Recently, I was talking about vitamins, the sun, and melanin on my social media pages. So, I have decided to write this Summer-themed blog post. It’s an interesting topic, ’cause sometimes you actually tend to forget that food is not just a fuel to keep you running all day long. You can make the right choices and get the most out of your meals, in terms of keeping your body and mind healthy, or in terms of helping you with mood swings, skin health, energy levels, concentration, digestion, etc. Let’s talk about a few tips to help your skin and shine from the inside out!
You have probably already heard about “meat free Monday”: is an international campaign that was launched some years ago to encourage people to eat at least on Monday meals without meat, considering both the effect on health and on the planet.
Here there is a plant-based recipe perfect for this period of the year. Give it a go! If you check my pages on social media, you will find a lot of inspiration for cooking tasty and healthy meals: find us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Share with friends and help to spread the word of #meatlessMonday!
Bulgur Salad with Roasted Asparagus
250 g bulgur
About 20 fresh asparagus
1 handful of chickpeas (cooked)
About 80 g of green olives (in brine; washed before use)
1 bunch of spring onions
1 lime (juice)
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried coriander
½ tsp grounded cayenne pepper
1 tsp black sesame seeds
A pinch of black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the asparagus: heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan, then add the whole asparagus and cook for few minutes over a medium heat. An alternative: it’s possible to place the asparagus on a baking tray and cook for a few minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180°C.
Leave the bulgur to rest for 20 minutes in a medium-sized bowl with enough water to cover it, then wash it. Heat some olive oil (less than a tsp) in a pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped spring onions and stir-fry for few minutes until fragrant. Add the bulgur and toast it for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with half lime juice. Start adding a little bit of water to cook the bulgur for 5/10 more minutes, then wait until it’s cold (you can put the bulgur in a bowl, add some olive oil, and separate everything well with a fork, to prevent the formation of lumps while it’s cooling down).
At this stage, mix everything together: bulgur with spring onions, half lime juice, asparagus, chickpeas, olives (half chopped and half whole), herbs, spices, and some extra virgin olive oil. Serve by itself or with a green salad.
Your skin is the body’s largest organ and the fastest-growing one. Unless your skin is damaged or cut, your skin protects your whole body.
The skin has the ability to absorb active compounds that you use with lotions, but at the same time can use compounds that you introduce with the diet.
In this blog post, I will guide you through basic topics and pieces of advice, simple and easily adaptable to everybody’s life.
What you eat influences not just how you feel “internally”, but it has also an effect on your skin, your energy levels, your sleep pattern, etc. (think for example at how your skin looks after a few days of not drinking enough water). A healthy lifestyle can also be helpful if you have a skin condition like acne, rosacea, or psoriasis: obviously, in this situation, you should be extra careful with your make-up, lotions, and beauty routine in general. Also, sometimes there are specific treatments to follow given by a dermatologist, considering that the reason behind these conditions can be different.
Remember that what worked for someone can be useless for you, or your skin can even react badly. That’s why is always better to do little patch tests on an arm when buying a new cream or make-up. Also “the more, the better” is not always true: putting too many products on your skin won’t make you look great faster – just find a few that work well for you and have a good list of ingredients, and use them on a daily basis. It’s like a healthy diet, you need to be consistent and slowly you will see results, but the body needs time to adapt!
7 basic tips for a healthy skin
1. Drink plenty of water: seems like the most useless advice, but it’s actually something good to remind. We are reading everywhere different pieces of advice related to health: drink this, drink that, drink those daily, a healthy shot of this, 10 glasses of that. Go back to the basics: are you drinking enough water? Your skin can tell you, also your lips, your digestive system, your ability to concentrate, your tiredness, and much more. Sometimes your body is telling you in many ways that you need more water – you should just pay more attention to the signs! There isn’t a fixed amount of water that is good for everyone, the classic rule of 8 glasses may not work for you. Consider how is your day, diet, exercise routine, etc. You will notice a big difference by start drinking more water: one of the first positive effects will be on your face’s skin!
2. Green tea: you can use it both as a beverage and as a skin treatment. It’s rich in antioxidants, that will help you fighting free-radicals and keeping a younger skin. Much research has been done about green tea, and the powerful effect of its catechins and polyphenols both for skin cells and protection from environmental damages has been proved. Using it topically, it will also help with inflammation and will give a good cleanse: you can make a concentrated cup of green tea, cool it down, and mix it with some aloe vera, then use as a cleanser with a cotton pad (after removing the makeup).
3. Good fats: this is an important part of a balanced diet. Your body needs good fats: they are important for things like cells, metabolic processes, and vitamin absorption, just to name a few. Of course, you need them in the right amounts. Use extra virgin olive oil (that is also rich in vitamin E, great for skin), or nuts (for example almonds, that contain also minerals, vitamin A and E), or avocado (source of vitamin E, C, antioxidants, and vitamins from the B group), or seeds (source of omega-3, vitamins, and minerals).
4. Minerals: reduce sodium, go for fruit and vegetables rich in potassium (to keep a healthy sodium-potassium balance). Include foods rich in magnesium (that will also help with stress), and iron (lack of this mineral can give you a dry, itchy, aged skin). Overall, a good amount of minerals will help in keeping a radiant and hydrated skin. Green leafy vegetables, beetroots, spirulina, dried apricots, nuts, whole grains, cocoa powder, etc. are good vegetable sources of iron. Magnesium can be found in oats, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes, cocoa powder, etc. Examples of food rich in potassium are bananas, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, apricots, etc.
5. De-stress: high levels of stress can mess up with your whole body, skin included. Find some relaxation techniques that work well for you, whether it’s yoga, meditation, cooking, reading, exercising, massage, or walking… find the most effective one (or ones) and include it in your daily routine. Stress is often related to emotional eating, digestive issues, lack of absorption of nutrients, high blood pressure, skin problems, etc. Also, staying active boosts your happiness-related hormones, helps to keep your digestive system working well, helps the body’s natural detox by sweating, etc.
6. Healthy gut: the more we know about our gut, the more we understand that there is a deep relationship between its health and our well-being. Your skin health is related to your internal balance because it’s related to diet, absorption of nutrients, hydration, hormones. Embrace a healthy lifestyle rich in fibre, fresh fruit, and vegetables, together with a variety of foods to get all the nutrients that you need daily. Include also healthy sources of probiotics, fermented foods, spices (like turmeric), and herbs.
7. Exfoliate and massage: when doing a simple scrub, the important thing is using just a few basic ingredients that you know are good for your skin and don’t do this deep cleanse too often. You can easily prepare your own face scrub: taking inspiration from Ayurveda, you can use gram flour, honey, and rosewater. Or the simpler and cheaper option is using sugar as base. You can add spices like turmeric, but use small quantities and try it first on a small hidden piece of arm’s skin (it may be too much for a pale skin). By exfoliating, you will help your skin giving a breath of fresh air from dying cells, and you will also do a nice massage to stimulate the micro-circulation. To massage, or for a face mask (maybe together with honey), you can use coconut oil or ghee (they are both rich in nutrients, that will help your skin in re-build a good external protective layer and will deeply nourish your skin): there are several kinds of oil/butter that you can use on your body or face skin, but among many options, these two are good alternatives both for nutrients (ghee is a staple in Ayurvedic treatments) and for adaptability to sensitive skin.
Fancy reading more about this topic? Below there are a few links to scientific publications related to skin health and some of the foods that are mentioned in the post.
- Green tea:
Green tea polyphenols and protective mechanisms
Green tea catechins and sunburn inflammation
Photoprotection and modulate skin characteristics
- Cocoa: Cocoa bioactive compounds and skin health
- Honey: Honey and skin care
- Carotenoids: Carotenoids and protection from sunlight
- Fermented foods:
Bioactives from probiotics and skin care
Probiotics and skin moisturizing
Curcumin and psoriasis-like inflammation
Curcumin and antioxidant mechanisms
- General: Nutritional skin care
Would you like to start having a healthier diet and lifestyle, but also start building lifelong healthy habits? Are you ready for a change but need some help to get started? Click on the button below to take the first step:
Does my daily sodium intake really matter? What are the guidelines? What’s wrong with sodium?
You may have been told by your healthcare practitioner that you have to limit your sodium intake or you may have read somewhere that you should be careful while adding salt in your meals. This recipe is a good example in which there is no added salt, and you just use spices or natural flavours from food to get a tasty and healthy meal.
Sliced roasted cauliflower with creamy mushrooms
1 large cauliflower
3 medium-sized portobello mushrooms (or 8-9 brown button mushrooms)
1 tbsp sesame paste
1 tbsp nut milk
fresh parsley with stems
½ tsp garam masala
freshly grated ginger (1 thin slice)
a pinch of cayenne pepper
extra virgin olive oil
For the green hummus:
1 medium-sized courgette
150 g cooked chickpeas
1 tsp sesame paste
juice of 1 lemon
mixed seeds to garnish
Take off the largest leaves from the cauliflower (you can use them for a vegetable stock), and slice it: depends on its size, but you should be able to make at least 2 big slices from the middle of the cauliflower. With the other parts, make smaller pieces and serve as side vegetables. Prepare an oven dish or baking tray: put a little bit of olive oil in the bottom to be sure that the cauliflower won’t stick to the dish/tray. Then, place the large slices in the tray, together with the remaining smaller pieces of cauliflower. Add some garam masala and roast at 180°C for approx. 20 min. Check it from time to time to be sure that your vegetables are not burning.
In the meantime heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan, and add the chopped shallot. After a couple of minutes add the finely chopped mushrooms, and stir for approx. 5 min. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan where it is. Add the finely chopped parsley stems (approx. 1 tsp, when chopped), a pinch of cayenne pepper, some garam masala, the sesame paste, freshly grated ginger, and nut milk (or 1 tbsp of water): mix well until you don’t have a creamy sauce with the mushrooms. Place the slice of cauliflower on a plate: cover it with the mushrooms and some fresh parsley. Add on the side a dollop of green hummus, and sprinkle with toasted mixed seeds. Serve the remaining roasted cauliflower with some extra hummus.
To make the green hummus: roast the courgette for 4-5 min. (or cook it in a pan for approx. the same time), and allow it to cool down. Blend the chickpeas, with some lemon juice, the courgette, and a little bit of water if you need it. When you have a creamy mixture, add the sesame paste and mix well with a spoon.
Whether you want to make some healthier sweets to eat during the day, or you’re looking for post-gym snack ideas, these energy balls are a good alternative. I have decided to go for a sweet potato base, not just to make them a little higher in carbs for those days when you need that extra energy but you don’t know how to include more healthy macronutrients in your diet, but because this recipe can be a way to use some sweet potato leftovers.. give it a go!
In Italy we have Fat Tuesday, it’s the last day of the Carnival season. Well, actually there is Fat Thursday as well: a couple of days for indulging in traditional food before Lent. At the begin of January, when you still have a messy house full of decorations, loads of coloured and extra-sugary sweets start to pop up in the shops. And you will start hearing an imperative in your tummy: it’s time to fry! No jokes, it’s all about frying. There are so many kinds of traditional sweets for this time of the year, but 90% of them are fried. I like to cook some of them from time to time, but making a healthier version makes the sweets more enjoyable: so, for example, I use whole grain flour, cut off some of the sugar and use different toppings or fruit, or choose to prepare them in the oven. Continue reading “Spelt Pancakes with Orange Cream”