Diet for Beauty– Day One

Its  hard to open up a health or beauty magazine without an article that links diet and beautiful skin.  While its certainly a no-brainer that what we eat affects how we look I want substantive claims that directly link good nutrition  to smooth younger looking skin.   

Some of the best evidence comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, aka  the NHANES study.  This  long ( ten year), large  (17K  men and women) study  compared daily food intake with a wide range of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  But what makes this a must  keep study for me is the relationship they studied between diet and wrinkles.  To bottom line it, the NHANES found that  people on diets  high in protein, fiber, vitamin C, linoleic acid and omega 3  are linked to FEWER wrinkles.

Good to know, but what  does  this actually mean what  I should eat?   For answers I started  looking at different foods to see what benefits they could offer my skin.  Every other Friday, I’ve been  profiling a popular food item  trying to decide if they belong in my shopping cart or should be left behind on the supermarket shelf. Its actually been eye opening to check out nutritional breakdowns.  I’ve discovered that some favorites  eg artichokes and mussels are beauty diet superstars while others like peaches  are  not that  impressive.

I’ve now put all these posts into a new tab called Beauty Foods.  Looking at this growing list of  beauty diet rock stars, I decided to use them to design menus that could legitimately call themselves an anti-aging beauty diet.

Beauty Diet, Day 1

Breakfast:  2/3 cup of oatmeal ( fiber) with dried cranberries ( vitamin C)

Snack:  1/2 grapefruit ( vitamin C, fiber)

Lunch: Grilled cheese ( calcium) and tomato ( vitamin C) sandwich, carrot sticks( vitamin A, fiber)

Snack:  1/2 cup of  yogurt ( calcium), walnuts ( linoleic acid), an apple ( vitamin C, fiber)

Dinner:  bowl of steamed mussels ( omega-3, protein), spinach ( vitamin C ,vitamin A), sliced tomato ( vitamin C, lutein) and black olive (polyphenols) salad, basmati rice (  I just like it)

I was able to fit in eight foods that I had profiled.   They are widely available and I actually was able to eat this menu  on a weekend trip.  But its just one day.   Can you look at the list of  beauty diet foods and come up  with different menus?

Question and Answers

Question– Last week you recommended mussels because they were high in omega 3 fatty acids. How much omega 3 should I be getting?

Answer- I’ve received  several similar questions this week  and it actually took a bit of digging  to find an accurate answer.  Unlike nutrients like vitamin C or minerals like iron, there are no universal standards   to support a recommended daily allowance ( RDA).  Rather  boards of scientists have looked at  different nutritional studies to come up with a number  where they can say  offers health benefits.  In most cases, doctors examined  heart disease trials  to see how much omega 3  is needed to protect against cardiac problems.  Most of the experts established that the daily minimum for  health benefits of omega 3 is about 400mg/day.  At the other end,  they recommended  a maximum of 3000mg og daily omega 3, with no more  then 2ooomg coming from supplements.

In terms of real food,  3 ounces of mussels provides 700mg of omega 3, about two days worth– which is the number behind recommendations of 2-3 servings of  fish a week.   I also have new respect for salmon which has 1,800 mg of omega 3 in a modest 3 ounce portion.  Since  most servings of salmon are more  like 6-8 ounces, a single weekly serving of salmon  more than meets  your omega 3 needs for a week.  Done!

Omega 3 supplements provide 500-  1000mg per capsule and certainly get the job done, but I  am concerned about their  potential contaminents.  Some studies have shown  presence of mercury and PCB’s  ( two known cancer causing agents)  in popular brands of  fish oil capsules.  Omega 3 capsules made from  cod and shark livers  seem to have  the highest levels.  This has led some people to focus on the benefits of omega 3 from tiny fish  like Krill.   Another approach has been to  try  to establish  manufacturing guidelines  such as Certificate of Analysis  or International Fish Oil Standards, but  it gets pretty confusing pretty fast. 

For now I’m going to get the  health and beauty benefits of omega 3  from a couple of  servings of  fish a week. Its safe and delicious and I don’t need a degree in chemistry to make the right choice.

Anti-Aging Powers of Mussels

I like mussels and I was  so psyched to learn how much of a nutritional punch they packed.  One 3 ounce serving of shelled mussels contains  an entire daily supply of selenium and 3X  the RDA for vitamin B12.  But wait there’s  more .  That little serving  offers 10 grams of  protein at a mere 70 calories and mussels  have less cholesterol than  any other shellfish.  And I’ve saved the best for last–  3 ounces of mussels  have almost a gram of those anti-aging omega-3 fatty acids–  2-3x the amount of  most  fish including sole, haibut, cod, shrimp and clams.    And then there is the price.  Mussels are  just about the most affordable of all fish, currently just $3.99/lb at the new Fairway that just opened in my hood. 

Mussels can be steamed in a seasoned  broth, added to soups or served  over pasta.  They are really simple to cook, but there are a few things you should know before you start:

1. Make sure that the shells are closed and intact when you buy them. Broken and/or open  shells can mean that the mussel is dead-  and dead mussels can  make  you sick.

2. Buy about 3/4 pound of mussels  per serving

3. When you get them home, rinse  them off  in cool water, gently transfer to a deep bowl, cover with plastic wrap and poke about a dozen air holes in the plastic.  This will allow them to breathe so they won’t die  before you will cook them that night.

Here’s a super easy recipe that I adapted from “Barefoot in Paris”  by Ina Garten.  In addition to the mussels, its packed with  antioxidants from olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes and wine.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of mussels

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup parsley

1 cup white wine

Directions:

1. Heat  olive oil in a large pot  and saute  onions for 5 minutes.  Then add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes

2.  Add the tomatoes, parsley,  wine and a few turns of freshly grated black pepper.

3.  Add mussels, stir, cover pot and cook for 8 minutes– until all the mussels have opened.  ( toss  any that remain shut).  Pour the mussels and that incredible broth into bowls  and serve with a big chunk of  whole wheat italian bread.  Serves two hungry people.  How easy it that?

Note:  There is no added  salt to the recipe.  Mussels in their natural state have  about 250 mg of sodium  per serving —  more than enough to flavor it and just about the limit for a healthy serving.