5 Tips for Great Skin

Skin-Healthy Fruits & Veggies

Battling acne, worried about wrinkles, skin looking blah, or wondering what to do to prevent skin cancer? Foods to the rescue, of course! Here are 5 nutrition tips to help you tackle them all:

1. Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc.) and refined carbs (sugar, candy, soda, white pasta, white bread, white rice, etc.) with their resulting insulin spike are really, really good at making pimples. Drop both for 3 weeks and see your skin clear up.  More on the whys here.

2. Get enough protein, and get it from plants to help prevent and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Skin is made of protein, and an adequate supply is needed to prevent its deterioration. Your daily protein needs are based on your body weight and are equivalent to your body weight in lbs X 0.36. So, a 180-lb. person needs 65 grams of protein a day. But, you can’t eat it all at once — it should come at 15-20 gram increments throughout the day. Plant proteins are best because they’re moderate while still being sufficient in protein (too much protein harms your kidneys, bones, and encourages weight gain), and some are rich in another wrinkle-destroying diva: Vitamin E. Vitamin E is highest in sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, and spinach. Vitamin E also protects your skin from melanoma. Eat up!

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids aren’t just important for heart health. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a eating Linoleic Acid-rich foods (walnuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed meal) greatly reduces wrinkle formation and may even help eliminate wrinkles that have already formed. Use flaxseed meal as an egg substitute in baking and French toast, or toss it into smoothies or cereal. Wrinkles be gone!

4. Upping your intake of Red, Orange, Yellow, and Dark Green fruits and veggies by just 1 serving a day is likely to make your skin look healthier and more attractive in just 6 weeks. A study done with Scottish college students showed exactly that. The antioxidants and rich pigments in colorful fruits and veggies — specifically beta-carotene an lycopene — greatly affect skin tone and encourage rosier, healthier-looking cheeks and skin. A Bonus: These veggies and fruits are also rich in Vitamin C, which helps prevent the free-radical damage responsible for most skin cancers. As a goal, try for 4 servings of veggies and 3 servings of fruit each day. Rainbow power!

5. Aside from wearing your SPF while all the while still getting adequate Vitamin D, Caffeine may actually help you prevent skin cancer. Research from Harvard’s Nurses Health Study showed a 20% decreased risk in women who drank 3 or more cups of coffee a day. Research still emerging on this one, but coffee drinkers may just be ok afterall.

See recipes here for ideas on including all these tips in your food day.



Out-Of-Hand Nuts (and a few Seeds)

Unless you have an allergy (obvious, and more about why those are on the rise here), it’s time to pop some nuts into your mouth. A new study published in Nutrition Research concluded that even though nut enthusiasts generally have a higher overall calorie intake, 1/4-ounce or more per day of OOHN (Out-Of-Hand Nuts) meant better overall intake of healthy fats and fiber, and a lower intake of cholesterol, sodium, and sugary carbs. More OOHN also meant lower risk of high blood pressure and better “good” HDL cholesterol–both indicative of lower heart disease risk. And yes, the researchers coined the acronym for Out-Of-Hand Nuts, which literally means nuts that you eat out of your hand versus those stashed in cookies, bread, cakes, etc.

While OOHN lovers DID consume more calories than OOHN anti-lovers, the lovers generally had similar or lower Body Mass Indexes. Perhaps it’s all the calories burned tossing the nuts into one’s mouth. Have you had YOUR out-of-hand nuts today?

Bigger Breakfast = Better Life

Eggless Eggs with Whole Grain Toast, Orange Wedges, and Fruit Juice

“Breaking the fast” in a big way is perhaps the best tactic in curbing daily cravings, controlling appetite, losing weight and maintaining weight loss, and staying happy, according to a new study out of Tel Aviv. Researchers found that a 600-calorie breakfast which even included something indulgent like chocolate cake (!!) compared to a low-carb 300-calorie breakfast, was significantly more successful at helping obese individuals lose weight over a 7-month period. Not only did the breakfast indulgers lose weight, but the bigger breakfast also helped them maintain their health focus and happiness because they weren’t depriving themselves of chocolatey love and great nutrients in general.

The study deets: A group of nearly 200 obese women and men were divided into 2 groups and  required to eat the same calories each day: 1400 for women, and 1600 for men. The only difference was that one group ate a low-carb, 300-calorie breakfast (aka the “Skimpy Breakfast Group”), and the other group (aka the “Big Breakfast Group”) ate a balanced 600-calorie breakfast which included cookies, cake, or chocolate. Both groups lost an average of 33 lbs per person for the first half of the study. However, for the second half of the study, the Skimpy Breakfast Group REGAINED 22 lbs per person on average, whereas the Big Breakfast Group lost an additional 15 lbs per person, making their total weight loss 40 lbs MORE per person than the Skimpy Breakfast Group at the end of the study.

The take-home message: Start Big, End Small and At Peace.

Sample 600-Calorie Balanced Breakfasts (including chocolate):

Tofu scramble
Whole grain toast with almond butter (1 piece)
Fresh fruit
Coffee with 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
2 pieces dark chocolate


Large bowl oatmeal made with:
Old-fashioned rolled oats (or gluten-free rolled oats), apple, raw cashews, cinnamon, & non-dairy milk
Fresh Fruit
2 Tbsp dark chocolate covered raisins


Shamrock Smoothie – 12 ounces (1.5 servings) with added Hemp Protein Powder
Large Bran Muffin with added chocolate chips


Bran flakes with banana and unsweetened soymilk
Whole grain toast with peanut butter
Chai tea with vanilla almond milk

What are some other nutrient-infused power breakfasts you love?

And Here It Is: Diet Soda Causes Heart Problems

Photo by: Rafakoy

Diet soda always seemed so good to be true, didn’t it? Sweet but no calories? A sugary, bubbly, and guilt-free green card? Well, a new study out of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center found that people who drank diet soda daily had a 43% increased chance of suffering a vascular event (heart attack, stroke, vascular death) than people who drank none, and that was after taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. The researchers are unclear why diet soda had such harmful effects. Interestingly enough, however, researchers found that regular soft drink consumption and a more moderate intake of diet soft drinks did not appear to be linked to a higher risk of vascular events.

I’ve long discouraged diet sodas and artificial sweeteners because while they can technically help you meet your fluid needs, they leave your body wondering why it didn’t get any sugar out of the sweet-tasting beverage, causing you to eventually crave and scavenge for sugary treats. This makes you grumpy and crazy, and causes you to cycle through diet sodas, candy bars, guilt, more diet sodas, free-based sugar, and so on. Plus, many individuals feel more anxious after consuming artificial sweeteners and often have trouble falling asleep at night, regardless of caffeine consumption.

If you need to sweeten and a touch of real raw sugar or agave nectar won’t do it, stevia powder like Truvia (made from stevia leaves) has zero calories and is made from nature, not chemistry. Plus, it doesn’t have the unhealthy heart or  sugar-craving delirium side-effects. For beverages, however, straight up water jazzed with fresh fruit and cucumber wedges, or filtered water seltzered with the at-home Soda Stream, are always best.

Sorry to bear the bad news, diet soda lovers! But, the good news is that after 3 diet soda-free weeks, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll be clear out of the health risk woods. Plus, you’ll feel shockingly amazing. No more panicked vending machine runs!

Vitamin D DanDy

Photo by: Barry Bridges

Are you feeling unexcited about your recent lottery win, or less energized about the energizing aspects of your life? If so, it may be time to load up on vitamin D. New stats show that 70% of Europeans have low Vitamin D levels, and I was reminded of this potential as I gazed out my window this morning at a snow-covered yard and a sun-deficient sky. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike your skin. It’s found naturally in very few foods, added to some foods, and also available as a supplement.

SPF 8 and glass windows block vitamin D’s synthesis, darker skin produces less vitamin D with sunlight exposure, and cloud cover and shade reduce UV rays by about half, which is why it’s no surprise that many, many “I used to have energy” folks are coming up short this time of year. If you live at 42 degrees north latitude (I’m talking to you, northern Cali to Boston!), UV energy is insufficient from November through February. Once summer hits, it’s crucial to soak up a little bit of sun to refuel your tank.

How much do you need?
Just 5-30 minutes of summer sun from 10 AM – 3 PM twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen will do the trick. You make about 20,000 International Units (IU’s) with just 20 minutes of summer sun. If you go the supplement route—necessary in winter months—the recommended intake is 400-1000 IU’s per day. However, some doctors and researchers recommend 2,000-4,000 IU’s daily for people with normal levels, and 5,000-10,000 IU’s daily for people with below normal levels. Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol, a synthetic form of D) is less bioavailable than Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol, animal-derived, and the kind that the sun makes in your skin), which means you need more D2 than D3 to increase your blood levels of Vitamin D when sunshine isn’t around.

Why is D so essential?
Bones need it for calcium absorption, and it’s also critical for neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation, and may be helpful in preventing cancer of the breast, ovary, colon, and prostate, and improving mood, depression, and energy levels especially during winter-time months. Plus, vitamin D research is getting close to proving it’s key role in preventing and treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions.

Anything else?
A brand spankin’ new study just found that adequate Vitamin D could reduce inflammation and aging of the eyes as it improves retina health. Plus, previous studies have found Vitamin D deficiency to be a complication with liver disease and linked with increased risk of asthma among African American kids. Adequate Vitamin D levels are crucial for cancer prevention and survival, and are even pointing to increased survival among elderly women. For more info on D facts and figures, check here.

Where to Get It in the Winter
Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and say so on the label: Super sources are non-dairy milks including Earth Balance Soymilk which contains more Vitamin D than other non-dairy milks (120 IU’s per cup compared to 100 IU’s per cup). Non-dairy milks are also fortified with Calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12.

So where do you get your D? Time for a sunny vacation perhaps?

Mediterranean Diet Increases Lifespan

Mango Summer Salad from SKINNY DISH!

A friend of mine always joked that healthy eating doesn’t make you live longer, it just seems longer. Well, looks like I can finally prove him wrong! A conglomerate of four studies to be published by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg has shown that a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains, and low in meats and dairy foods increases lifespan and lifetime health. Read the summary here. Just in time to set those veggie-heavy New Years Resolutions. And, I guess I can continue my healthy eating preachery in 2012!

That Crazy hCG Diet is Finally Proven Ineffective and Dangerous

Dinner on the hCG Diet, by Sifu Renka

The very low calorie diet recommended in conjunction with the pregnancy hormone hCG for supposed appetite suppression and weight loss is unproven and potentially dangerous as outlined by the Hormone Foundation–a public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society–in their new “Myth vs. Fact: The Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Diet” fact sheet.

Included in the risks of taking injected hCG are long-term breast cancer risk for premenopausal women, blood clots in both men and women, ovarian cysts in women, reduced sperm count and infertility in men, and breast enlargement and tenderness in both men and women. In addition, very low calorie diets put individuals at risk for nutrient deficiencies that can’t be met by multivitamins, and cause gallstones and irregular heartbeat. Read the article about the fact sheet here.

Looks like we’re back to chowing delicious veggies, downing health-promoting water, and dancing Latin-style. Hurray!

Protein, not Sugar, to Cure Afternoon Slump

Photo by: NutsInBulk

When you start dragging your heals around 3:00 in the afternoon and then literally drag your heals to the vending machine for a sugary energy boost, turns out the sweet Charleston Chew (do they make those anymore?) or the bag of jelly beans are some of the worst things you could get. The best? Planter’s Mixed Nuts, a protein-rich granola bar, or another similarly high-protein snack.

Researchers dedicated to understanding the afternoon slump and then beating it with food (slump quashers), just published their recent findings in the journal Neuron. Apparently the orexin cells in your brain–which stimulate wakefulness and tell your body to use up energy–are not only blocked by glucose (carbs/sugar), but the amino acids in protein actually block the blocking ability of the glucose. Block blockers! So, once your lunch has digested and a whole army of glucose is floating around your bloodstream, you’ll start to get sleeeeepy. But no you wont! Eat some protein sans sugar (unsweetened nuts, edamame beans, etc.) and quash that snoozy feeling. As an added bonus, grabbing protein rather than pretzels, fruit, or candy this time of day actually helps with weight control too. Read more about those details and your new friends the orexin cells here.

For avid Bitchin’ Dietitian followers, you may remember my VERY FIRST BLOG POST addressed this important topic, and it looks like I pretty much nailed it.

SALT: Helpful in Lowering Cholesterol & Triglycerides?

Photo by: Nana Odile

Don’t you just LOVE salt? Just a small amount accentuates flavors in foods and makes them SO MUCH MORE enjoyable. If you agree, you’ll be happy to hear that only 50% of people with high blood pressure are sensitive to salt and that reducing it’s consumption helps lower their blood pressure (not new info).

But today, it gets better! The American Journal of Hypertension published a monster meta-analysis (an analysis of many many studies on a certain topic) showing not only that reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure only negligibly (that’s fancy for ‘barely worth it’), but also lowering salt intake greatly INCREASES blood cholesterol levels (by 2.5%) and triglycerides (by 7%).

So, while OD’ing on processed garbage loaded with salt and deficient in true nutrition is still a not-so-good idea, there’s a chance that reintroducing the sea salt shaker to your greens and beans, and dipping your avocado rolls in soy sauce may actually help your blood lipids–even folks who have high blood pressure. Raise that shaker and lemme hear a “La Hiem!”

Low-Junk, High-Veggie Childhood Diet = Better Adult Health

Child wisely chooses a plum over an albeit healthy homemade donut, while wearing a DISC-related shirt

Seems obvious, no? A child who eats lots of fruit, veggies, brown rice, quinoa, and lentils is likely to be a healthy adult, right? Yes, it’s obvious. But the coolest thing that has just come out of the DISC Study (Dietary Intervention Study in Children) is that a mere moderate increase in high-fiber foods and moderate decrease in high-fat and high-saturated fat foods during childhood and adolescence appears to have a significantly positive impact on how soon and how fast age-related health changes happen in adulthood.

So, the occasional salad bar-eating kid is likely to have better blood pressure and blood sugar control well into adulthood compared to the kid who goes for fries and chicken cosmos every day. While kids seem more resilient to fatty foods, their health destiny is being planned.

Small changes, big results. For ways to get veggies and other fibrous grub into your kids, check here.