Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Skin healthy, footloose and fancy-free...that's me!

I spent a long time avoiding a trip to the dermatologist for a much-needed skin checkup. I figured that after spending several summers lifeguarding at beaches and outdoor pools to help pay for my college tuition - as well as almost three years of tanning regularly while living in South Florida - my skin was a mess of cancer cells just waiting to be diagnosed. By the way, I HEART the beach. I could easily spend every waking moment of my life parked on the sand, book in hand, listening to the waves crash. Sadly, as much as I love my friends in Florida, the ocean is probably what I miss the most about the Sunshine State.
Anyway, although I've often rocked a golden tan over the years, I still know the sun and surf doesn't always like my skin so much. There have, of course, been the occasional bouts of sun burn and subsequent peeling over the years, as well as the appearance of various new moles and freckles.
So imagine my excitement when, after finally forcing myself to see a dermatologist, I was given the all-clear. No skin cancer!!! YAY!
Yes, I know that doesn't mean I should run out tomorrow and bake in the sun for hours without any type of UV protection. But it does mean that I made it through my 20s without completely destroying my skin. By the way, for all you young 'uns, dermatologists believe that how we treat our skin in our 20s impacts how our skin ages. By the 30s, small lines and wrinkles begin to show on the face and the repercussions of all those years of tanning finally start to show up. More sun exposure means more wrinkles. Eek.

So I have a few tips for all you sun-bunnies. First, always wear sunscreen. But look for waterproof products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. According to the experts, many sunscreens just don't adequately do the job.
Also keep an eye on moles and dark spots. They could be signs of developing cancer lesions.
At the same time, in addition to regular exercise and drinking plenty of water, there are several dietary steps you can take to boost skin health. This includes eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods.

Need some examples?

* Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, which helps prevent the premature aging of skin and aids in skin collagen formation.

* Sweet potatoes also contain beta-carotene and Vitamin C, in addition to Vitamin E. Foods with high quantities of vitamins C and E are effective antioxidants for skin protection.

* Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries are also good for the skin since they are loaded with antioxidant compounds able to neutralize damaging free radicals (that lead to skin cell damage and premature skin aging) generated in the skin by excessive UV exposure.

* Pomegranate juice contains anthocyanins that act to strengthen the walls of the tiny blood vessels that supply nutrients to the skin. This means drinking pomegranate juice can help stop the formation of spider veins.

Now that I've thrown all that out there, here are a few sucralose-sweetened, low-calorie recipes packed with some of these complexion-boosting ingredients. Here's to a happy and healthy glow!

Berrilicious Salsa

Copper Penny Salad

Pomegranate Julep

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

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