fact about probiotics that you should keep in mind: Some probiotic properties are strain-specific. This means that the effects of one probiotic could be different than the effects of others. For example, Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast that is marketed as able to treat diarrhea, while species that fall under the Bifidobacterium genus are said to be able to treat constipation. Both are considered to have probiotic properties.
Going into stress mode affects our health as much as it does our mental well-being. There's a reason why many of us experience stomach upset when we're stressed or anxious — when the principal stress hormone called cortisol is released, it can cause an inflammatory response in your gut that makes it a less than ideal place for good bacteria to thrive.
4. Avoid Antibiotics
Because antibiotics can’t always tell the good bacteria from the bad, they sometimes end up wiping both out, leaving your colonies of good bacteria depleted and disrupting the ecosystem in your gut. When antibiotics disturb your gut, some of your body’s crucial processes go haywire, including your body’s ability to produce some vitamins such as vitamin K. Antibiotics can also disrupt your microbes’ ability to regulate their own behavior and production, which can make you susceptible to over- or underproduction of candida.
5. Avoid the Fake Sugar
Qualitative studies have associated sugar substitutes to lower microbiome counts. Also, sugar alcohols in particular, can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea in some people. This additional irritability can inflame your gut even more, making it a worse environment for your good bacteria. Be sure to read your food labels as well as your supplements and medications for “Sucralose,” “aspartame,” “malitol,” and “saccharine.” While stevia is the new kid in candy town, research is too new to determine is the microbiome is affected.
6. Eat the pickle
Fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, and traditional sushi have beneficial bacteria from the fermentation process. There’s a reason why so many cultures throughout human history have developed fermented dishes. We figured out centuries ago that the bacteria in fermented foods make us feel good. Researchers are beginning to confirm this by linking these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.
Aim to eat at least one fermented food every day, but read your food labels. The jars of pickles you can buy off the shelf at the supermarket are sometimes pickled using vinegar and not the natural fermentation process using live organisms, which means they don’t contain as many probiotics. To ensure the fermented foods you choose do contain probiotics, look for the words “naturally fermented” on the label, and when you open the jar look for telltale bubbles in the liquid, which signal that live organisms are inside the jar.
Taking a probiotic supplement can be very helpful. However, research is in its infancy. Be sure to eat real, whole foods with plenty of fiber. When you have a salty craving, grab a pickle or kimchi instead of potato chips. With consistency, you will help your gut reach homeostasis.
Nutrition impacts everything; your metabolism, mood, and organs, including your skin. As scientists learn more about diet and the body, it's increasingly clear that what you eat can significantly affect the health and aging of your skin. Here are 11 of the best foods for keeping your skin fresh and glowing.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, are excellent foods for healthy skin. They are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary to keep skin thick, supple and moisturized. In fact, a deficiency in omega-3 fats can cause dry skin.
The omega-3 fats in fish reduce inflammation, which can cause redness and acne. They can even make your skin less sensitive to the sun's harmful UV rays. Some studies show that fish oil supplements may fight inflammatory and autoimmune conditions affecting your skin, such as psoriasis and lupus.
Fatty fish is also a source of vitamin E, one of the most important antioxidants for your skin. Getting enough vitamin E is essential for protecting your skin against damage from free radicals and inflammation.
Lastly, fish provides zinc, a mineral vital for regulating inflammation, the production of new skin cells and overall skin health. Zinc deficiency can lead to skin inflammation, lesions, and delayed wound healing.
Natalie’s all-time favorite are back again! Getting enough of the monounsaturated fats in avocados is essential to keep skin flexible and moisturized. One study in over 700 women found that a high intake of monounsaturated fats found in avocados was associated with more springy skin. Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps protect your skin from oxidative damage from sun exposure.
Interestingly, vitamin E seems to be more effective when combined with vitamin C. Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin. Your skin needs it to create collagen, which is the main structural protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy. A deficiency in vitamin C is rare these days, but common symptoms include dry, rough and scaly skin that tends to bruise easily. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects your skin from oxidative damage — caused by the sun and the environment — which can lead to signs of aging.
Walnuts have many characteristics that make them an excellent food for healthy skin. They are a good source of essential fatty acids, which are fats that your body cannot make itself. In fact, they’re richer than most other nuts in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A diet too high in omega-6 fats may promote inflammation, including inflammatory conditions of your skin like psoriasis. On the other hand, omega-3 fats reduce inflammation in your body including in your skin. While omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in the Western diet, sources of omega-3 fatty acids are rare. Because walnuts contain a good ratio of these fatty acids, they may fight the inflammatory response to excessive omega-6.
Walnuts also contain zinc, which is essential for your skin to function properly as a barrier, as well as necessary for wound healing and combatting both bacteria and inflammation. Walnuts also provide small amounts of the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium, in addition to 4–5 grams of protein per ounce.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which functions as provitamin A, which means it will be converted into vitamin A in your body. Carotenoids like beta-carotene keep your skin healthy by acting as a natural sunblock. When consumed, this antioxidant is incorporated into your skin and protects your skin cells from sun exposure. This may help prevent sunburn, cell death and dry, wrinkled skin. Interestingly, high amounts of beta-carotene may also add a warm, orange color to your skin, contributing to an overall healthy glow.
5. Red or Yellow Bell Peppers
Like sweet potatoes, bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. They’re also one of the best sources of vitamin C, necessary for creating the protein collagen which keeps skin firm and strong. A single cup of bell pepper provides an impressive 317% of the RDI for vitamin C. A large observational study in women linked eating plenty of vitamin C to a reduced risk of wrinkled and dry skin with age.
Broccoli is full of many vitamins and minerals important for skin health, including zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C. It also contains lutein, a carotenoid that works like beta-carotene. Lutein protects your skin from oxidative damage, which can cause your skin to become dry and wrinkled. Broccoli florets also pack a special compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is also a powerful protective agent against sun damage by neutralizing harmful free radicals and switching on other protective systems in your body. Evidence suggests sulforaphane may also maintain collagen levels in your skin.
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C and contain all of the major carotenoids, including lycopene. Beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene have been shown to protect your skin against damage from the sun. They may also help prevent wrinkling. Consider pairing carotenoid-rich foods like tomatoes with a source of fat, such as cheese or olive oil. Fat increases your absorption of carotenoids.
Soy contains isoflavones, a category of plant compounds that can either mimic or block estrogen in your body. Isoflavones may benefit several parts of your body, including your skin. One small study in middle-aged women found that eating soy isoflavones every day for 8–12 weeks reduced fine wrinkles and improved skin elasticity. In postmenopausal women, soy may also improve skin dryness and increase collagen, which helps keep your skin smooth and strong. These isoflavones not only protect the cells inside your body from damage but also your skin from UV radiation, which may help prevent some skin cancers.
9. Dark Chocolate
If you need one more reason to eat chocolate, here it is: The effects of cocoa on your skin are pretty phenomenal. Real cocoa powder has so many antioxidants known to make skin less rough and scaly, less sensitive to sunburn and have better blood flow, which brings more nutrients to your skin. One study found that eating 20g of high-antioxidant dark chocolate per day could allow your skin to withstand over twice as much UV radiation before burning versus eating low-antioxidant chocolate. Make sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa in order to maximize the benefits and keep added sugar to a minimum.
10. Green Tea
Green tea may protect your skin from damage and aging. The powerful compounds found in green tea are called catechins and work to improve the health of your skin in several ways. Like several other antioxidant-containing foods, green tea can help protect your skin against sun damage. One 12-week study in 60 women found that drinking green tea daily could reduce redness from sun exposure by up to 25%. Green tea also improved the moisture, roughness, thickness and elasticity of their skin.
11. Red Wine
Red wine is famous for containing resveratrol, a compound that comes from the skin of red grapes. Resveratrol is credited with a wide range of health benefits, among them reducing the effects of aging. It may also slow the production of harmful free radicals, which damage skin cells and cause signs of aging. Unfortunately, there's not much evidence that the amount of resveratrol you get from a glass of red wine is enough to impact your skin. And since red wine is an alcoholic beverage, there are negative effects to drinking it in excess. It's not recommended to start drinking red wine just because of its potential health benefits. However, if you already drink, you might enjoy red wine as your alcoholic beverage of choice.
The Bottom Line
What you eat can have a big impact on your skin health. Make sure you're getting enough essential nutrients to protect your skin. The foods on this list are great options to keep your skin healthy, strong and gorgeous.
Jacqueline Corbett, MS RD LD