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Beauty on your Plate

By: Risa Caldoza-De Leon MD, FPAPSHPIBeauty on your Plate

The nocturnal feast of the season is upon us. During noche buena — which literally means "the Good Night", the family gathers ‘round the festive fully laden dinner table, ready to forget their pants size for just this special night. The spread is mouth-watering – glistening lechon, pancit, crispy fried chicken, ham, quezo de bola, steaming arroz caldo, lumpia, and adobo, capped with suman, bibingka, creamy fruit salad, and gooey puto bumbong. Let’s not forget the tsokolate, wine, beer and soda. Easy to indulge and eat yourself into oblivion, isn’t it? Feasting and dieting never go hand in hand, after all.

But fear not! Brace yourself for some good news. You can eat and drink yourself beautiful, one yummy bite at a time (in moderation of course). Let me explain how you can reap the good skin benefits without the weight gain during this season of serious partying, and yes, binge-eating. 

1. Fruit Salad – The fruits in your salad have brilliant nutrients for a beautiful you! Apples are the richest source of malic acid, which promotes healthier, firmer, and youthful-looking skin by renewing skin cells without damaging the skin layer. And leave the skin on! The skin of the apple has high levels of pectin that helps control constipation, which can trigger acne breakouts.

Papaya contains a large amount of vitamin A (Beta Carotene) and papain, a powerful antioxidant.  Antioxidants scavenge bad free radicals to delay signs of ageing like wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. Papain and chymopapain have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. 

Strawberries contain high amounts of vitamin C (more than oranges) and salicylic acid for whiter and smoother skin. They also have a powerful anti-oxidant called ellagic acid, proven to prevent the destruction of collagen that leads to wrinkle formation. Ellagic acid can ward off UV damage, too. Strawberries are rich in silica, which stimulates hair follicles that curb hair loss and helps in growth of new hair.

Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and wound healing properties.

Add kiwi to your creamy fruit salad to up the beauty benefits. This delicious squishy fuzzy fruit boasts of a whopping 154 percent vitamin C per 100 grams. And we all know that vitamin C is needed for collagen renewal and prevention of sun damage. The high amounts of vitamin E in kiwi fruit moisturize skin and regenerate skin cells, giving the skin that youthful and supple look. Kiwi also contains omega-3 fatty acids that protect you from skin diseases and cancer. This tropical fruit has minerals that boost blood circulation like magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus which stimulate blood circulation and in turn, boost hair growth. Iron improves the health of your crowning glory.

2. Quezo de Bola – Milk (excuse the pun) the benefits of this dairy! This semi-hard Dutch cheese covered in red wax is a tradition! No other cheese will do for the Filipino. Cheese is a powerhouse of B vitamins that promote the growth of long, healthy and shiny hair, according to research. The vitamin B in cheese also helps in the regeneration of damaged cells and removal of dark spots.

It is also an incredible source of calcium for strong healthy bones and teeth. An ounce of serving provides around 25 percent of the daily calcium needs of a person. About 10 pounds of milk is needed to make a single pound of cheese, or more simply, an entire cup of milk is used to produce one slice of cheese. In 2014, a study on almost 4,000 Taiwanese showed that eating up to seven weekly servings of any kind of dairy may be linked to a lower BMI (Body Mass Index), less body fat, and a longer life.

Cheese contains high amounts of protein (mostly casein), vitamin D, vitamin K2, phosphorous, vitamin A, B12 and riboflavin. Cheese lowers the acid levels in the mouth and reduces tooth decay. Smile and say Cheese!

3. Poultry –  Chickens were first domesticated in India thousands of years ago for cockfighting; but this is synonymous to low fat protein. Chicken is among the best and “cleanest” source of protein, containing 23.5 grams of protein per 100 grams of chicken breast. The protein found in poultry is essential for the human body because it helps build healthy bones, muscles, skin, cartilage, and blood cells.

Chicken is rich in vitamins and minerals too. B vitamins in chicken are useful in preventing skin disorders, boosting immunity, and preventing the dreaded gray hair. Chicken and chicken liver contain riboflavin (a type of vitamin B2) that can repel dry skin and repair damaged tissues in the body. Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous or oil glands in the skin, helping prevent zits. Chicken has phosphorus, which can keep your bones and teeth healthy as well as prevent bone loss. 

4. Dark chocolate – Yes, its Latin name is Theobroma cacao, which means “Food of the Gods”, and it may really be that. This sweet/bitter treat is loaded with stuff that functions as antioxidants, such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. A study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than other fruits that had been tested, which included blueberries and Acai berries. It exhibits higher antioxidant activity than black tea, green tea, and red wine. 

In another study, women who drank a high flavanol (plant compounds with antioxidant properties) cocoa powder drink for three months said their skin felt less rough and scaly. Tip that cup of hot chocolate (1-ounce portion is equal to 150 calories) to help hydrate your skin, making it firmer and more supple. Studies have found that cocoa's flavonols may ward off wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, and even protect skin from UV damage. This is why cocoa is used in the preparation of various skin care products.

Cocoa is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, copper, and manganese. It is also a good source of selenium, potassium, and zinc while providing the body with carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fibers. If that doesn’t convince you yet, the presence of the neurochemical phenylethylamine in it also helps enhance feelings of contentment as well as promotes aphrodisiac effects. Remember that the beauty benefits are only found in dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content.

5. Wine – Kicking back with a glass of this elixir is heavenly. According to Louis Pasteur, a name cemented in the history of medicine, wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.

Red wine is packed with antioxidants like flavonoid, resveratrol, and tannin that help fight ageing by restoring collagen and skin elasticity. Polyphenols in wine help fight skin-damaging free radicals. Studies suggest that red wine can help slim down your waistline or even promote a longer life. Red wine also inhibits hair loss and reduces dandruff since it ups the blood circulation in the scalp.

For the discerning connoisseur, Pinot Noirs have the highest levels of resveratrol, whereas Syrahs (Shiraz), Cabernets, and Merlots contain the antioxidant procyanidin.  But sip no more than one glass a day!

Remember that beautiful skin starts with nourishment from within. You really are what you eat. Yes, the cliché is true. Be merry during the holidays and be beautiful too!

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