What you put on your skin can often be the very first concern when we’re addressing skin problems, but what goes into your skin is massively important. It’s like building a house: it can be as pretty as you like, but if the foundations aren’t good enough then that beauty won’t last. For truly strong, radiant skin, we need to establish good foundations.
Fortunately many of us become increasingly aware of the importance of diet to our skin. We are reducing their sugar and caffeine intake, eating more red and yellow plants, checking ourselves for a dairy allergy, or just eating a few more greens. There is also a constantly increasing number of health-oriented eateries and brands, so that eating a beauty-promoting diet is easier than ever.
However, although it may be easy to grab a “health food snack” or a “vitamin drink”, the first step to eating healthy is to eat home-cooked food made from the ingredients you know what they are. It doesn’t matter whether you make it yourself, get a friend or relative to help, or even pick it up at a holistic or traditional salad bar, but you need to make sure what you are eating is real, whole and fresh foods, minimally processed.
What to follow – is your guts
There are countless diet regimes, good to not-so-good, and almost all of them are created by someone who is trying to sell you books, supplements, meal replacements or merchandise. That is why the first step to eating right for your body is to listen to your body, not the gurus!
Body is complex and everyone is unique. Some people have bigger or smaller stomachs, faster or slower metabolisms, stronger or weaker appetites. Some people have allergies or food intolerances. Your gender, age, activity, ethnicity, etc will all have an effect on what you should be eating. For this reason, we cannot recommend one specific diet to everyone, as what works for us might not work for you.
That said, there are some rough guidelines to healthy eating which almost anyone can benefit from.
- Eat a diet that is 80% whole foods, 20% prepared foods and cheat meals. This balance, known as 80/20, gives good results and many people find it easier to follow than 100% whole foods.
- 1/3 to 1/2 of your food should be raw plants. The easy way to do this is to fill 1/3 or your plate with salad, have a fruit salad for breakfast, or eat a piece of fruit as your pudding.
- Reduce salt, sugar and caffeine, unless you have a medical reason not to.
- Don’t eat too much! Follow the Japanese principle of stopping eating when you’re 8/10ths full, or, if you like big meals, skip snacks and consider intermittent fasting.
- Eat a rich variety of foods. Not just of plants, but try and mix up your carbohydrate and protein sources too. Eating pasta and chicken every day is not maximizing your nutrition.
- Make sure you get plenty of nutrients. If you have a hard time getting a specific nutrient, then supplement it. For example some vegetarians may take iron pills, or lactose intolerant people may take calcium.
If this is all you do, nutrition wise, your whole body will thank you for it, skin and hair included. But at jojo-moka we like to do more than the minimum, so next we will explore how to go above and beyond, maximizing the benefits of our food.
How to eat matters too
‘How’ is important as what especially when it comes to eating for beauty. Do you tend to eat too quickly, don’t pay attention to what they are eating, eat distracted, and eat emotionally? The healthiest food in the world can’t help if you’re eating a kilo of it whilst arguing with someone because you had a bad day.
You need to ensure that every meal is: fun, delicious, relaxed, and focused. When we are stressed and fall into ‘fight to flight’ state, the digestive system does not work properly, restricting the ability to break down, absorb and process food properly. Sometimes the body even treats the food as a toxin. This ultimately can cause sensitivities and intolerance to certain foods as they have been associated with stress. It is not a good idea to consume food while working on the computer or on the phone, or when we are under stress, not even after any stressful situation. It is also not a good idea to eat in front of the television or a video game either. When we eat distracted we eat more calories, eat too quickly for proper digestion, and get dissatisfied with our meals. Instead, have your meal at a table. Whether you’re alone or with company, focus on enjoying the food, relaxing, and making it special. Set the table perfectly and lighting a candle even just for yourself, if this helps you enjoy your meal.
Another important habit we should develop is taking ample time over each meal. It takes twenty minutes for your hunger signals to stop, which means if you eat too quickly you may eat too much. Our digestive system also works better when we eat a little at a time, bite by bite, chewing everything properly.
Start your meals with a glass of water, to make sure you are hydrated. Then, sip water throughout the meal. Make sure to put your cutlery down before picking up your glass to drink. When we’re dehydrated we can confuse thirst for hunger, so making sure we are hydrated before eating lets us eat more carefully. Drink water with meals, not soft drinks or juice, as water is the only drink that works with all food. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, transports nutrients to cells, and aids in the absorption and utilisation of vitamins and minerals.
Our bodies are made up of 60 to 75% water. Water is our bodies’ principal chemical component, and every system in the body depends on water. It regulates body temperature, lubricates and cushions joints and builds muscle and other tissues. Poor hydration not only leads to constipation, dry and itchy skin, headaches and fatigue, it can weaken the body’s immune system. We actually lose water all day every day: through our breathing and through slight sweating, hence we need to keep drinking intentionally to maintain optimal heath. So plenty of water is good for us, then what water to drink? Tap water is made up of a certain percentage of NEWater. NEWater is up to 30% recycled grey water. For water to be recycled, it needs treated by a series of stringent filtration system and made chemicals are added to ‘dean’ the water. A study in Europe found more than 24,000 different chemicals in the ‘cleaned’ tap water!
Not all bottled water is good for you though. Research has found that many brands of bottled water are actually just… normal tap water put into a bottle. Make sure to choose natural mineral waters that list a source on the bottle, so that you know where it came from. Also, prioritise glass bottles over plastic ones. Plastic water bottles can leak toxins into the water, not to mention they aren’t biodegradable. Glass bottles are nonporous and can be recycled anywhere.
If bottled water is too expensive, or the brands in your area are not reliable, consider getting yourself a natural at-home water filter which should help to clean your tap water, removing impurities left behind by chemical treatments. Boiling water is also a good way to remove organic impurities like bacteria, and drinking warm water generally is a healthier option than iced water.
Food as Medicine
“For more than forty years I had been trying to work magic in the preparation and paring of foodstuffs, when all along they were first and foremost the source of life. Well chosen, they could become formidable therapeutic agents.” Joel Robuchon Food & Life
‘The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well’ Hippocrates
Think of how your grandmother knew how to treat, despite no evidence based double blind randomised study was ever done. Guaranteed you know people in their eighties and nineties today who never picked up a diet book or read about anti-ageing foods and medicines.
Across the world, for all of human history, we have known that eating well extends our lives and makes us healthier. It is only in this modern age of medicine that we rely too much on science and forget the old ways. But now science is turning around and discovering that nature was the best healer all along.
Vital Nutrients for Radiant Skin
Following are some crucial nutrients to build and maintain healthy glow on your skin.
Benefits: All B vitamins help convert carbohydrate into glucose to give us energy, digest fats, and grow our nervous system. As such, they promote healthy skin, hair, eyes and liver.
Natural sources: fish, meats, eggs. All but B12 can also be found in pulses, seeds, grains and leafy greens.
Benefits: Naturally make our skin glow with their pigments.
Natural sources: Red, yellow, and orange plants
Benefits: Every part of our body needs this mineral to work properly.
Natural sources: Whole grains, nuts, and leafy greens.
Omegas 3, 6 and 9.
Benefits: These essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the skin, but keep it looking healthy and lustrous.
Natural sources: Oily fish and seeds.
Benefits: This nutrient delays the effects of ageing.
Natural sources: Berries and cacao.
Benefits: Another antioxidant, this one helps with thyroid function and thus protects against inflammation and skin cancer.
Natural sources: Yeasts, seafood, garlic, whole grains, nuts and seeds, liver and butter.
Benefits: A natural antioxidant that helps our bodies use collagen, reducing wrinkles and improving healing.
Natural sources: Fruits are our best source.
Benefits: A natural sunscreen and hormone regulator.
Natural sources: This “vitamin” is created by exposure to sunlight, but can be synthesized from the D2 in fish and eggs.
Benefits: Another antioxidant that our sweat glands slowly secrete, protecting our skin from UV light.
Natural sources: Nuts, seeds, leafy greens and fatty fruits.
Benefits: Zinc is largely found in the skin, where it stabilizes cell membranes and boost defences.
Natural sources: Seafood, meats, dairy, nuts, and beans.
It is so much more fun and enjoyable to eat those nutrients from whole food, but when you simply can’t get enough of a nutrient, it is wiser to supplement it than to go without.
My mother always used to say that if you eat meals with at least 30 different ingredients you will keep healthy. Traditional cuisine around the world supports this. Some cuisines are rich in herbs and spices; others make big, busy stews full of vegetables; others love salads, and others include an array of side-dishes from sauces to pickles to fruit, to accompany your main meal. Eating a wide variety is natural for humans.
When looking for variety, try food from different sources, with different colours and different tastes and textures. Some protein, some carbohydrate, some fat, something red, something green, something yellow, something white, something sweet, something savoury, something bitter… your plate needs to be a fairground of foods.
It is recommended to include some raw food at least in one of your meals each day. Locally grown season foods are richest in nutrients opposed to imported or greenhouse grown foods. Frozen can be a good option too especially if they are organic, as they are frozen as soon as they are picked, preserving freshness and nutrients.
Try to wash and peel any fresh, raw vegetables and fruit, unless they are organic, as pesticides and strong fertilizers can remain on the surface of plants. Pay close attention to salad greens, as they accumulate pesticides easily. No pesticides is much better than organic pesticides. The EWG releases an annual review including the “dirty dozen”: the twelve most contaminated plants in our supermarkets.
Now, some foods are naturally very rich in nutrients. We call these “superfoods”, as adding them to our diets can make a bigger difference than adding two or three less nutritious foods. But one or two superfoods won’t compensate for variety. For best results, you need both: superfoods and a richly varied, fresh, clean diet.
Two of my favourite cuisines are also two of the healthiest cuisines: Vietnamese and Japanese. These cuisines are surprisingly and shed light on how we can make healthier food choices. Both promote eating fish above meat, a variety of vegetables, light dishes, pickles and teas, plenty of herbs and spices, and almost daily soups. So even if you don’t enjoy these particular delicacies, use them to inspire you to eat better and cleaner.
→ Artichoke tea
Thinly sliced artichoke skin and heart is sun-dried and boiled slowly for about half an hour. It is known to release heat from the body, cleanses the liver and kidneys, and helps to ease acne.
Another everyday food with great health benefits. Warming, and bitter apples are anti-ageing.
The humble carrot is an amazing naturopathic medicine. Great for cleansing and boosting your immune system.
→ Lotus seed tea
Steeped lotus seeds aid sleep.
→ Mangosteen tea
Boil mangosteen skin gently for about 10-15 minutes and drink as tea. It is known to help diarrhoea.
→ Turmeric ball
Powdered turmeric is made into paste, honey is added, and the mix is made into balls. Consumed as traditional vitamin. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-biotic.
→ Red rice tea
Powder and lightly roasted red rice steeped in hot water to drink as tea. It is known to support digestion.
→ Rice water
Best not thrown away, rice water gives an energy boost and is known to relieve constipation.
Drink with sesame seeds to flush out toxins from the body.
→ Azuki beans
In order to preserve the minerals (iron, calcium, zinc, copper) beans must be soaked for 8 hours before cooking so that the level of polyphenols and tannins diminish, to permit mineral absorption. They support blood production. Cooked with brown sugar they help even more.
Anti-inflammatory, tightens the skin, detoxifying, promotes female hormone balance.
→ Chicken broth
Stimulates gastric secretions necessary for good digestion, bolsters heath after sickness or surgical intervention, aids absorption of fuel.
→ Genmai (brown rice) Soup
Brown rice this great for gut health.
Ginger burns fat and warms the body, detoxifying it. 75% of Chinese medicine uses ginger. Put it in a warming tea like red tea rather than green tea that is cooling. Uplifting, it’s a natural anti-depressant.
→ Kinako (roasted soy flour)
A healthy, mineral-rich alternative to sugar.
A root vegetable that can reduce 25% of the calories.
→ Kuromame (black soybean)
Helpful for irregular menstruation, black soybean tea helps regulate hormones.
This legume’s root is known to help with hangovers and similar ailments.
Warm the digestive system and help with gut health.
A tasty yam rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium.
Moisturises the skin and known to give silky dark hair.
Balances the digestive system and promotes mental health.