The first step to beautiful skin starts with what you put into your body. The skin is one of the major organs of detoxification in the body, and whatever is going on inside of you - both good or bad - will show visibly on the skin's surface. It is impossible for us to look our best and to have clear, radiant skin if our diets are poor and depleted of the many nutrients necessary for proper skin cell renewal. At the same time, eating a balanced, nutritious diet does take time, effort and a lot of dedication, and may be difficult for many of us to prioritise!
For this reason, I like to pack as much nutritional punch into every meal as possible, while at the same time keeping in mind convenience and length of time for preparation. I've developed a little breakfast routine that is very nutritionally dense and balanced, but uses oatmeal as a base and only takes 5 minutes to prepare. Oats are an excellent base for a "super-skin-food" breakfast, as they are naturally high in fiber which will help promote healthy digestion. I start with un-flavoured oats and add a variety of superfoods and berries, Ayurvedic spices and some medicinal herbs as well, all targeted at improving different systems in the body that eventually lead to healthy, vibrant skin. Here is a list of some of my favourite things to add to my oatmeal and a quick overview of some of their main health benefits. Enjoy :)
Nuts and seeds are packed with many important skin nutrients like Zinc and Vitamin E, as well as Omega fatty acids.
Zinc is required for the synthesis of DNA and is vital for the production of new skin cells. It also regulates hormones and oil glands, so is a great vitamin for those suffering with acne.
Vitamin E is very strengthening for the skin and any deficiencies in Vitamin E will lead to shrinking of collagen, which will cause and exacerbate wrinkles.
The more varied your nut and seed intake is, the more essential vitamins you will take in. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of Zinc; sunflower seeds and almonds are a great source of Vitamin E.
Flaxseeds have one of the highest concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids found in a plant source, and these essential fatty acids are very beneficial for hair and skin health.
Flaxseeds also contain high levels of lignans, which are antioxidants that help balance hormones and can have an anti-ageing effect.
Flaxseeds have lots of fiber which promotes healthy digestion and are a great source of B Vitamins, Iron and protein as well.
For adding to oatmeal, I recommend milled flaxseeds rather than whole. They taste great too!
Chia seeds are packed with antioxidants which help prevent and slow down ageing due to free-radical damage.
They are an excellent source of protein and fiber too, and high in Calcium which is necessary for bone health and beautiful, healthy teeth.
In order to access the full health benefits of chia seeds, they need to be either ground or soaked before eating. Look for ground chia seeds or buy them whole and grind them yourself in a nutri-bullet.
Goji berries are loaded with Vitamin C; they contain more Vitamin C per ounce than an orange. Vitamin C is the "Master Antioxidant" and is critical for the production of collagen.
Goji berries are also an incredibly high source of Vitamin A; they contain 180% RDA of Vitamin A per ounce. Vitamin A is found in the dermis and epidermis of skin and is necessary for skin renewal and cell turnover.
I recommend buying organic goji berries, as non-organic goji berries are heavily sprayed with pesticides and tend to be over-dried as well.
Goji berries have wonderful medicinal properties and are very potent when taken in tea form. I like to add a few goji berries to green or white tea, let them sit while I drink my tea and then eat them at the very end. Delicious!
Blueberries are packed with antioxidant anthocyanins, which are the chemicals responsible for giving blue, purple and red foods their beautiful colour. These anthocyanins, along with another class of antioxidants called flavonoids, are abundant in blueberries and make them a great skin-health food staple for battling free radical damage in the body.
Blueberries are also heavily sprayed with pesticides, so I recommend buying organic blueberries if possible. To save on cost, they can be purchased frozen instead, which is an excellent alternative to fresh blueberries since they retain the majority of their antioxidants in their frozen state.
Baobab powder is derived from the fruit of the baobab tree which is native to Africa. It has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit in the world and is also a higher source of Vitamin C than goji berries.
Baobab powder is a great source of Iron and Calcium and is incredibly high in fiber, especially the soluble fiber pectin which helps to absorb excess fat in the bloodstream.
Baobab powder has a really yummy citrus-y flavour and tastes lovely when sprinkled onto oatmeal. I recommend starting with 1 tsp on your oats and working your way up! One tablespoon a day of baobab powder is ideal; it is excellent to add to smoothies and yogurt throughout the day as well.
Milk Thistle Seeds
Milk thistle is a medicinal herb that is superb at aiding in liver detoxification.
The liver is the main detoxification organ in the body; it works to neutralise toxins from alcohol, medications, environmental pollutants, pesticides in foods, synthetic estrogens in plastics and toxic chemicals in beauty products. Modern life can leave the liver very over-burdened; if our livers are filled with toxins or aren't functioning optimally, the negative impact of this toxic overload will show visibly on our skin.
Milk thistle seeds taste great and can be purchased whole and ground in a nutri-bullet. When buying any medicinal herb, look for a reputable source and choose wild-crafted or organic.
*Please check with your physician or a qualified herbalist before using any medicinal herb, especially if you are on prescription medication. Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding.*
Mulberries are deliciously sweet little berries and are nutritional powerhouses as well. Adding mulberries will definitely sweeten up your oatmeal, so these are a great option for those with a sweet tooth who would like to cut down on their use of sugar!
Mulberries are packed with anthocyanins like blueberries and also contain the very health promoting resveratrol as well, which is the compound in red wine that makes it so good for the heart and overall health.
They are a great source of Vitamin C, B Complex Vitamins, Vitamin K and minerals like potassium, manganese and magnesium. They also contain a good amount of Iron, which is unusual for berries. Iron is important for hair health and adequate Iron levels are critical for preventing hair loss.
Turmeric really is a wonder spice. It is incredibly anti-inflammatory and has been shown in clinical trials to be powerfully anti-cancerous. It is an amazing spice to incorporate into meals as much as possible as a preventative medicine.
Turmeric is a highly potent antioxidant and is anti-bacterial as well. It also stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which will aid in the digestion of foods. Some research shows that turmeric can be beneficial for digestion overall and may help with symptoms of IBS.
I recommend incorporating turmeric into as many meals as possible throughout the day. If you don't like the taste, start by sprinkling a small amount onto your oats, then slowly increase as you become more familiar with it.
Cinnamon is great at regulating blood sugar, which is helpful for type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders and heart disease. Using cinnamon is an excellent way of adding sweetness to a dish without using sugar.
It is loaded with antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory, which addresses 2 key skin health factors of inflammation and free-radical damage.
Cinnamon comes in 2 varieties: Ceylon and Cassia. When buying cinnamon, look for "Ceylon" cinnamon. Cheaper "Cassia" cinnamon is widely available but lacks some of the health promoting qualities of ceylon cinnamon and has some potentially harmful effects in large doses.
Cardamom is a wonderful warming spice and is excellent for aiding digestion. It is very effective for a wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders and is also helpful with nausea.
Cardamom is very detoxifying in the body. Accumulated toxins cause free-radical damage which leads to premature ageing. Adding cardamom to your diet can help flush out harmful toxins and clear the way for radiant skin.
Cardamom comes naturally packaged in beautiful little pods; however for adding to oatmeal, I use ground cardamom. My favourite ground cardamom is by a brand called Simply Organic; a little bit goes a long way and it will last quite a while.
Ginger is another great warming spice that is incredibly effective for aiding with digestive problems and nausea. It stimulates both saliva and bile production, which helps to promote healthy digestion.
Ginger can aid in circulation and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that are comparable to ibuprofen and beneficial in relieving pain.
When adding to oatmeal, use ground ginger, but fresh ginger root is great to take as a tea before meals to prepare the body for digestion. To prepare ginger tea, add a few slices of fresh ginger root to boiling water along with some fresh lemon slices. It tastes delicious and will improve overall digestive health when taken regularly.
For those of you who love a bit of sweetness in your foods, raw honey is an excellent alternative to using sugar. It is packed with lots of minerals, enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants and has a healthy glycemic load in comparison to sugar. These health benefits are not found in processed honey however, so unfortunately the teddy bear honey that is sold everywhere is not health promoting at all!
Raw honey promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which will aid in the proper digestion of foods and improve immune system function. Raw honey is also helpful for those suffering from pollen allergies, especially if the honey used is sourced locally.
Despite its many health benefits, raw honey is still a form of sugar and should still be used in moderation. I recommend starting out with 1 tsp, and slowly over time cutting back a little bit each day. Less is always more when it comes to sweeteners!
Raw honey also makes an excellent face mask when applied topically to the skin. I like to combine it with a little bit of rose water (regular water is fine too), spread it across my face and leave for 10 minutes. It washes off very easily and leaves my skin looking fresh, hydrated and incredibly soft. It smells delicious too. :)
Personally I like to add all of the above extras to my oats every day! If you decide to add quite a bit of these ingredients to your oatmeal at the same time, I recommend cooking with a little more water (or milk) than is called for. This will ensure your oatmeal does not get too dry or thick when you add in the extra ingredients.
I do hope you will give some of these foods, berries, spices and herbs a try the next time you make oatmeal. Be creative and add some of your own favourite foods and spices as well. Bon appetite! :)