You Are At The Archives for July 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Pickled Beet Surprise - what this root rockstar can offer the health of your skin and body

How beets are good for your health

Beets.  They were one vegetable that despite my mother's "Girl Scout Bite" rule I had never tried even into adulthood.  Why?  For the simple reason that they were never served in my household as a child.  My mom, it turns out, had never liked them and therefore chose never to serve them.  Because I had no habit of eating them and didn't know what to do with them I never specifically chose them despite my longrunning love affair with so many other types of veggies.

Isn't that funny how a simple dislike from one of our parents can result in years worth of stalemate with a new food?  As I have gotten older I have definitely become more adventurous with my eating. I was always interested in ethnic foods and would have told you that I love trying new things.  A simple trip to the big international grocery store in my area taught me about the tiny sliver of foods that I have actually been consuming.  Many of the vegetables there I have never even seen before, much less have any idea how to prepare for a tasty repast.  Lack of knowledge brings hesitation and perhaps avoidance in some cases when new foods are concerned.  My ex would tell you that my first attempt at cooking a Thai soup after becoming enamored with the dish I ate at a local restaurant turned him off Thai for years to come due to my overzealous use of some of the stinkier ingredients.... so in some cases the caution is well advised.

But back to beets.  My first taste of a beet came at the end of a business trip to New York City several years ago.  I had to take the train to Astoria to then take a bus to the airport.  I got off at the last train stop and had time to burn.  I have never been a fan of airport food - too expensive, too limited - and so I made sure to investigate my area for some sustenance prior to departure.  Directly under the train platform I found a tiny, newly opened falafel restaurant.  I adore falafel, especially when it is prepared from a family recipe - oh so tasty!  And bonus, the sandwiches were only $5.  I couldn't believe my luck and promptly ordered my dinner.

Several bites into my intensely delicious meal I noticed something red in my wrap.  What was that?  It was good, whatever it was, and I inquired with the cook.  Pickled beets was the answer.  I was stunned and delighted.  My falafels at home had just found a new accompaniment, one that I never would have chosen on my own.

That sneaky pickled beet that rode in on my sandwich launched a sincere interest in this ravishing root.  I decided that beets most certainly were one thing I would grow.

I planted a bunch in the Blissoma comunity garden.  They were ridiculously easy to tend and in a few months we had a bumper crop.  I can vouch that I didn't have a single pest problem with growing these organically (unlike other plants) and they nearly took care of themselves.  As a crop for the budding gardener they are a great bet for a satisfying result.  Unsurprisingly many people, just like me, have not made any habit of eating beets due to unfamiliarity and therefore don't know what to do with them.  I served them to as many friends as possible but still had many left that I couldn't bear to waste.  So like a good thrifty gardener I set about preserving them.

I was longing for that perfect pickled flavor - not too sweet, not too sour, not too salty.  Something you can eat a lot of without puckering or feeling overwhelmed.  As the pickling recipes I found for beets generally included more sugar than I knew I'd like I tampered with one to achieve what has been dubbed truly delicious by the numerous people that have eaten them since.

Since this isn't entirely a food blog, but also a blog about skincare, beauty, and health I'd be remiss if I didn't inform you about the fabulous benefits these colorful veggies bring to your body.  Flavor isn't all you'll get when you venture into the land of beet eating!

Beets are a food generally known in the natural health community for detoxing the body.  Betalains, a special class of phytochemicals found in beets, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cellular cleansing effects.  Betalains are part of the deep pigment you see in beets.  Their concentration is decreased with extended cooking times so if you enjoy beets raw you'll get the maximum benefit.  However we all know that we most readily eat the foods we enjoy so if you like the flavor and texture better when cooked just try to keep your roasting time at an hour or less to avoid degradation of your healing benefits.  A healthy food doesn't do anything for you if you won't eat it because you don't like the preparation!

Beets have benefits for your digestive tract, nervous system, cardiovascular system, and may inhibit cancer cell growth.  The anti-inflammatory benefits are something to truly consider when thinking about skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and even just general signs of aging.  Chronic inflammation causes your body's immune system to begin attacking healthy cells.  This can be one cause of degradation of collagen and skin tissues as well as extending to vital organs like the heart.

Psoriasis especially is a disease related to inflammation and improper immune system function.  The immune system begins to attack healthy cells, prompting a buildup of irritated cells as the skin cells attempt to rebuild and reproduce more quickly than they can be shed.  A recent imaging study showed that inflammation is widespread throughout the bodies of people who have psoriasis.  Inflammation was detected in the liver, joints, tendons and aorta.  The anti-inflammatory compounds in beets which inhibit this process by several mechanisms then would be exceptionally helpful in managing the effects of this bodywide problem.

Beets are also a super-rich source of minerals.  They concentrate the minerals found in the ground, many of which are vital for dozens of metabolic processes and reactions in your body.  They give you a great dose of manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and copper.

A detoxed body can give you a healthy complexion too.  The raw foodies often expound about how their complexion just seems to glow while eating raw and plant based foods.  This can be partly because a body laden with too many toxins can develop a sallow complexion.  The liver is also responsible for helping process, store, and maintain sugars in the body and if you read my post on how sugar is inflaming and damaging your skin you'll understand how a properly functioning liver can contribute to your good looks.  Prescription and OTC medications are generally metabolized by the liver so our modern use of so many drugs can impact how well our livers are functioning.  Additionally the majority of people that I know do consume alcohol, which is processed by the liver and most people will generally have some load related to alcohol to deal with.  Beets can help keep your liver performing its best through detoxification.

Best ways to eat your beets. 

One simple way is to create a raw juice.  The Heart Fortress beet juice recipe from Young and Raw has got you covered for a basic beet juice recipe.
I've also been mooning over this Beet Tartine with Marinated Caper Berries recipe from My New Roots.  Must try with this year's harvest!
A simple way to serve them is just to roast the beets, salt them, and serve them sprinkled with feta or your favorite nut cheese for a creamy and earthy bite of heaven.
You can also make a tasty soup called borscht.
As I've mentioned they also add a delicious spin to falafel sandwiches!

To add to the mix of options I want to share with you my adapted recipe for pickled beets.  Then next post I'll share with you a recipe for Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette that will have your mouth singing happy, beety praises.

Blissful Pickled Beets recipe

Blissful Pickled Beets

3 quarts beets
4 cups vinegar
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 TBSP salt
3 TBSP Pickling spice
Sliced white or yellow onion

Wash beets, oven roast them in foil, peel and slice them.  Try this roasting recipe if you are unfamiliar with how to roast beets.  Set aside.
Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a pot.  Place pickling spice in a tea ball or muslin bag and add to pot.  Many recipes for pickling spice are available online or you can purchase a blend from the grocery store.  Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Remove pickling spice.
Pack beets into hot jars layered with onions, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Ladle hot liquid over beets, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process pints 30 minutes in a boiling water canner.
This recipe can also be used to make refrigerator pickles if you prefer not to hot can them.  Allow to marinate 2 weeks for best flavor, then consume promptly.

homemade pickled beets recipe

Enjoy your foray into the finger-staining adventure that is the beet.  I hope to be hearing that many of you tried adding this many splendored food to your regimen for beauty and health.

Monday, July 1, 2013 in , , , , ,

The Importance of PH for Skin (and flashbacks to Jr. High chemistry class)

PH is one of those things that many folks may remember from basic chemistry class in Junior High or High School.  It's also one of the things the skincare industry loves to bandy about as a reason to use a toner or to sell you a product that claims to be "PH balanced".  Like many other terms in the skincare industry there is no actual standard for what the phrase "PH balanced" means.  For shoppers that means your best plan is to get a better understanding of this issue so you can avoid discomfort or just being convinced to purchase products that are not ideal for your skin.

From youthful days in middle school you may remember pipettes and putting liquid drop by drop into a beaker to watch for a color shift, telling you the PH had changed.  This is, of course, assuming that you weren't too busy staring at your cute lab partner or daydreaming about pizza, new shoes, or your latest drama with friends (and there was plenty of that).  The very important issues vying for our brain space may have caused some of the chemistry to float out as soon as it was unused.  Not everyone revisited that knowledge in later classes so for the sake of all we'll go over the basics.

PH is a measure of the free H+ or OH- ions running around in solution sending off electronic charges.  You might recall that neutral PH is a 7 on the scale and anything below 7 to 0 is acidic and has H+ (Hydrogen) ions.  Above 7 to 14 is basic or alkaline and has OH- (Hydroxide) ions.  This knowledge is also handy for keeping fish alive in aquariums and growing plants, as water and soil PH can have drastic effects on living things attempting to make a home in either environment.

Your skin has a natural PH of about 4.7 to just under 5.  That is an acidic PH.  Your skin is made up of protein which in turn is made up of amino acids.  There is also a protective acid mantle on the skin that provides you natural defense against your environment.  That means there's at least some happy H+ ions hanging out on your skin.

According to scientific evidence it is beneficial for the good bacteria and flora on your skin as well as keeping skin moisturized to maintain a PH below 5 as much as possible.
"Not only prior use of cosmetic products, especially soaps, have profound influence on skin surface pH, but the use of plain tap water, in Europe with a pH value generally around 8.0, will increase skin pH up to 6 h after application before returning to its 'natural' value of on average below 5.0. It is demonstrated that skin with pH values below 5.0 is in a better condition than skin with pH values above 5.0, as shown by measuring the biophysical parameters of barrier function, moisturization and scaling."   Lambers H, Piessens S, Bloem A, Pronk H, Finkel P, 2006

This same evidence shows that your natural defenses are decreased when your skin PH is raised too high.  Another study, The Importance of Skin PH by Gil Yosipovitch, MD and Judy Hu, MD from 2003, found that it can take up to 14 hours for skin to return to normal PH after washing with a soap cleanser.  Skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and dry skin can also cause unwanted increases in skin PH all by themselves, which soap only aggravates further.

While your acid mantle is eroded your defenses are down.  That leaves you more vulnerable to acne bacteria, moisture loss, and irritation.

While Blissoma does make 2 soap bars that are designed to be mild enough for facial use the fact remains that anyone with an irritated skin condition or who is prone to acne should use a low PH, non soap cleanser.  I generally recommend our soaps to younger individuals or just to people who have resilient skin.  If you are not prone to irritations, dryness, acne, dermatitis, or eczema then you should be able to use a bar soap without trouble.

However, if you do have skin that is prone to any of these irritated conditions you should use our Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser or Free Rejuvenating Herbal Gel Cleanser for best results.  These cleansers are both acidic PH of about 4.5, perfect to keep your skin at the acid PH it loves.

All of Blissoma's moisturizers are made with a skin-friendly acidic PH as well to work with your acid mantle and replenish hydration.

Cleansing with soap based cleansers is one of the primary things unfortunately going wrong in the natural skincare world.  While natural liquid soaps can be wonderful products for cleaning your home and even your hands they are not ideal for your face.  You may be surprised what a simple switch to a PH correct cleanser can do to heal your skin.  Acne can be reduced just by this simple switch.

So what about that toner the lady at the department store counter is trying to sell you to "correct" the PH of your skin after toning?  Can a toner do that?  Well, sortof.  Applying an acidic product will help urge your skin back towards a happier, acidic PH if you've just used a basic cleanser or if you are located in an area with high PH water.  Quite frankly, though, nothing can replace your actual acid mantle except your own skin working hard to restore itself.  It's ideal to avoid disturbing it at all when you have irritable skin.

If you are going to use a soap is there a reason to choose a bar soap over a liquid soap?  Yes, there is.  Natural bar soaps are more superfatted than liquid soaps, which means they have extra oil in them that was not made into soap by the lye reaction.  This extra oil helps deposit nourishment as the bar cleanses.  Blissoma's facial soaps also contain portions called "unsaponifiables" which are fatty portions of the oils that cannot be made into soap and come from solid oils like Shea Butter.  These are calming and emollient for skin.  Unsaponifiables cannot be used in liquid soaps as they would still be solid or would cause cloudiness.  This is one way bar soaps are superior for moisturizing skin versus a liquid natural soap.

Cleansing in particular is one of the steps of skincare routines that is frequently done improperly.  People think washing their skin is no big deal.  Many people think moisturizer must be much more important since it is on for longer.  Unfortunately this is just not true.  If you are cleansing your skin in a way that is incompatible with your PH balance needs you are upsetting your skin for the whole day to come.  Your moisturizer cannot fix that.  

Your overall skin comfort and  health will be dramatically improved if you cleanse in a way your skin can tolerate.  For many people this means transitioning off of soap and onto acidic PH cleansers.  This is especially true for your face, which is much more delicate skin than much of the rest of your body.  You may still be able to get away with using a good quality natural soap to cleanse your body but receive dramatic benefits when you use a non-soap cleanser on your face.

Oil Cleansing Method would qualify as a routine that doesn't damage your acid mantle.  It uses clean oil to lift dirty oil from your skin, and since oil is made up of fatty acids that acid aspect makes it really friendly. It's not ideal for everyone though, so the good news is that most gel and cream cleansers also fall into the non-soap cleanser category.  Some people even debate the worthiness of cleansing with water at all - which in some ways is understandable if your water PH is an 8 as that would indeed be irritating.  I'm a big fan of cleansing though as a good bit of gunk can build up on your face day in and day out.  I just like to do it with a product that is soothing, not stressing, and I'm personally a twice a day girl to maintain my skin's brightness and comfort.

I hope this information helps you transition to a happy PH for your skin.  Let me know if you try switching to a skin-friendly non-soap cleanser and the difference it makes for you.

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