LaVie Organique Skincare Blog

How Protein Helps Keep Faces Young and Fit

You may think of it as the favorite fuel of bodybuilders, but protein is also one of the secrets of a firm, youthful-looking face. In much the same way that this vital nutrient builds strong physiques, protein helps keep our complexions and the underlying muscles and bones in optimal shape.

The Collagen Connection: Facial Fitness

The most abundant protein in our bodies is collagen. This type of protein makes up the bands of connective tissue that enable skin to stretch without wrinkling and sagging. Collagen is also a major component of muscles, bones, and blood vessels. These tissues tend to shrink and weaken over time as collagen production declines. We can help slow and minimize this tissue erosion by getting enough protein.

Dietary Proteins: Restoring Firmness from the Inside Out

How much is enough? According to the Institute of Medicine, we should get at least 10% and no more than 35% of our calories from protein. The composition of protein we eat is as important as the amount. To form complete proteins, our food intake must supply our bodies with nine essential amino acids. (They’re called essential because our bodies can’t make them on their own.) As the building blocks of proteins, amino acids enable our bodies to perform a variety of critical functions including

  • Cell formation
  • Fluid balance
  • Distribution of nutrients
  • Tissue growth and repair

Complete proteins are readily available from meat, fish, and other animal products. The tradeoff of these foods is their relatively high content of saturated fat. Plant-based proteins avoid this pitfall but many are deficient in one or more of the 9 essential amino acids. For this reason, vegetarians should ensure their diet includes a variety of foods with different amino acids profiles. Getting enough lysine, an amino acid vital to tissue repair, is particularly important. High-lysine foods like tofu, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all excellent choices for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. If you want to include animal proteins in your diet be sure to stick to lean cuts of meat and keep portions small. The key in either case is to maintain a healthy balance of protein sources.

Plant proteins help keep skin firm and moist.

Topical Rejuvenators: The Anti-Aging Benefits of Plant Proteins

Plant proteins also play an important role in topical skin care. One of the best of sources of botanical proteins is quinoa. Although it’s used like a grain in various cuisines, quinoa is actually the seed of a leafy green plant. As a source of all 9 of the essential amino acids, quinoa is the ideal protein for nourishing, repairing, and protecting the skin from environmental damage. In addition to its firming action, quinoa helps bind moisture to skin cells, resulting in a smoother, more supple complexion.

Quinoa is also packed with antioxidant vitamins and minerals. To increase your defenses against aging, I recommend adding this superfood to a total skincare regime that includes a healthy diet, plant-derived organic skincare products, and facial exercises.

 

Two Natural Homecare Treatments for Lustrous Skin and Hair

If the long, harsh winter has left you with dull, brittle hair and flaky, itchy skin from head to toe, you can restore their health and beauty with a few simple ingredients from your kitchen. The following nutrient-packed recipes will give you a head start on a all-over springtime glow.

Combined with olive oil, salt makes an excellent natural exfoliator for dry, rough skin.

Combined with olive oil, salt makes an excellent natural exfoliator for dry, rough skin.

Egg and Olive Oil Hair Mask

This super-nourishing mask is the perfect all-in-one treatment for the hair and scalp. The protein, fatty acids, and vitamins B-12 and E in the egg yolk strengthen the hair and stimulate its growth. Egg yolks also contain vitamin D and iron, two nutrients that help prevent hair loss. Their rich supply of vitamin A helps relieve the drying effects of winter on the scalp, reducing flakiness and ensuring adequate oil production. Together with the lipids in the eggs, the emollient properties of the olive oil not only soothe parched, itchy scalps but also add suppleness, silkiness, and shine to drab, damaged hair.

1-2 beaten egg yolks (depending on hair length)

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Mix together the egg yolk and olive oil. After shampooing and rinsing, slowly massage the mask into the scalp and hair. Cover with a shower cap or plastic wrap and wait at least 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. You may need to add a little shampoo to remove the mask.

Salt and Olive Oil Scrub

The coarse-grained kosher salt in this scrub will gently exfoliate dead skin cells, allowing fresh new ones to come to the surface. In addition to smoothing and softening the skin and sealing in moisture, olive oil helps relieve irritation, protect against infections, and heal free radical damage with a potent mix of inflammatories, anti-bacterials, and antioxidants.

The following recipe makes enough of the scrub for about three applications.

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

Mix salt and oil together in a container or Ziploc plastic bag. Apply to damp skin and massage in a circular motion with your hands. Rise off the salt and gently pat dry. No need to apply lotion or cream-the olive oil will leave your skin thoroughly moisturized.

To get your hair and skin in the best possible shape for spring, be sure to include the same nutrients found in these natural homecare treatments in your daily diet. Balanced nutrition-inside and out-is the key to continually renewing the natural beauty of our skin and hair.

Taking the Heat Off Your Skin: 10 Anti-inflammatory Diet Tips

One of the most important ways a healthful diet can help you nurture beautiful, youthful skin is by keeping your body’s inflammatory response in check. Under normal circumstances, inflammation promotes healing by sending white blood cells to infected or injured tissues. But inflammation can also damage tissues when stressors such as smoking, obesity, or sun exposure cause it to spiral out of control and become chronic. Chronic inflammation plays a key role in a host of skin problems from rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea to wrinkles, sagging, and other visible signs of aging. An anti-inflammatory diet increases the power of your topical skincare routine to minimize the symptoms of these conditions and restore balanced health to your complexion.
Controlling inflammation depends as much on avoiding the wrong foods as it does on eating more of the right ones. Here are some basic guidelines to help you distinguish between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods.

Pro-inflammatory Foods: Adding Fuel to the Fire
To minimize your exposure dietary compounds that fuel inflammation-related skin damage, avoid foods from the following categories.
Trans fats – Steer clear of processed foods such as crackers, cookies, and chips that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils on their labels.
Refined carbohydrates – Replace white bread, pasta, and rice with whole grain versions.
Sugar – The link between sugar and inflammation has serious implications for your skin. When sugar molecules attach to the proteins in our skin’s collagen fibers, the resulting inflammation causes those fibers to break down, reducing the skin’s strength and resilience. Inflammation linked to high blood sugar levels can also worsen acne. In addition to limiting your intake of sweets, watch out for sugars hiding in processed foods under different names like sucrose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, cane juice, and corn syrup.
Omega-6 cooking oils – Popular cooking oils such as corn, soy, canola, sunflower, and safflower are high in omega-6 fatty acids. While these fatty acids play a crucial role in our health, some of them promote inflammation when consumed in excess. For optimum health, you need to balance your omega-6 consumption with adequate amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Good sources include beans, fish, olive oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Depending on your specific health needs, the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in your diet should vary from 4:1 to 1:1.

Eating a rainbow of vegetables helps protect the skin from damaging inflammation.

Eating a rainbow of vegetables helps protect the skin from damaging inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory Foods: Keeping Your Skin Cool, Calm, and Collected
The following foods are among the richest sources of compounds that help keep your complexion healthy and youthful by interrupting the inflammatory process.
Berries – The phenolic compounds in blueberries, strawberries, and other berries help block enzymes that contribute to inflammation.
Olive oil – Another great source of anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds—for the highest concentration of these compounds, choose the extra virgin variety.
Cruciferous vegetables – These vegetables belong to the mustard family and include cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, and cauliflower. The vitamin K, the omega-3 fatty acids, and a chemical called ITC in cruciferous vegetables help regulate the body’s inflammatory response.
Mushrooms – Mushrooms have been used an anti-inflammatories since ancient times. Porcini, shitake, and oyster mushrooms are particularly good choices.
Onions and garlic – These two members of the allium family of vegetables help prevent inflammation with a potent combination of phenolic compounds. Red onions are particularly high in these anti-inflammatories. They’re concentrated in the outer layers, so be sure you don’t peel away this portion of the onion.
Sweet potatoes – The anti-inflammatory effects of sweet potatoes come from the pigments that give them their orange or purple color, as well as from their high levels of vitamin A and other antioxidants. To preserve these nutrients cook sweet potatoes by steaming.
Ensuring your diet and your skincare products contain healthy doses of natural anti-inflammatories is a safe, gentle, effective way of protecting your complexion from the damaging effects of inflammation. In my next post, I’ll review the major plant-derived anti-inflammatories used in top-quality organic skincare products.

 

Recharging for Spring with a Cleansing Diet

Eating in harmony with the seasons is the key to promoting the body’s natural power to cleanse and heal itself. Cleansing the body is especially important as we move from winter into spring. The heavier foods we typically eat in winter can slow digestion and tax the liver, interfering with its ability to process fats and proteins and to rid the body of toxins. For this reason, spring is a good time to take a break from meat and other animal products. Reorganize your spring diet around plant-based foods that help revitalize the digestive system and the liver and remove toxins and impurities from the organs and bloodstream. Here are some of the most effective choices:

Greens are an important part of a cleansing diet.

Leafy green vegetables – The green pigment chlorophyll in vegetables like spinach, chard, collard greens, and kale is a powerful detoxifying agent.  Scientific studies of chlorophyll suggest the antioxidant compounds it contains may help protect against cancer-causing chemicals and environmental toxins. These vegetables also help the liver produce more bile, a digestive fluid that helps break down fats and remove metabolic wastes from the blood.

Whole grains - The B-complex vitamins in brown rice, barley, and other whole grains support the metabolic functions of the liver. These foods are also high in fiber, which helps our digestive system function more efficiently.

Olive oil - The antioxidant properties of olive oil help the liver recover from toxin-induced stress.

Mushrooms – The antioxidant mineral selenium in mushrooms also has this effect.

Root vegetables - This category includes vegetables from garlic and onions to carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, and celery roots. Like whole grains, root vegetables are a great source of fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants, including many vital minerals, which they absorb from the soil. Allicin, a sulfur compound that’s produced when raw garlic is chopped or crushed, helps protect the liver from toxins.  Another substance in garlic helps cleanse the blood. Onions are also particularly beneficial to the liver.

Lemon - Lemon juice helps flush out toxins from the liver and kidneys. It also stimulates digestion and bile flow.

For a springtime meal packed with cleansing foods, try this traditional Romanian soup.

 

5 Diet Tips for a Younger, More Beautiful Face

Now that the season for New Year’s resolutions is here, many of you may be giving some extra thought to your eating habits. This year, keep in mind that what we eat is as important to the appearance of our face as it is to the size and shape of our body. Every aspect of our health from digestion and skin and muscle repair to mood regulation is affected by our diet. A diet that supports the healthy functioning of our organs and tissues optimizes the defining elements of a beautiful, youthful face. A radiant complexion, firm facial muscles, and a vibrant expression are all reflections of a thoughtful, balanced approach to eating.

Your face is a mirror of your overall health. <Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net>

Here are some dietary tips for maintaining a naturally attractive face:
1. Eat enzyme-rich foods – Raw plant-based and naturally fermented foods contain high levels of enzymes, substances that speed up and regulate chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes improve digestion and help cleanse the blood by breaking down toxins and organic wastes. Our body’s supply of these vital substances declines as we age. To replenish enzyme levels, include foods such as raw fruit and vegetables, sprouted grains, yogurt, miso, olives, and sauerkraut in your meals and snacks. You’ll find that eating these foods not only increases you energy levels, but also helps restore the clear eyes and fresh complexion of youth.

2. Consume plenty of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables – Broccoli, kale, yellow and red peppers, purple plums and grapes—eating a “rainbow diet” will ensure you get the antioxidants you need to fight the effects of free radical damage on the skin. Carotenoids—a type of antioxidant found in deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables—can even improve skin tone. These yellow, orange, and red pigments give your complexion a healthy golden glow.

3. Get enough protein The amino acids in the proteins we eat provide our bodies with the raw materials for rebuilding the collagen fibers in our skin, muscles, and bones. Over time as collagen production declines, these tissues atrophy, causing sagging and wrinkling. To help slow this process, our diet should consist of 10% to 35% protein. The quality of the protein we consume is as important as the quantity. High-quality proteins contain some or all of the 9 essential amino acids that our body can’t manufacture on its own. Good sources of these amino acids include meat, fish, egg whites, legumes, soy, nuts, and quinoa.

4. Include healthy fats – Omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources and fatty cold-water fish have powerful anti-aging benefits. These healthy fats help keep the skin moist, control acne, and repair sun damage. By repairing cell membranes, omega-3s help protect the skin from environmental threats They’ve also been shown to improve mood and sleep, two important factors in maintaining a young, vital look. Good sources of omega-3s include olive oil, flaxseeds, nuts, avocados, salmon, and mackerel.

5. Avoid refined carbohydrates – High blood glucose levels from foods like white flour and sugar can trigger the chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances associated with acne. Chronic inflammation also contributes to the breakdown of the collagen and elastin fibers that keep our skin strong and resilient. These fibers can begin to crack and tear when they bond with sugar molecules. To keep both acne and wrinkles at bay, substitute fresh fruit for sugary treats and replace refined carbohydrates with 100% whole grain products.

Your face is the mirror of your total health and wellbeing. In upcoming posts, I’ll be saying more about how to beautify your face by adopting healthy lifestyle practices.

Beauty Challenges: Rejuvenating the Eye Area

Whether you call them crows feet or laugh lines, wrinkles around the eye are something most of us want to prevent or minimize. The right eye cream is an important part of the solution, but the complex challenges of treating this delicate area require a combination of proven anti-aging strategies. Here’s why.

The Problem: Aging Is More Than Skin Deep

As we age, the underlying collagen network, muscles, and bones that support our skin gradually weaken and atrophy. The thin, fragile tissues of the eye area are particularly vulnerable to this process. Its visible effects can include deep wrinkling and creases, sagging, under-eye bags, and the appearance of sunken eyes and prominent dark circles. Invasive procedures can temporarily improve these symptoms, but they don’t address their root causes.

The Solution: A Health-Driven Anti-aging System

An anti-aging program based on traditional European skincare practices offers a vital benefit: It can help slow and even reverse the ongoing tissue changes that make you look older.

To help gradually and safely rejuvenate the eye area, I recommend two wellness-based strategies for nurturing naturally youthful-looking skin:

Strategy # 1: Preventative Maintenance

  • Seek serious sun protection – Zinc oxide serves a powerful but gentle shield from UVA rays. Wear a hat and sunglasses to minimize squinting.
  • Ban chemical irritants – The under-eye area in extremely sensitive to synthetic chemicals, including many popular anti-aging ingredients like Retin-A. Petroleum-derived moisturizers, soaps, and alcohol-based astringents and makeup removers are also common sources of puffiness, inflammation and irritation, and painful allergic reactions.  (Read more about the top three troublemakers for sensitive skin…)
  • Handle with care – Don’t rub your eyes or stretch the surrounding skin.

To restore strength and elasticity, nourish under-eye skin with a balanced diet of pure, gentle botanicals.

Strategy # 2: In-Depth Repair
Use top-quality organic skincare to stimulate collagen renewal and heal inflammation and free radical damage.

  • Professional microdermabrasion and/or fruit acid peels – Make sure the provider you choose has the advanced training required to safely treat the exceptionally sensitive skin around the eyes.
  • An all-natural eye cream – Choose a cream specially formulated for this area. Look for gentle yet potent anti-aging ingredients like white tea, horsetail, rosemary, and natural vitamins A and E. Because the eye region has relatively few oil glands, keep it drenched in botanical oils and humectants. Moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, squalane, shea butter, and jojoba oil penetrate below the skin surface without clogging pores.
  • Practice Facial Fitness – Properly performed resistance techniques increase muscle mass, restoring youthful contours around the eye. By rebuilding the underlying tissues, facial exercises make the skin look tighter and more toned.

Watch this From My Neck Up™ video to learn how facial exercises can firm the eye area.

Adopt healthy lifestyle habits.

  • Eat a diet with plenty of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and heart-healthy oils.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water to help flush excess fluids.
  • Don’t smoke!

Is there a skincare issue you’d like to know more about? My mission as a skincare provider and educator is help people address challenging beauty issues with wellness-based skincare methods. Let me know what’s on your mind by sending your questions and concerns to the Comments  section of the blog.

 

How to Live Happily Ever After with Your Neck

Part 2 of a 3-Part Series: Natural Anti-aging Care for the Neck

Paradoxically, the part of the body that needs the most care and attention to remain youthful-looking generally gets the least. Even people who pamper their face with expensive creams and salon treatments routinely ignore their necks.

natural skincare products for the neck

The delicate skin of our neck demands plenty of TLC.

Start Loving Your Neck: Commit to a  7-Point Rejuvenation Plan

Regardless of your age, it’s never to begin a healthy relationship with your neck – or to start looking younger by cultivating a disciplined in-depth neck-care regimen.

1. Minimize UVA damage.

(a) Stay out of direct sunlight.

(b) Wear a mineral-based sun block.

2. Handle with care

(a) Avoid soap, alcohol-based astringents, and other harsh skincare products.

(b) Never scrub your neck!

(c) Minimize lines and wrinkles by sleeping on your back.

3. Keep skin super-hydrated with plant-derived humectants and emollients.

4. Control inflammation.

(a) Avoid overuse of retinoids.

(b) Apply soothing natural anti-inflammatories such as green tea, chamomile, and aloe vera.

5. Kick harmful lifestyle habits.

(a) Don’t smoke.

(b) Lower your sugar intake.

(c) Shun yo-yo dieting.

facial massage

Accupressure and massage helps keep skin cells nourished by boosting blood flow

6. Promote optimal cell function and stimulate cell renewal.

(a) Eat a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and proteins.

(b) Use green skincare treatments that comprise the same vital nutrients.

(c) Maintain a balanced exfoliation routine - Find the healthy midpoint between too much and not enough.

(i.) Gently slough off old skin with a soft washcloth or sponge.

(ii.) Use safe, non-irritating but highly effective natural exfoliants such as finely ground tree nuts.

7. Slow age-related tissue atrophy, sagging, and wrinkling

(a) Stimulate circulation throughout your body with a vigorous fitness routine.

(b) Use massage and acupressure techniques to improve blood flow and relax wrinkles.

(c) Restore muscle and bone mass with facial and neck exercises.

Although generations of  women have relied on face and neck exercises to delay and help repair the visible signs of aging, this traditional practice remains controversial among mainstream beauty experts.  In my next post, I’ll discuss the facts behind the opinions of this widely misunderstood anti-aging method.

Traditional Mediterranean Food for Thought

From Rome to Romanian: Mediterranean Culture Meets Eastern European Health Practices

For centuries, the traditional diet and lifestyle in countries around the Mediterranean Sea – parts of Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, and northern Africa – have helped the beneficiaries of this naturally healthy way of life to stave off obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases and symptoms of aging.

Many people are surprised to learn that an equally old and wonderfully complex Mediterranean tradition exists in my native Romania. The long intermingling of indigenous peoples with settlers from the Greco-Roman and Ottoman Empires has enriched Romania’s national identity and culture with its own unique version of the Mediterranean spirit.

Romania's historical ties to the Mediterranean World trace back to the ancient Greco-Roman civilization. Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Romanian Holiday: The Original Club Med on the Shores of the Black Sea

Perhaps the most famous legacy of early Roman colonists is Romania’s enduring reputation as the Mediterranean World’s original vacation hotspot. Ever since Roman colonists first capitalized on the local custom of bathing in the mineral-rich waters by building the country’s first health resorts, Romanian spa hotels have been famous as fashionable retreats for Europe’s ailing, tired, and bored elite.

What made these summer getaways so popular with sophisticated Europeans was the Old World elegance of the Romanian spa experience. Instead of submitting to a rigorously ascetic health regime, the rich and pampered could restore their physical, mental, and emotional equilibrium while also indulging their taste for luxury and sensual pleasure. Even today, Romania’s sultry summer weather, lush vineyards, and long stretches of fine white sand continue to draw favorable comparisons to the French and Italian Riviera.

The world's first luxury spa vacations were on the shore's of the Black Sea. Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Classic Food for Thought: 5 Tips for Nurturing Slim, Youthful Looks

The long, hot month of August is the perfect time to cultivate the health and beauty benefits of a traditional Romanian spa vacation. The following Old World health and dietary practices will provide you with the fundamental building blocks for healthier relationship with food and a more elegant and relaxed way of life.

1. Add more plant-derived foods to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and other legumes, and nuts are the primary food sources in traditional European diets. Rich in antioxidants including vitamins A, C, and E vitamins, phytonutrients, and omega-3 oils, these cuisines are great for your waistline, your heart and circulatory system, as well as your complexion.

2. Avoid processed foods and takeout. Make yourself a nutritious meal from fresh ingredients instead. Of course, we all have days that broiling a chicken breast or even cooking a simple omelet can seem overwhelming.  That’s why it’s smart to keep the fridge stocked with a mix of healthful foods that can be combined in a balanced meal. Here are some options:

a. Hummus or yogurt (the real fermented kind!) with raw vegetables/whole grain pita bread

b. Dark greens, fresh or leftover cooked vegetables with some nuts or cheese for protein

c. An inventive sandwich like this Greek salad on a bun.

3. Take time to savor your food. Multitasking at mealtimes not only diminishes the pleasure of eating but also encourages rapid, mindless consumption of too many calories. Do your digestion, your figure, and your senses a favor. Stop eating on the run or out of a carton standing in front of the refrigerator – and turn off the TV. Set the table as you would for an honored guest. Arrange your food nicely on a plate, down at the table, and pay attention to the interplay of tastes, aromas, and textures that make a meal delightful sensory experience. After you’ve finished eating, contemplate a vase of flowers or listen to soothing Classical music as you sip a glass of wine or a cup of tea. In Romania, this is our version of meditation!

A small portion of a beautifully presented dish can be more satisfying than a carton of greasy take-out.Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Stick with high-quality foods. This rule applies to splurges as well as dietary staples. Cheap store brand desserts and snacks that are full of trans fat and chemicals are not only unhealthy, but also pretty unappetizing compared to treats made with real ingredients. Low-fat foods can be equally deadly. Most diet desserts and snack foods are overloaded with sugar to compensate for the lack of fat, which makes them both unsatisfying and addictive.

5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, but give yourself a break now and then. Eat moderate portions of nutrient-dense foods and exercise regularly. But keep in mind that an ice cream cone on a hot day or skipping the gym to have coffee with a friend isn’t going to make you fat and flabby overnight.

A Balanced Anti-Aging Prescription for Extreme Times

Over the past 30 years, economic and social changes in many European countries have brought not only the advantages of modern life but also the health problems associated with America’s high-stress fast food culture. That is not to say we all should throw away our modern conveniences and move to a cabin in the woods. Instead of going to extremes, find a comfortable middle ground. Choose the traditional health practices and 21st scientific principles that fit your lifestyle, physical condition, and personal goals to create a disciplined but flexible plan for living a long and beautiful life.

Wintertime Diet Makeover

Does your face look tired and grumpy?  Does the thought of keeping up with your daily beauty chores make you to crawl under a quilt for a few more months of hibernation?  Then maybe your problem is more than skin deep.

Rx for Seasonal Skin and Mood Disorders

What’s the best way to  recapture your outer glow and inner fire at this time of year? A few months in the Caribbean sounds nice. But according to the latest thinking on nutrition, what you really need  may be my Romanian grandmother’s  Old World wintertime wellness prescription:  regular doses of pickled cabbage.

An Ancient Recipe for Wintertime Wellness

Many holistic healing systems, including ancient Chinese medicine, have traditionally recommended fermented vegetables and other enzyme-rich foods to counteract the sluggish liver function and digestive complaints induced by fat-laden wintertime diets. In recent decades, worldwide epidemiological studies have validated the positive effects on health and longevity of routine consumption of foods containing live microorganisms.

Rediscovering the  Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Old-style fermentation methods such as pickling and brining not only add valuable nutrients including B vitamins to our wintertime diet, but also make it easier for our bodies to absorb and use the vital proteins, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids in meat, milk, and plant matter. Emerging scientific research suggests that fermented foods may also help prevent colon and relieve irritable syndrome by restoring a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive systems.

These health benefits to our digestive tract—where the majority of our immune function takes place—have far-reaching effects on our overall wellness. By strengthening the mucosal lining in our stomach and intestines, gut-friendly bacteria help keep prevent the absorption of disease-causing microbes. The thriving colonies of good microorganisms in our gut also discourage the development of respiratory infections and other illnesses by starving potentially dangerous pathogens of vital nutrients. Some studies indicate that fermented foods can event help protect against dental cavities.

The Decline of the Typical American Diet

Although the natives of many European and Asian countries continue to treasure the nutritional benefits and the zesty flavors imparted by natural fermentation, the spread of industrialized food production in the United States quickly and radically transformed the average American’s palate, lifestyle, and beliefs about health and safety. By the mid 20thcentury, most Americans had learned to love commercially processed pickles, sauerkraut, and fermented dairy products, not just for their convenience but also because of misplaced concerns about “germs.”

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture research service microbiologist Fred Breidt, fermentation actually reduces the risk of food-borne infections. “With fermented products there is no safety concern,” he says. “I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria.”

Unfortunately, the high-temperature pasteurization process and synthetic chemicals used to kill the bad microorganisms of mass-produced fermented foods destroys their nutritive value by killing all the good bacteria, yeasts, and enzymes, too.

A Rising Wave of Green Values Improves U.S. Eating Habits

Over the past few years, however, food and dietary supplement manufacturers have begun touting “probiotics” as nature’s cure for lactose intolerance and other gastrointestinal disorders. And now, if the November 22nd edition of The New Yorker magazine is any indication, a microbiotic revolution is already brewing on the American dietary scene.

In “Nature’s Spoils,” author Birkhard Bilger links the growing cachet of fermented dishes among health-conscious, environmentally aware Americans to a variety of other back-to-nature dietary trends, including the raw-milk, eat-local, and slow food movements.

Re-energize Your Diet This Winter

The assortment of foods and beverages that that contain live cultures and beneficial bacteria and yeasts is varied as the diverse cultures where they originate. From the familiar to the exotic, the international menu of naturally fermented foods* includes a healthy and delicious choice for every taste. Here are just a few samples that can help winterize your skin and sustain your physical and mental energy in the challenging months ahead:

Bacteria Can Be Beautiful

As Bilger’s article points out, friendly microbes aren’t just a health boon—they contribute to the delicious flavor of some of our favorite treats, including chocolate, coffee, wine, beer, and aged cheeses.

If I was surprised to read an ode to fermented foods in one of America’s most stylish and sophisticated magazines, my grandmother would have been totally shocked by another piece in the same issue: A description of pickling cabbage down to the caraway seeds!

*The most reliable sources of genuine naturally fermented products are local health food stores and ethnic grocery stores. Or you can make them yourself.

Revitalize Beauty and Health with Winter Diet Makeover


Like most Romanians, my mother and grandmother believed that beautiful, youthful skin is natural result of living in harmony with the Earth and its seasonal rhythms. At this time of year, their prescriptions for beauty and wellness included a staple remedy of Romania’s holistic health spas that you’re unlikely to see on any other list of wintertime skincare tips: regular doses of pickled cabbage.

Pickling gives winter veggies extra nutrients--and pizzazz! Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An Ancient Recipe for Wintertime Wellness

Many holistic healing systems, including ancient Chinese medicine, have traditionally recommended fermented vegetables and other enzyme-rich foods to counteract the sluggish liver function and digestive complaints induced by fat-laden wintertime diets. In recent decades, worldwide epidemiological studies have validated the positive effects on health and longevity of routine consumption of foods containing live microorganisms.

The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Old-style fermentation methods such as pickling and brining not only add valuable nutrients including B vitamins to our wintertime diet, but also make it easier for our bodies to absorb and use the vital proteins, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids in meat, milk, and plant matter. Emerging scientific research suggests that fermented foods may also help prevent colon and relieve irritable syndrome by restoring a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive systems.

These health benefits to our digestive tract—where the majority of our immune function takes place—have far-reaching effects on our overall wellness. By strengthening the mucosal lining in our stomach and intestines, gut-friendly bacteria help keep prevent the absorption of disease-causing microbes. The thriving colonies of good microorganisms in our gut also discourage the development of respiratory infections and other illnesses by starving potentially dangerous pathogens of vital nutrients. Some studies indicate that fermented foods can event help protect against dental cavities.

In Europe, fermented dishes are a staple of wintertime meals.

The Decline of the Typical American Diet

Although the natives of many European and Asian countries continue to treasure the nutritional benefits and the zesty flavors imparted by natural fermentation, the spread of industrialized food production in the United States quickly and radically transformed the average American’s palate, lifestyle, and beliefs about health and safety. By the mid 20th century, most Americans had learned to love commercially processed pickles, sauerkraut, and fermented dairy products, not just for their convenience but also because of misplaced concerns about “germs.”

Forget processed pickles; opt for "homemade" fermented foods. Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture research service microbiologist Fred Breidt, fermentation actually reduces the risk of food-borne infections. “With fermented products there is no safety concern,” he says. “I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria.”

Unfortunately, the high-temperature pasteurization process and synthetic chemicals used to kill the bad microorganisms of mass-produced fermented foods destroys their nutritive value by killing all the good bacteria, yeasts, and enzymes, too.

A Rising Wave of Green Values Improves U.S. Eating Habits

Over the past few years, however, food and dietary supplement manufacturers have begun touting “probiotics” as nature’s cure for lactose intolerance and other gastrointestinal disorders. And now, if the November 22nd edition of The New Yorker magazine is any indication, a microbiotic revolution is already brewing on the American dietary scene.

In “Nature’s Spoils,” author Birkhard Bilger links the growing cachet of fermented dishes among health-conscious, environmentally aware Americans to a variety of other back-to-nature dietary trends, including the raw-milk, eat-local, and slow food movements.

Re-energize Your Diet This Winter

The assortment of foods and beverages that that contain live cultures and beneficial bacteria and yeasts is varied as the diverse cultures where they originate. From the familiar to the exotic, the international menu of naturally fermented foods* includes a healthy and delicious choice for every taste. Here are just a few samples that can help winterize your skin and sustain your physical and mental energy in the challenging months ahead:

Bacteria Can Be Beautiful

As Bilger’s article points out, friendly microbes aren’t just a health boon—they contribute to the delicious flavor of some of our favorite treats, including chocolate, coffee, wine, beer, and aged cheeses.

Microbes add luscious flavors to our favorite winter indulgences. Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If I was surprised to read an ode to fermented foods in one of America’s most stylish and sophisticated magazines, my grandmother would have been totally shocked by another piece in the same issue: A description of pickling cabbage down to the caraway seeds!

*The most reliable sources of genuine naturally fermented products are local health food stores and ethnic grocery stores. Or you can make them yourself.