It is possible to reconcile your love of good food with your desire to eat healthy?
Absolutely. With all of the resources and recipes out there, it's more achievable than ever. Thanks to the many amazing cookbook authors and food bloggers who are so generously sharing recipes and detailed instructions online, it's easier than ever to find amazingly good food that's also amazingly good for you. I'd love to highlight some of these great recipes, all of which are packed with flavor AND nutrients. To do so, I'm starting a new series of posts called GFGS: Good Food/ Glowing Skin
These recipes are all skin saving certified, which means that they all meet the three criteria for promoting youthful, healthy skin:
Eat power. Stop sugar spikes. Stop skin sabotage.
Eat power: These recipes all highlight ingredients that are based on whole foods (foods that are close to their natural state) and are packed with powerful nutrients.
Stop sugar spikes. While a lot of recipes emphasize what they're avoiding (gluten/ meat/ soy/ dairy/ so on...), it's really important to know what ingredients they ARE using. For example, some vegan recipes make use of sweeteners that are just as likely to spike your blood sugar levels as other ingredients. And those high blood sugar levels can lead to collagen damage and sugar sag.
Stop skin sabotage. Certain foods and cooking methods can accelerate collagen damage. For example, if you're going paleo and replacing all of your grains with foods like bacon and charred steaks, you're not doing your skin any favors. Bacon actually contains some of the highest levels of collagen-damaging compounds called AGEs (advanced glycation end products).
Skin Saving Sauces, Spreads, and Dips
This post is the first in a series, and this one highlights some great skin saving sauces, spreads, and dips. I love spreads and dips, because they're usually simple to make. Many of them are what I call "power blends": just take several nutritionally powerful ingredients, and blend.
They also make for an easy addition to meals and snacks. You can add one to your sandwich at lunch and use another as an afternoon snack, with each one providing a nice boost of skin saving nutrients.
1. Black Bean Dip: Black beans are one of those surprisingly powerful skin saving foods that tend to get overlooked. Apart from being a great source of protein and fiber, they're also a great source of antioxidants. In one study, black beans were ranked in the top 5 of the 100 richest dietary sources of antioxidants.
This recipe makes for a quick and very easy dip.
2. Muhammara: We get to enjoy some great Mediterraean restaurants in Houston, and this dip is one of my favorites. The gorgeous red-orange color is provided by roasted red peppers, one of my favorite skin saving foods. They're high in vitamin C, a great antioxidant and a critical vitamin for building collagen. They're also high in carotenoids, nutrients which have been shown to help impart a healthy glow. With the addition of omega-3 rich walnuts, along with elasticity-promoting olive oil, this dip provides a great boost of flavor and nutrients. This recipe by Slow Burning Passion highlights these wonderful ingredients.
3. Pistachio Mint Pesto: I'm always on the lookout for recipes that make great use of herbs. This recipe by Tori Avey for pistachio mint pesto is a great way to utilize mint (which grows like a weed). Herbs are known for being great sources of antioxidants and other phytonutrients, while pistachios are a nice source of healthy fats.
4. Kale Guacamole: This recipe from Love And Lemons incorporates kale into one of your favorite dips for an added flavor and nutrient boost. Kale is considered a superfood for good reason: among other benefits, it's a great source of both beta-carotene and lutein, antioxidants which have been linked to more radiant skin.
5. Greek Tzatziki Sauce: This recipe from The Lemon Bowl is a classic. Tzatziki sauce is popular in Greek cuisine, and it's a great dipping sauce and spread. Yogurt with live active cultures is a probiotic food, which means it has some great skin benefits: among other things, the good bacteria found in probiotic foods have been linked to an improvement in skin hydration.
6. Roasted Beet Hummus: This recipe from Eating Well is colorful, flavorful, and packed full of nutrients. Beets contain betalains, compounds that provide both that beautiful red color as well as some potent anti-inflammatory properties. Chickpeas, the key ingredient in hummus, are considered powerhouses of nutrition due to high levels of fiber, protein, iron, zinc, and more.
7. Chimichurri Sauce: Fresh cilantro and parsley are elevated with spicy serrano pepper and garlic to make this flavorful sauce. Both of these herbs contain apigenin, a powerful polyphenol compound that in lab studies has acted to block the "scissor enzyme" collagenase. (Collagenase snips away at the collagen framework supporting your skin, so anything that blocks it is a good thing.) This recipe by The Minimalist Baker is a quick and easy take on this flavor-packed sauce.
Over the coming weeks I'll be sharing some of my favorite skin saving snacks, suppers, salads, and more.
If you'd like more on skin saving foods and the science behind how these nutrients are linked to youthful, glowing skin, please see my blog at www.SkinAndDiet.com, and my book on eating for younger skin.
Here's to good food and glowing skin!
Dr. Rajani Katta is the author of Glow: The Dermatologist's Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet. To receive future updates on preventive dermatology and the role of diet, sign up here.