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SKIN FOOD: How to eat your way to Healthy, Glowy Skin

Our skin is a powerful indicator of what is going on inside, particularly the liver, blood and colon. It is in fact our largest detoxifying organ. What we feed ourselves gets distributed through our bodies, effecting each and every cell, our organs and their various functions. If what we eat can make us go to the bathroom (or not), keep us trim (or not), boost our energy (or not), you can bet that it also effects every one of our other bodily processes, and skin repair is one of them! Years of consuming artificial ingredients, preservatives, additives, hormones and toxins eventually take their toll, and often the first thing to “go” is keeping our skin “glowy” and our hair shiny because frankly, the body has more important functions to focus on maintaining our beauty! But by making the load easy for the body to bear, it can work on protecting us from the signs of aging, unburdened.

What to avoid:

Dairy is the main culprit here! Dairy is highly acidic and inflammatory to the human body, with little beneficial dietary components – it has no antioxidants to fight free radicals, or fibre to ensure a well functioning digestive tract. Dairy is also pumped with hormones and antibiotics, which not only promote acne but can lead to hormonal imbalances and even antibiotic resistance. Replace dairy with dairy-free alternatives such as nut milk, coconut yoghurt, coconut/almond ice creams, cashew cheese and nutritional yeast. Once you get the hang of it you will find there is something for everything and everyone! See my replacement advice here and here.

Avoid processed, packaged and refined foods, refined sugar, excessive caffeine consumption, alcohol (especially sugary drinks), vegetable oils.

What to include:

Hydrate with 2L of water daily, ensure 8 hours of quality sleep each night, optimise digestion and eat a clean whole-food diet with copious amounts of greens as well as a variety of colourful plant foods, to get adequate fibre, vitamin A, C, E, zinc and omega 3… including (but not limited to) many of those listed below, on a regular basis:

Red capsicum – high antioxidant levels, vibrant red capsicums help to keep your skin healthy and supple. They are a wonderful source of both vitamin C and the mineral silicon, assisting the strengthening and regeneration of collagen, the main structural protein in connective tissue. Healthy collagen production keeps the skin firm and reduces oxidative damage! Skin tip: much on capsicum throughout your day as you would celery or carrot sticks, enjoy it with dip for extra satiety.

Sweet potato – it’s high levels of beta-carotene convert to vitamin A in the body, meaning it provides us with both vitamins A and C, the antioxidants that fight free radicals from damaging our cell tissue, causing premature aging. Skin tip: choose sweet potatoes that have the deepest orange colour, these contain the most carotene!

Cabbage – containing the skin-loving combo of vitamins A, C and E, cabbage is highest in some of the most powerful antioxidants found in cruciferous vegetables. Interestingly, it actually contains more vitamin C than oranges! By now we know that vitamin C is critical when looking to minimise wrinkles, fight inflammation and heal damaged tissue. It’s impressive nutrient content makes it a potent detoxifying food, slowing the aging process.

Lemon – another good source of vitamin C, lemons also support the hard-working liver, our main detoxifying organ. They strengthen liver enzymes and promote the secretion of bile, which in turn aids digestion. A detoxification agent, blood purifier and digestive aid, they are in actual fact alkalising once within the body (despite their acidic taste!). Skin tip: Consume the juice of ½ lemon with a cup of warm water first thing daily to cleanse the body and prepare metabolism, and use lemon throughout your day in salad dressings, stir-fries and smoothies.

Almonds – the monounsaturated fats within almonds help retain moisture within the skin, softening and protecting it. These beautifying nuts are rich in vitamin E, the primary antioxidant in human epidermal tissue. Vitamin E works to protect the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays, whilst also nourishing the skin from within to prevent dryness.

Fermented Vegetables – loaded with probiotics and enzymes, fermented vegetables work on ensuring the gut is a friendly environment for good bacteria to thrive! This helps with digestion and the absorption of all these skin-loving nutrients. Probiotics also work to keep your system free from nasty pathogenic bacteria that cause digestive upset, poor immunity and inflammation, which may lead to skin irritation, acne or dull, unclear skin. Skin tip: don’t be afraid of it, just spoon a few tablespoons on top of a salad, crackers or alongside a meal!

Other foods to include  – all green leafy vegetables, carrots, avocado, berries, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and brazil nuts.

Healthy Easter Hacks

Easter can be a tricky time for some people, with chocolate eggs and bunnies crowding office kitchens and store aisles. Not only have we put together fuss-free, guilt-free Easter hampers for you to keep your chocolate choices simple and pure, we have also put together this list of what to look out for when making an Easter purchase, healthy swaps, ways to have fun and how to indulge this weekend! Happy Easter!

1. Stay on the Dark side…

of chocolate that is! A good rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. 70% and higher is a good guide. That is not only because it’s antioxidant content will be greater, but usually, the higher cacao percentage it is, the less sugar/milk you can usually find in it. In fact, dark chocolate v milk chocolate is less likely to contain dairy, and dairy-free is definitely the way to go when opting for a guilt-free treat! When sugar or milk/milk powder is the first ingredient, you can be sure that bar has fewer health benefits. My pick for all the best dark and dairy-free chocolate this Easter is this assortment of goodies.

2. Make your own

Be completely confident with what is in the chocolate you’re munching on by DIYing it. Try the easiest chocolate recipe here. You will need this and this. You can also find a more decadent Easter chocolate truffle recipe here. Another fun choc-treat to make yourself is dark chocolate coated fruit by melting down this chocolate. If you would like to minimise the chocolate used, simply drizzle it over instead of fully immersing the fruit in the melted chocolate. For added crunch, sprinkle with crushed nuts. This is a fantastic way to get the whole family involved, so that it isn’t just about eating, but more about creating and spending time together.

3. Chocolate replacements

There is no need to completely skimp on that chocolatey flavour you crave around this time of year. If you don’t want to splurge on chocolate, why not try and incorporate it into your day in other fun ways? Try this chocolate thickshake for a protein-packed breakfast, a bliss ball for that mid-morning or afternoon slump, a soothing creamy hot cacao or the healthiest chocolate mousse for those nighttime cravings!

4. Work for it!

Kids or no kids, an Easter egg hunt is a great Easter activity to do with family or friends, that actually sees you work for your chocolate! Get creative with the hiding spots, scattering them over a greater area of space to get you all moving further for longer! What’s more, you can also hide other Easter-related items: think baby carrots, bunny ears, pom-pom baby chickens, spiced teas, chocolate-scented lip balms. Get creative!

5. Apply the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule is a realistic one to live by: you abide by a healthy diet and lifestyle 80% of the time, and allow room for indulgence the other 20%. Whilst to some, this might mean a weekend of “blowing” out, because the rest of the week they have been “good”, I prefer to think of it with a little more moderation. Enjoy a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner, whilst also savouring those chocolate eggs (i.e. don’t skip meals! You will only over-indulge). If you can sneak in a walk or a workout over the Easter weekend, great! but if you are busy having fun, don’t sweat it, you ate fresh healthy meals, spent quality time with loved ones, and you treated yourself without the guilt!

How to add more veggies to your day

Often, we focus on getting in enough protein. We track our intake of fat. Some closely monitor their sugar intake… but is anyone counting their vegetables?! 5 servings a day is a minimum requirement, but frankly, I rarely see clients who meet this conservative amount. We know that the consumption of fruit and vegetables is linked to a reduced likelihood of chronic disease. Fibre, antioxidants, bioflavonoids, water, vitamins and minerals, and even nutrients like omega 3 and protein, yes protein! are in our beloved vegetables. Therefore, for optimum health and in line with using food as preventative medicine, the amount we strive for should be much, much higher. I believe eight servings a day is a better recommendation, with no end in sight! My advice: Eat as many as you can fit in! The below ideas are ways to creatively include veg into your meals, for you or perhaps for fussy kids, to boost the nutrient content, colours, flavours and even texture, and far exceed 5 servings a day…

Smoothies – 1,2,3 even 4 handfuls of greens! When you blend them, they break down and you won’t even notice, especially spinach or cos lettuce.

Aim for 3+ cups with main meals such as salads and stir-fries – leafy greens, a variety of chopped raw salad veggies, and roast veg. Include a combination of all three.

Soups – you can make soups 100% vegetables, from using veggie stock (loaded with nutrients), to chopping veg in or pureeing it. Sometimes I even puree it e.g. cauliflower soup, and then top it with mushrooms, broccoli or sliced zucchini for texture. A cup of veg soup makes a great afternoon snack or dinner starter.

Snack on carrots, capsicums, cucumber, celery – crunchy foods are often more satisfying, aren’t they? Keeping sliced veg sticks handy are a quick go-to snack to enjoy, whilst upping your veggie intake. Pair with dip such as hummus or nut butter for satiation.

Blend them into a dressing – sometimes I throw in capsicum, zucchini, cucumber, beetroot or carrot in a salad dressing with things like tahini or miso. Makes for a beautiful colour and tasty flavours!

Veggie Juice – juice more veg to fruit for a healthy juice combo that is sure to give you an energy boost! Even better – use things you would usually throw out, like celery or beet leaves, where there is actually a substantial amount of nutrition. Throw in lots of lemon and/or some green apple, and you will mask any bitterness.

Grate carrot or zucchini – in your oats +/bircher, blend tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, broccoli in your dips like hummus, try beetroot muffins… easy, delicious and great for variety!

Are we tired of avoiding fruit yet?

Hi guys,

what I am about to post might be a little controversial. I get it, I myself jumped on the “all sugar is sugar” bandwagon and went through a long period of avoiding all things sweet, including fruit. In fact, if you look back at some of my recipes, you will see I used to make a lot of fruit-free smoothies, replacing it with avocado or soaked nuts and stevia/xylitol.

Whilst I think limiting fruit has a place, like in issues with Candida overgrowth, my transition to a 100% plant-based diet has seen a revival in my love affair for fruit. It has brought to my attention the very warped way in which I once viewed whole foods, like fruit, and the way I believe so many of us still do.

You see, we live in a world where packaged food with nutrition panels, ingredients we can’t pronounce, flavour numbers we don’t understand, and buzz words that deceive, are viewed as “good”, yet we are afraid of the plant foods that grow from the earth and have been eaten by humans for centuries. Hmmmmm...

It goes back to the simple concept, if you can recognise it, your body probably does too!

Fruit is natures beautifully alkaline, perfectly packaged, fibre-rich supplement.

When we consume fruit we get vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate and calcium. We also get the benefit of antioxidants such as organic phenols, which have been shown to decrease oxidation helping to prevent chronic disease and promoting healthy aging. The fibre acts as a buffer to the natural sugar being consumed, ensuring it is slow releasing and preventing those dreaded highs and lows of refined sugars. Not only that, but ripe fruits are the most alkaline of all foods. We want our body to stay alkaline to prevent chronic disease and toxicity and make us feel and look our most vibrant (animal-based foods are acid-forming, which causes the body to leech specific nutrients that balance this acidic effect, like calcium). And last but not least, fruit contains water making it extremely hydrating, which never goes astray when so many of us struggle to meet our daily quota of 2L water.

With all these incredible health benefits, we have somehow managed to demonize fruit and glorify artificial, man-made formulas.

So how did we get here?

Big bad fructose: Any ill effect of fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is strictly limited to that of industrial fructose such as high-fructose corn-syrup, and not fruit. In fact, this study proves that a diet that restricts fructose from added sugars but includes fruit, is more beneficial for weight-loss than a diet that limits both fruit and added sugars! It is definitely a combination of the above health benefits that ensures fruit doesn’t have the same effect on our blood sugar as refined sugars. Indeed, restricting fruit intake has even been shown to be ineffective in type 2 diabetes patients.

Here is something else I have come to understand – when you cut a food out completely you usually need to fill it’s void with something else. What I found myself doing was replacing a lot of my fruit with nuts, seeds and oils, essentially replacing healthy carbohydrates with good fats. I didn’t feel good on a high-fat diet, and even though I still promote good fats as part of a balanced diet, I think we are all too concerned with eating fat and not concerned enough about eating fibre and nutrient-dense plant foods.

We are in fact designed to eat carbohydrates as a large portion of our diet – particularly land and ocean fruits and vegetables, even whole grains. Yet so many of us are crowding out carbohydrates with protein and fat. We actually have 5 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. As you can see, sweet is indeed one of them, meaning we need not feel guilty for wanting something sweet! And fruit is the perfect answer.

The more I eat real, whole foods, the more I can eat fresh fruit and even a little dried fruit, with no guilt, no bloating and no weight gain. It actually makes me feel so, so good and alive! This is where another age old comes into play – listen to your body. We are unique individuals.

Experiment, eat consciously, tune into yourself.

Don’t fear a whole food group, especially one as vast, nutritious and natural as fruit. We are fruit eaters – look at the banana-loving chimpanzee, our closest relative!

I just want you to think about how you view food, and begin to see the irony of fearing foods that are whole, pure and come from nature.

Surely, that doesn’t seem right?

Love, health & wholefoods, always

Sami xx

Tips to have you feeling better Post Travel

There’s a lot of information out there nowadays on how to prepare for healthy travel, snacks to pack for the plane, what to do and what to do on board to avoid jet lag etc. but there seems to be very little on how to settle back into the swing of things post travel. After a flight we are dehydrated, our appetite is haywire, our body confused, our circadian rhythm is off, our bowel movements may be on hold, and yet we have to be up and at em to tack a to-do list as long as our arm! So, how are we supposed to do it all when all we want to do is lay down? Here’s what I find helpful to get me feeling better in no time.

Water – 3L! The first thing I did when I got home was guzzle 500ml of water when I walked in the front door. I continued to drink water, infusions and herbal tea all day (ginger and peppermint tea are great for digestion).

Lemon water – if you get back first thing, a good idea is to get back into the routine of starting the day with warm lemon water. Add a pinch of ground cayenne or turmeric or some fresh grated ginger to pep things up. I’ve also decided to switch things up with grapefruit from time to time which has a similar effect.

Chlorophyll – I also like to add 15ml of chlorophyll to a few glasses of water throughout the day. Chlorophyll promotes cleansing, alkalises the body, energises us and fights free radicals (antioxidant properties).

Dry brush – I’ll admit, the first thing I do is take a shower. I am in no mood to dry brush that musty feeling of airplane all over my skin! However after my first quick shower, I then apply oil to my hair (see below) and unpack/organise for 1-2 hours. THEN I dry brush before showering again to deal with that oil….

Coconut oil for hair – Planes not only dehydrate your body and skin, but they also leave your hair dry and brittle. Apply coconut oil to your hair, starting from the scalp and combing with your fingers toward the ends. Don’t forget to massage the roots to promote healthy hair growth. After 1-2 hours (or as long as you like), wash it out, making sure to double shampoo and then condition. Afterward, if you have one, use a split end/dry hair serum whilst hair is still damp.

Unpack – As tempting as it is, don’t leave this for the next day when you likely have to go back to work! It’s just another thing on your to-do list and will only clutter your space and make you feel messy. Get it done early, while you are oiling your hair, and get organised!

Walk – even if just for 30 minutes. Get outside, breathe the fresh air in. Natural light will help optimise melatonin production, managing your circadian rhythm to regulate sleep patterns.

Raw fruit & veg – hydration, hydration! This cuts out the processed foods which can clog up your system and has you gorging on delicious wholefoods which are nutrient dense, alkalising and extremely hydrating. I snacked on fresh berries for a hydrating antioxidant hit, and had lots of raw salad and a smoothie throughout the day.

Supplement regimen – I’m generally a little slack with this while I am away so if you take supplements, now is the time to get back into the habit of having them at the right times during the day.

Moisturise – After your shower, or if you are like me, when you get into bed that night. Our skin is very dehydrated remember from air travel and airports, so lather it on!

Yoga – If you have time, take a class otherwise simply stretch it out on the floor. Downward dog, Reverse Warrior, Triangle, Butterfly, Pigeon, Bridge, and a Supine twist are all great poses. These will stretch out stiff muscles and bring you a sense of calm.

Bedtime – not too early, try to get used to your home timezone, however you want at least a full 8 hours before you have to wake up the next day. I was sleeping like a baby on vacation (sometimes 10 hours!) so this is something I want to prioritise. More sleep! We all need it. See my jet lag tips here.

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