Few things in life feel as good as spending a day at the beach; but you might have to pay for that pleasure later – with sun damage. I believe that we can heal ourselves from the inside-out using food, and this is especially true when it comes to combating the effects of UV rays. No, I don’t think broccoli takes the place of sunscreen, but these super foods will definitely help protect your skin.
The amount of antioxidants in your blood actually decreases when your skin is exposed to sunlight. But sunlight isn’t bad; in fact it’s vital for producing Vitamin D naturally! Even so, you’ll want to pump up your antioxidant intake so you can get the best of both worlds. With that in mind, take these foods with you to your next beach party.
Salad with mandarin orange slices, Pomegranates and Walnuts – While the Omega-3 fatty acids in Walnuts will keep your skin hydrated and ready for repair, pomegranate seeds will work to protect your skin cells from UVB damage. The vitamin C in mandarin oranges is also critical to maintaining healthy, youthful skin, especially when exposed to UV light.
Cherries are a terrific source of the antioxidant melatonin, which protects the skin against damage caused by ultraviolet light. It also helps your skin repair itself after getting sunburnt! Who doesn’t love a bowl of cherries at a picnic?
Throw mushrooms on the grill – crimini mushrooms! These kabob-ready mushrooms have some of the highest selenium contents found in food (Brazil nuts may beat them out, but with far more calories). They’re also packed with B-Vitamins, which your body needs to create new skin cells.
Green tea – don’t worry, you can have it iced! Green tea has an antioxidant that actually fights inflammation in the skin, neutralizes free radicals, and prevents wrinkles. For an extra lazy day at the beach, just bring some green tea-bags and a gallon jug of water and make sun-tea. No stovetop required. But you might need some ice.
Now go scrunch those toes in the sand!
Usually watermelon is your go-to for cooling down – but not after you read this:
Eating watermelon may lead to better sex.
Studies show that watermelon is the little blue pill of the vegetable world, improving blood circulation throughout the entire body – just like Viagra. The magic nutrient is citrulline, which converts to arginine once ingested, and arginine clears the way for blood to flow. Sure, it also helps with cardiovascular health and may help those with obesity and type two diabetes, but sex is a lot more… sexy.
Watermelon is also rich in lycopene, a heart-protecting anti-oxidant that also promotes prostate health. As if that weren’t enough, some scientific evidence points to lycopene helping with male infertility.
So this Fourth of July, tell your fella to eat watermelon – and you’ll really see fireworks!
Here are my favorite ways to eat watermelon:
Watermelon Agua Fresca
Take 6 pounds of seedless watermelon and cut into 2″ chunks. Blend in a blender in batches, pouring in about 2 cups of water to help with the process. Pour the blended watermelon through a strainer into a pitcher (this should yield about 8 cups). Mix in 1 Tb lime juice and 1 Tb agave nectar. Now, pour into glasses with ice, and garnish with mint leaves. It’s delicious!
Watermelon and Goat Cheese Party Bites
Use a cookie cutter to press watermelon into bite-sized rounds. Then place a mint or basil leaf on top, and using a pastry-bag, top with a dollop of soft goat cheese. Skewer with a tooth pick, and finish with a delicate drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
The watermelon bites pictured are topped with yellow heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with basil and hot chili-infused oil.
The days are heating up, the layers of clothes are coming off, and all I can think about is chocolate. It’s my theory that life is too short not to eat good food, and if that means a brownie now and then, well, that’s what’s happening.
Fortunately, there is a lot to be said for the health benefits of a good, gluten-free brownie. I like this brownie recipe from Elena’s Pantry, which includes creamy roasted almond butter, 2 eggs, agave nectar, vanilla extract, cacao powder, sea salt, baking soda and chocolate chips. It’s full of good fats, low on the glycemic index thanks to agave nectar, and most importantly, it is full of delicious dark chocolate.
The Power of Cacao
Not all cacao powder is created equal, so if you want the highest quality nutrients, get your chocolate fix from something like organic, raw Arriba Criollo Cacao Powder. Straight cacao, which is undiluted with milk and sugar, is packed with anti-oxidants and Phenylethylamine (a mild stimulant that boosts dopamine, serotonin and other feel-good chemicals). Hey, you already knew a brownie makes you feel better – and now you know why!
5 Health Benefits of Chocolate
- Cacao is an appetite suppressant, and it’s low on the glycemic index.
- Cacao is an excellent source of iron, magnesium and chromium.
- Cacao releases neurotransmitters that help endorphins and serotonin flow.
- Cacao is full of flavanoids which, like antioxidants, fight free radicals that damage cells.
- Cacao delivers a powerful punch of polyphenols which help fight heart disease and reduce inflammation.
Remember: Eat better, feel better, live better. And everything’s better with chocolate.