LaVie Organique Skincare Blog

All posts in category "anti-aging nutrition"

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.

How Fear of Swimsuit Season Fuels Premature Aging

It’s summertime and the living is easy.

But try telling that to your growling stomach. Even if you manage to resist the allure of succulent grilled ribs, buttery corn on the cob, and frozen strawberry margaritas till Labor Day, once you put your bathing suit, then what? Your body can’t run on celery sticks and Perrier forever. Sooner or later your basic human instincts will take over and demand real physical and emotional sustenance. That’s why the so-called fast track to weight loss is actually a vicious circle. Instead of attaining a healthy muscle to fat ratio, your body stays trapped in an endless cycle of dropping and adding unwanted pounds.

Reconnect with a classic diet and lifestyle to re-establish a healthy weight.

Why Diet Pain Brings Chronic Weight Gain—and Worse

A great deal has already been written about damage yo-yo dieting does to your waistline. Unfortunately, the risks to your health and appearance don’t stop there. While it’s packing on the pounds by slowing down your metabolism, rapid weight cycling can simultaneously speed up your biological clock, increasing the strain on your organ systems and adding extra years to your face. Even a partial list of the potential consequences suggests crash dieting will ultimately make you look and feel old before your time.

  • Malnutrition
  • Gallstones
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability/depression
  • Hair loss
  • Sagging, lackluster skin

Modern Diet Madness: Taking the Joy Out of Food

Why do millions of sensible, well-informed Americans continue to cling to this irrational approach to weight control? While many diverse factors contribute to the persistent popularity of crash diets, the roots of this

misguided practice lie in the conflicting pressures and mixed messages inflicted by modern industrialized society. The intense stress of continually striving for professional success, personal happiness, and a perfect body image can drive even the most sensible person to desperate measures.

When yet another new diet “miracle” promises to finally disprove the evidence of science and their own experience, renewed hope can override your better judgment.

A Simple Plan for Sustainable Weight Loss

The good news is that you don’t need a miracle diet to maintain a slender, youthful appearance for life. All you have to do is replace your restrictive summertime diet menu with a completely different one. Only two items are

excluded from this alternative meal plan: your daily servings of suffering and guilt.

Connect with a Classic Anti-Aging Approach

In Romania, where I grew up, we have a saying: “Good thoughts always pass first through your stomach.” These words capture our enduring respect and gratitude for the simple pleasures of a fine meal. The source ofour traditional reverence for food is also the birthplace of many of the world’s most flavorful and exciting cuisines: the Roman, Greek, and other classical Mediterranean civilizations that helped shape Romania’s rich cultural heritage.

This whole-hearted acceptance of our natural human appetites is the foundation of the Old World approach to eating that I’ll discuss in my next post. Whether you call it French Paradox, he Mediterranean Mystery, or the Benefits of Mindful Eating, the amazing result of this balanced attitude toward food is living proof that great ideas never die—they simply get reinvented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Turnaround: How Changing Your Mindset Can Change Your Life

What if I told you there’s one no-risk, foolproof, and absolutely free way of ensuring that you look and feel younger than your age for the rest of life? And that millions of people who already know about this anti-aging method haven’t put it to work yet?  Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?

A fresh attitude the first step to a lifestyle makeover.

But that’s exactly the case with the healthy lifestyle practices of traditional cultures around the globe. Unfortunately, in the United States, as well as in a growing number of increasingly “Americanized” cities overseas, this alternative anti-aging approach continues to present hard-charging people-on-the-go with one virtually insurmountable obstacle. It requires them to relax their impossibly high standards and live a little—without the guilt and self-loathing that drives their ceaseless pursuit of total self-control and unattainable physical perfection.

Trade Costly Serial Makeovers for a Sustainable Anti-aging Plan

If you’re trapped in a self-defeating cycle of deprivation and overindulgence, do something nice for your body this spring. Don’t let thoughts of bathing suit weather bring out your inner Puritan. Whether it’s a highly restrictive diet, Botox injections, or liposuction, one radical tactic inevitably leads to another in an endless round of increasingly extreme measures. Before you make this kind of high-risk investment, consider the latest research on the long-term price of quick fixes:

Botox – Repeated Botox injections gradually weaken facial muscles over time. Known as “disuse atrophy,” this decrease in muscle mass and resilience is a major contributor to the droopy eyelids, jowls, and sagging jaw lines that develop as we age. The claim of Botox advocates that this effect is a “benefit” doesn’t change the facts of muscle physiology and facial anatomy that underlie the most visible signs of aging and environmental damage.

Starvation Diets – Within 2 years, 80% of dieters regain all of the weight they’ve lost—or more. And the greater the weight loss and frequency of dieting, the bigger the risk of metabolic overcompensation and other physiological changes that eventually doom these fast and furious weigh loss efforts to failure.

Liposuction – A new University of Colorado study shows that liposuction patients who had fat removed from their thighs regained that lost weight in their arms or bellies within a year.

The Old World Paradox: Living Well to Grow Younger

Instead of re-engaging in this costly and ultimately futile battle against nature, give these three time-tested Old World wellness prescriptions a try.
1. Accept your appetite for the good things in life as normal and natural.

2. Discard your belief in the one-size-fits-all ideal of youthful beauty perpetuated by Hollywood and the fashion media.

3. Reject the extreme path of unnatural deprivation and self-denial in favor of the gradual cultivation of healthful moderation and long-term discipline.

This attitude adjustment may strike you as foreign and even downright dangerous. But to the traditional Europeans who continue to live and breathe this balanced philosophy, the idea of giving up their joie de vivre or la dolce vita to look younger and more attractive seems equally counterintuitive.

In the coming weeks, I’ll not only explain more about the natural wisdom behind the European mindset and the specific strategies that make it effective, but also provide additional evidence for a paradoxical truth:  You can have your health, stop and smell the roses, and eat cake, too.

 

Believe It or Not: 10 Popular Claims About Vitamin D

As my last post about sunscreen noted, the quality of the anti-aging and wellness advice you consume is  a lot more important than the quantity. The recent buzz about the ”sunshine vitamin” is a case in point.

vitamin d facts and fiction

Upping your vitamin D IQ: Question nutrition authorities. Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Test Your Vitamin D Knowledge Quotient

The more you hear and read about vitamin D in the media, the less sure you may be about its relationship to your dietary choices, sun protection practices, and overall health. The following quiz is designed to help you check some popular claims and assumptions about vitamin D against the scientific evidence to date.

TRUE OR FALSE?

1. A lack of vitamin D is associated with serious health problems.

2. More than 75% of Americans don’t get enough vitamin D to protect their bones.

3. Lab tests are a highly accurate and reliable way of diagnosing vitamin D deficiency.

4. Scientists have confirmed that high vitamin D levels help prevent non-Hodgkin lymphomas and stomach cancer.

5. Increased vitamin D intake reduces the symptoms of psoriasis.

6. Significantly overweight individuals have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.

7. Dark-skinned individuals may need more sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.

8. To be on the safe side, we should all take high-dose vitamin D supplements.

9. Getting enough vitamin D from natural food sources can be difficult.

10. Scientists keep changing the rules of sun safety and good nutrition.

ANSWERS

1. True: Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets and osteomalacia, a painful disease that softens bones and diminishes muscle strength. Low vitamin D levels are also a contributing factor in osteoporosis. Studies also suggest that treatment with vitamin D in conjunction with calcium increases bone density and reduces the incidence of fractures in postmenopausal women. (The treatment has shown no significant effect on pre- and peri-menopausal women, however.)

2. False: An in-depth study by the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that despite vitamin D intakes that fall somewhat below minimum recommended levels, most of us have high enough blood levels of vitamin D to maintain healthy bones.

3. False: According to an American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) news magazine article, the current lack of standardized procedures and objective measures for diagnosing vitamin D deficiency has undermined the value of routine vitamin D testing. The article also notes that many physicians remain unclear about which blood test to order and what the results mean. IOM researchers believe this problem has led to the false impression that an epidemic of vitamin D deficiencies is sweeping North America. Their reassessment of the data indicates the proportion of Americans at risk is approximately 10%.

4. False: While a number of studies have suggested vitamin D may help prevent stomach malignancies and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, as well as colo-rectal, ovarian, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic cancers, a recent National Cancer Institute (NCI) report based on an extensive review of existing data revealed no clear or consistent link between cancer risk and vitamin D intake. Nevertheless, the jury is still out on the role potential role of vitamin D in treating a variety of medical conditions, including depression, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders, as well as some cancers.

5. False: The latest studies showed no relationship between higher blood levels of vitamin D and improvement in the symptoms of psoriasis. Topical vitamin D ointments and creams, however, are effective psoriasis treatments.

6. True: Thick layers of subcutaneous fat interfere with the release of vitamin D into the bloodstream. Many other health and lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, including lactose intolerance, impaired fat absorption, vegetarian gastric bypass surgery, and restricted sun exposure. Breast-fed infants may also be a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency.

7. True: Higher levels of melanin (brown pigment) in the skin limit the amount of UV radiation the body can absorb.

fatty fish and vitamin D

Sardines: Big vitamin D doses come in little canned fishes. Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

 

8. False: When it comes to vitamin D, you can get too much of a good thing. In doses higher than 4,000 IUs daily, vitamin D can lead to heart damage and arrhythmias, as well blood vessel and kidney damage. How much vitamin D is enough? As general guidelines, the NIH suggests between 400 and 600 IUs daily for adults under the age of 70 and 800 IUs for older people.

9. True: Unless you happen to be a big fan of cod liver oil or fatty fish, your dietary sources of vitamin D can be pretty limited.  If  your palate favors neither sardines, salmon, nor mackerel as menu options, try adding a daily mealtime serving of a vitamin D-fortified dairy product or cereal. The following table provides some useful guidelines.

Food Sources of Vitamin D: IUs* per serving

Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360

Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 oz.: 447

Mackerel, cooked, 3 oz.:  388

Tuna fish, canned in water, 3 oz.: 154

Milk (fortified**), 1 cup:  115-124

Orange juice (fortified**), 1 cup: 100

Yogurt (fortified), 6 oz.: 80

Beef Liver, cooked, 3.5 oz.: 49

Sardines, canned in oil, 2: 46

Egg, 1 large: 41

Fortified** cereal, 1 cup: 40

Swiss Cheese, 1 oz.: 6

* IUs = International unit*

*Amounts may vary.Source: National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind/

10. False: The widespread impression that yesterday’s recommended skincare habits are today’s risky behaviors and vice-versa doesn’t really stand up under scrutiny. While “scientific ”truth” will always remain subject to revision, advertising claims and sensational headlines In fact, the weight reliable scientific evidence still stands firmly on the side time-tested skincare do’s and don’ts. That’s why it’s so important to consider the source of your information before you decide to act on it.

 

Natural Wisdom: The Beauty of the Middle Path

Until science provides more definitive answers on vitamin D, my advice is to take the long view and use common sense. Instead of rushing to adopt radical nutritional theories or throw sun safety precautions to the wind, consider the big picture. Although our lifestyles continue to change as civilization progresses, our basic nutritional needs and physical vulnerabilities remain the same. It’s wise to remember that fact before rushing to extremes.

ON BALANCE: If one way be better than another, then you may be sure it’s Nature’s way. - Aristotle

 

Anti-aging Diets: Is Going Native the Secret of Lasting Youth?

Learn why physician Daphne Miller prescribes a Back-to-Nature Diet to delay the effects of aging on our bodies.

Dr. Daphne Miller on YouTube

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.

Wintertime Skincare Basics: Hydration

Replenish Thirsty Skin from the Inside Out

In wintertime, consistent attention to both internal and external hydration should become one of your top skincare priorities.

Is Your Dry Wintertime Skin Telling You Something?

The parched, prickly skin of winter is more than a cosmetic problem. Crusty cracked lips; sunken eye sockets; or shriveled, papery skin are often the first visible warning signs of dehydration. Once our body loses 2% its fluids, the ensuing symptoms–dizziness, fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, and general malaise–cause most of us to reach for aspirin, antibiotics, or heavy-duty cold medicines. Why don’t we just pour ourselves a big glass of water instead?

Winter’s desert-dry air saps moisture from skin.Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The answer lies in the complex interplay between our wintertime environment and our body’s physiological responses to its extremes of temperature and humidity.

Dehydration: A Sneak Attack on Your Body’s Defenses

Whether we’re trudging through a snowstorm, sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace, or working up a sweat downhill skiing, the shifting environmental extremes we experience at this time of year not only deplete our bodies of water, but also impair the ability of our organs to keep fluid levels in balance.

Exercise caution: To protect their bodies from the insidious, cumulative effects of frigid, dry air, winter sports enthusiasts need adequate hydration. Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.n

A Vicious Natural Cycle

While the heat and low humidity indoors tends to leach water from the outer layers of our skin, the cold, dry air outside robs moisture from the mucosal tissues in our mouths, throats, and lungs. The stress of frigid temperatures also raises our blood pressure, which in turn causes the kidneys to overproduce urine, prompting repeated trips to the bathroom that further diminish the volume of vital bodily fluids. To make matters still worse, cold weather tends to depress the brain functions that signal thirst.

For older adults, the risk of dehydration is even greater. Aging not only further weakens the brain’s thirst signals, but also decreases the amount of water in our tissues as well as our kidney’s ability to regulate fluid volume and concentration.

Water: Nature’s Perfect Health Tonic

Plain old-fashioned water remains the best internal hydrator around. But that doesn’t stop the mainstream health and beauty industry from trying to convince consumers to waste money on their new and “improved” varieties.

Internal Hydration: Why Simpler Is Better

Leading health experts agree that vitamin-enriched waters not only fail to improve on Mother Nature’s version, but also frequently contain refined sugars or artificial sweeteners, dyes, and other risky chemicals. As for the special blend of skin-balancing nutrients in the latest “cosmeceutical” drinks–a quick check of the label reveals the truth: The synthetic antioxidants and vitamins they contain are the same ones in cheap chemical supplements.

As far as I know, 21st century bioengineering has yet to invent a better hydration method than the prescription handed down across generations:  Drink 8 glasses of water and eat plenty of fruit every day.

External Hydration: Keep It Natural

Why are aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, honey, vegetable glycerin, and other natural humectants a better choice than synthetic moisturizers?  The two main advantages of these organic substances are absolutely fundamental to total skin health: (1) safety  (2) effectiveness.

Water and plant-derived moisturizers revive dry, depleted skin cells.Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Plant-derived humectants are less likely to cause irritation or allergies because their composition closely resembles the natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) in human skin. As a result, our skin cells readily absorb botanical humectants. In addition to hydrating the skin surface, these natural moisture magnets also support cellular functioning and repair with a healthy dose of anti-aging phytonutrients.

For more information about the anti-aging benefits of natural humectants read my October 2010 0n noninvasive wrinkle treatments.