Eudaimonia: Uncovering the secret to true happiness

Categories: Uncategorized,

TheSky!

Happiness is something we all want, but it definitely isn’t as easy to sink our minds into long-term happiness as it is to sink out spoons into {nondairy!} rocky road ice cream. Human emotions fluctuate and we are very good at adapting to even the best of fortunes, so what really leads to sustainable happiness? While dairy-free rocky road ice cream has its place, true happiness is possible and it can be ours every single day, but it is not from the sources most people in our modern, money-hungry and materialistic world seek.

For many, life goals revolve around attaining high social status, great wealth, fame, prestige or other ego-driven desires granted via external approval and validations outside of ourselves.  Yet, this is not what leads to the greatest amount of satisfaction both on an every day basis and at the end of our lives. That’s why I found this subject just as blog worthy as a report on the latest scientific findings on nutrition or a new delicious healthy recipe.  Obviously, happiness is a universal human desire, no matter what age we are or where we come from ~ we all seek as much happiness as possible. However as much as we all crave it, how to obtain the most happiness out of life remains elusive to most people and misguided in our culture at large. Why aren’t we taught how to achieve true happiness in schools? Why is math more important in the education system than life fulfillment?! Bah, I didn’t like math very much and I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do believe most people assume happiness can be found in experiences, like enjoying a drool-worthy bowl of ice cream, watching a comedy (Princess Bride, Men in Tights or Zoolander, anyone?), getting a massage or traveling abroad to an exotic location. Yes, and sex, wealth, and status are also associated with happiness in the minds of most people. Buying a penthouse, saying at an luxurious hotel, driving the hottest car, etc. Who wouldn’t want those things? The assumption is that pleasure increases positive emotions and will provide us with the many smiles we seek.

However, as anyone who has attempted to overcome sadness with a pedicure or box of dark chocolates will tell you (cough, cough), feeling good doesn’t come from pleasurable, yet fleeting sensations.  It doesn’t even come from owning a penthouse in NYC. Although, I cannot see how this would hurt! It’s true, they might make us feel good while we are experiencing them and a penthouse might make our view quite a bit brighter, but these really are not the keys to finding ultimate, sustainable bliss. Even if we sought a continuous, hedonic treadmill of one pleasurable experience after another, we are still not likely to attain lasting happiness in our hearts or our souls.

IMG_0254Lucky for us, the path to true, authentic happiness, the type of happiness that really sticks with us day after day, can be found simply and actually makes so much sense when understood.  Genuine happiness is very similar to fulfillment and life purpose. Psychologists in the emerging field of positive psychology, have been studying the concept of happiness for some time now and have adopted Aristotle’s term “Eudaimonia” or the Good Life, to mean a life in which you employ your strengths and efforts towards a goal or passion that you believe is larger than yourself.  Now this is a type of happiness worth talking about!

I was enthralled by this term and its brilliant meaning, which I first learned about when I took a Positive Psychology course when I was a student at Cornell U. It tied for my favorite class along with Human Bonding. I love learning about relationship dynamics too. Eudaimonia first made an appearance in the world when Aristotle coined the word. Oh how I love reading about Aristotle’s work, who was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. This is what eudaimonia is in a nutshell {thank you, Wikipedia and Google}:

“A Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare: however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation. Etymologically, it consists of the words “eu” (“good”) and “daimon” (“spirit”)….blah blah blah….Aristotle deemed happiness to be a vulgar idea, stressing that not all desires are worth pursuing as, even though some of them may yield pleasure, they would not produce wellness.”

Eudaimonia is associate with having a meaningful life, one in which we use our strengths in the service of something greater than ourselves. This means working on developing our potentials and skills and learning new things to help others and the world at large. Eudomonia’s main principle is that happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being.

“For as it is not one swallow or one find day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” ~ Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Eudaimonic motives include pursuing personal growth, development of your potential, achieving personal excellence and contributing to the lives of others. Psychologists have found in multiple studies that these types of Eudaimonic activities were the ones that lead to the most happiness, rewarding experiences and life satisfaction over time.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need research to tell me that helping other people feels good!  Naturally, pleasurable, comforting and enjoyable activities have their place, yet they are no match for having a strong life purpose and using our abilities to enhance the lives of others.

As a lover of fashion, environmentalism, writing, cooking, living a healthy lifestyle and quite a bit more, I don’t plan on giving up pleasurable activities any time soon {okay and I wouldn’t mind living in a penthouse}, yet I know what I really need to do with my life if I want to live with no happiness regrets. If you aren’t feeling your best, the greatest way to feel better is to remind yourself that you have so much power to make positive changes in the lives of others {on a large or small scale!}, the planet {educate yourself} and any other cause you believe in. Seriously, I have noticed that moments of gloominess really do drop significantly the more we perform selfless acts and practice reaching our potential with meaningful activities.

This article is about true happiness. Now what does it meant to be truly intelligent?

Get Your Skin Radiance Groove On With Marvelously Nutritious Vitamin E-rich Foods!

Categories: Featured,NUTRITION IQ,Nutrition Tips,Resources,Talia's Must Read,Uncategorized,Welcome,

This is La Pain Quotidien's Organic Detox Salad w/ Quinoa, Avocado, Raw Purple Cabbage, Carrots and Lemon. I <3 La Pain Quotidien! It's a chain restaurant with locations all over the USA.Free radicals are evil. Over time, these little guys strike a slow, insidious blow to our overall health as well as the health of our skin.  They stealthily attack our beautifully clear and youthful looking skin by causing collagen damage, skin dryness, fine lines and wrinkles.

How do these tiny microscopic molecules manage to accomplish such damage to our skin cells, you wonder?

How it works is simple. The atoms in our bodies work painstakingly to maintain an even number of electrons in their orbits; this helps keep our atoms stable, at peace and functioning at optimal potential.  If an atom possesses an uneven number of electrons, it will greedily snatch one from another nearby atom in an effort to maintain stability. Those avaricious little villains!

When we eat processed foods, foods loaded with sugar and/or saturated fat, spend time under the sun’s beating ultraviolet rays or bath our skin in harmful synthetic chemicals (Think I’m kidding about this? Check out the ingredients used in conventional makeup products. Nasty!) our bodies produce free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms with an uneven number of electrons and when they are produced on our skin they form a damaging chain reaction that results in the premature aging of our skin and cellular damage that leads to de-beautified, dull looking skin. I wasn’t kidding when I said free radicals are on the dark side.

In comes vitamin E to the rescue! Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants with proven skin-protecting properties.  However, our bodies can’t produce vitamin E, so we must eat plenty of vitamin E-rich foods to create the formidable outer beauty shield we seek (and hey, “inner beauty” in the form of protecting our internal organs too). Studies have even shown that consuming vitamin E-rich foods on a regular basis can reduce sunburns from exposure to UVB radiation.

Now onto the exciting part of this article in which we learn how to use the beneficent forces of plant-foods to defeat those pernicious free radicals.

The best vitamin E-rich foods are now comin’ at ya!

1) Spinach~ We’ve got a clear vitamin E winner over here! Two cups of raw spinach provides 6% of the %DV. Two cup of raw spinach is a tiny 14 calories, so this means that spinach is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin E per calorie. Because spinach is super low in calories, we can eat a lot of it to fill up and get our vitamin E, but we won’t be consuming many calories. I adore spinach in soups, wraps, salads and even in smoothies. Now whenever I eat spinach I will think of skin that is youthful, bright and clear!

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2) Tomatoes (both regular and cherry!)~ One cup of cherry tomatoes is 26.8 calories and contains 4% of the %DV for vitamin E. I love tomatoes so much! Tomatoes are another highly delicious, nutrient-dense, low-calorie food. I adore roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce with garlic, basil, and other Italian spices. A significant chunk of my brain tells me I should have been born Italian given my love of Italian food, my foodie propensities and my love affair with Mediterranean culture, but I must say that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Give me some homemade, chunky, steaming, perfectly seasoned tomato sauce over whole-wheat penne pasta, roasted vegetables and cracked pepper and I am a very happy camper. Oh and check out this delicious Vegan Roasted Tomato Soup recipe from LifeAsAStrawberry.com. I’ve been gazing at pictures of the recipe and my eyes are going wild with pleasure!

cherry-tomatoes

3) Swiss Chard~ this exceptional, absolutely exquisite nutrient-powerhouse of a green vegetable is loaded with vitamin E as well as plenty of beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, B vitamins and much more.  As such, it is a wickedly nutritious food that will naturally make your skin look ma’velous darling. It actually has the same amount of vitamin E as spinach. Goooo, green leafy vegetables! Now the trick is to learn how to cook it to make it tasty too! In all honesty, S to the C was never one of my favorite foods, or even on the tasty side of the spectrum on my food-liking scale, but it’s so gosh darn healthy that it’s worth playing around with in the kitchen to make it taste as scrumptious as it is healthy for our tiny, nutrient-craving cells. Check out all of these AMAZING swish chard recipes that should do a superb job of adding flavorful delight to any day we choose to prepare them. CLICK HERE, CLICK HERE, your fingers tell you! You know you want to start including more S to the C in your life!

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4) Sunflower seeds~ these cute littl’ seeds pack 222% of the %DV in a 100 gram serving. As 100 grams of sunflower seeds amounts to 3.5 ounces or 0.42 cups, this is quite a bit of sunflower seeds to consume at one time. However, 222% is also a fantastically large percentage, so large in fact, that sunflower seeds happen to contain the most vitamin E per calorie of all foods. Wow, sunflower seeds, just wow. Way to rock the whole good for you thing. Actually I wrote a blog post about how incredible sunflower seeds are for us a little while ago. Check it out by clicking HERE and up your sunflower seed IQ! May you never look at sunflower seeds the same way again.

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5) Avocados~ one whole avocado contains between 10-13% of the %DV depending on the type of avocado. Florida avocados tend to contain slightly more vitamin E than California avocados, but the difference is pretty trivial. What’s not trivial? Eating creamy avocados as often as I can! I actually just relished an avocado-filled, pesto sauce-enhanced whole-wheat pita sandwich before writing this blog post. I can testify that it was pretty much the best lunch a hungry girl could ask for. And now I’ve got plenty of vitamin E cruising through my bloodstream. You can also count on avocados for an wildly high number of other nutrients including many in the carotenoid family. Think beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neoxanthin, zeaxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, neochrome, beta-cryptoxanthin and violaxanthin. Wow, that was a type full (as opposed to a mouth full!). While you don’t need to remember the names, pronunciation or spelling of all of these funky-named nutrients, you do need to remember that all of them work together to strengthen our immune systems, combat free radicals, promote a healthy reproductive system and even aid in the absorption of other nutrients. Holy moly guacamole, that’s impressive. To read more about the health benefits of avocados, CLICK HERE.

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Clearly my next cooking endeavor will be creating a raw avocado cream pie recipe. Doesn’t the above picture look drool-worthy, knock-your-socks-off AMAZING?! It’s from KirbyCravings.com, but the recipe isn’t very healthy and is not dairy-free. Time to venture to the kitchen to make a non-dairy, healthier alternative!

And my Vitamin E runners up: almonds, peanut butter, pine nuts, hazelnuts, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, red peppers, tropical fruits such as papaya and kiwi, radicchio, paprika, red chill powder, and wheat germ. These runners up also pack a mean vitamin E punch! Leafy greens, nuts and seeds tend to contain the most vitamin E per calorie, so make sure you are consuming these foods often. The more vitamin E from real foods the better, I say!

Remember that no pill can take the place of the complex nutrient composition in real foods. Studies have shown that supplemental vitamin E offers no health benefits and may even be detrimental to our long-term health. For more information about the toxicity of supplemental vitamin E CLICK HERE and HERE.

I hope you have a vitamin E plant-foods rich week!

Soy and Breast Cancer: Here’s the Deal

Categories: Nutrition Tips,Talia's Must Read,Uncategorized,

edamame

There has been endless confusion in the media about soy and its relationship to breast cancer. Does eating soy promote breast cancer or do soy foods offer a protective effect against this nightmarish and nightmarishly common disease? I for one, loathe confusion and we don’t deserve it. We deserve answers that provide us with accurate, scientifically validated information to make intelligent eating decisions. Only scientific research can provide us with trustworthy answers, not the media.  Whereas reading a women’s magazine frequently causes me to cringe due to horrid, inaccurate nutrition advice, an in-depth investigation of intelligently designed studies provides a breath of fresh air for those who desire the truth.

Women's magazines may rock the fashion world, but they cannot be trusted sources of nutrition recommendations.

Women’s magazines may rock when it comes to fashion, but they cannot be trusted sources of nutrition recommendations.

Never has this been more true than in the case of soy. Recent and thoroughly scrutinized meta-analysis reports have provided conclusive evidence in favor of eating soy foods to reduce our risk of breast cancer.[i]

All reports on the dangers of soybean products are simply not founded in science. Study after study supports the benefits of soy foods, and evidence suggests that adding soy to our diets can prevent many types of cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, promote bone health, keep us mentally sharp in our later years, and do absolutely no harm whatsoever.

One of the reasons soy is powerfully anticancerous is because it contains isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are substances found naturally in plants that are chemically similar to estrogen. Because of this similarity in structure, when we ingest them, they bind to estrogen receptors. These suckers are so cool because they can block estrogen’s natural effects or have milder estrogen-like effects on the body. A human biochemistry novice might assume this would be a bad thing. After all, there is evidence that estrogen exposure is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. But nope, this is a marvelous property for a food to possess. Isoflavones weaken the negative effects of estrogen, and there is conclusive evidence from thousands of studies that phytoestrogens are on our longevity, pro-thrivin’ side.

One study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that soy consumption during childhood reduces breast cancer risk in adulthood by 60 percent, and consumption during the teenage years reduces the risk by 40 percent. Soy products are such potent breast cancer fighters that even women who have breast cancer benefit from consuming soy. A recent study of breast cancer survivors has shown that those who consume more soy have a 23 percent reduced risk of recurrence. This myth that soy is toxic and increases our breast cancer risk is hogwash, and we’ve got to dump it like a cheating boyfriend. Because, ladies, when we don’t consume soy, we are cheating ourselves out of some seriously cool anticancer chemicals. Riva Bitrum, the president of research for the American Institute for Cancer Research, has stated, “Studies showing consistently that just one serving a day of soy foods contributes to a reduction in cancer risk are encouraging. Consuming one serving of soy foods is a step most individuals would not find too difficult to take.”

You know who eats a lot of soy? Some of the oldest and healthiest people on Earth. The Okinawans of Japan, who have an overall extremely high life expectancy average and are famed for their population of centenarians, are known to consume large amounts of soy. The Okinawa Centenarian Study observed that high soy consumption was responsible for their amazingly tiny risk of hormone-dependent cancers, like breast, prostate, ovarian, and colon cancers. Okinawans’ rates of breast and prostate cancers are in fact a whopping 80 percent less than rates in the United States. Men would also benefit greatly by including some soy in their diets. A prestigious study called the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found that men who consume soy milk daily have a 70 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk. Given statistics like these, it seems like a no-brainer that soy not only is not dangerous, but is in fact a rockin’ addition to our diets.

It is a shame that the media, and as a domino effect, word of mouth, has provided nothing but confusion and unjustified worry when in fact, scientific research has provided nothing but clarity and reasons to make unprocessed soy foods a regular part of our diets.  Hopefully this blog post will help you see that you don’t have to worry about eating a few servings of soy each day and that unprocessed soy products are actually good for our bodies and offer protective effects against breast cancer.

Don’t just think anticancer when you think of the humble soybean; think anti–heart disease, too! The authors of the Okinawa Centenarian Study announced that the consumption of soy was one of the #1 reasons for the impressively low rates of heart attacks in the Okinawa elderly. Their risk of suffering a heart attack is 80 percent lower—that’s one heck of a risk reduction. One of the researchers was quoted as saying that if North Americans lived like the elder Okinawans and ate similar amounts of soy, we would have to close 80 percent of the coronary care units and one-third of the cancer wards in the United States, and a lot of nursing homes would also be out of business. Whoa. Even the FDA agrees that soy is great for our hearts. In 2000, the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association proclaimed that 25 grams per day of soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Of course these benefits assume that we reduce animal products as we eat more soy, but that is the whole point. Yay for soy!

Looking again to the Okinawans, we see that they have much stronger bones than Americans do and less than half the hip fractures. Once again soy can be thanked for playing a role in this health boon. Many studies support a connection between eating soy and a reduced risk of osteoporosis, a skeletal disorder in which one literally loses bone tissue. The reasons behind soy’s impressive bone-strengthening properties are twofold. First, the isoflavones in soy keep our bones strong by inhibiting their breakdown, and a recent meta-analysis demonstrated that soy isoflavones significantly increase bone mineral density in women. Second, soybeans contain many important minerals, like calcium, magnesium, and boron, all of which help our bones stay in tip-top shape.

Our brains benefit from soy just as much as our bones do. The isoflavones in soy help us preserve memory, enhance cognitive functioning, and reduce the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s in old age. In one study, men and women who consumed a high-soy diet for 10 weeks (which is not even that long!) experienced a substantial enhancement in short-term and long-term memory and flexibility. In other studies, soy has been shown to have protective effects on our brain tissue and improve cognitive function. Like the Okinawans of Japan, the Seventh-Day Adventists, a religious group known for their extreme longevity, consume soy foods all their lives. Both the Okinawans and the Seventh-Day Adventists have paltry rates of dementia compared with the rest of the US population.

So now that we’ve established that soy foods can be pretty hot stuff, let’s be clear that not all soy foods should be consumed with the same gusto. Soy foods come in both highly processed and minimally processed forms. Isolated soy protein, for instance, is the protein isolated from the soybean and is used in absurd amounts in processed goods. Soy-based additives and isolated soy protein don’t have the same health benefits as minimally processed soy foods. Many dairy and meat substitution products, like soy cheeses, soy hot dogs, and soy hamburgers, have soy protein isolate as a main ingredient. We should use these products minimally if at all—they can raise IGF-1 levels similarly, but not as strongly, as animal protein. On the other hand, minimally processed soy foods will help keep us healthy and strong and preserve our precious braininess.

Here are research studies to cement your comfort with consuming soy:

1)  Eight different studies were analyzed and found that there is a 16% reduced risk of breast cancer for every 10 mg of soy consumed daily. [iii]

2)  Soy intake reduces the risk of type II diabetes! [iv]

3)  On a diet? Soy has been shown to double weight loss efforts for those looking to shed pounds. [v]

4)  Soy reduces our risks of getting a heart attack. This is pretty fantastic given that heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in America. [vi]

5) Soy strengthens our bones. Research indicates that a compound in soy called genistein can improve bone mineral density. [vii]

Even more studies to check out with even more evidence!

49. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/index.html.

50. X. Zhang, X. Ou Shu, Y. Gao, et al., “Soy Food Consumption Is Associated with
Lower Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Chinese Women,” Journal of Nutrition
133, no. 9 (2003): 2874–78.

51. X. Zhang, X. Shu, H. Li, et al., “Prospective Cohort Study of Soy Food
Consumption and Risk of Bone Fracture among Postmenopausal Women,” Archives
of Internal Medicine 165 (2005): 1890–95.

52. A. Wu, P. Wan, J. Hankin, et al., “Adolescent and Adult Soy Intake and Risk of
Breast Cancer in Asian-Americans,” Carcinogenesis 23, no. 9 (2002): 1491–96.

53. S. Lee et al., “Adolescent and Adult Soy Food Intake and Breast Cancer Risk:
Results from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study,” American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition 89 (2009): 1920–26.

54. N. Guha et al., “Soy Isoflavones and Risk of Cancer Recurrence in a Cohort of
Breast Cancer Survivors: The Life After Cancer Epidemiology Study,” Breast Cancer
Research and Treatment 118, no. 2 (November 2009): 395–405. Epub 2009 Feb 17.

55. J. M. Chan et al., “Role of Diet in Prostate Cancer Development and
Progression,” Journal of Clinical Oncology 23, no. 32 (2005): 8152–60.

56. A. Atmaca et al., “Soy Isoflavones in the Management of Postmenopausal
Osteoporosis,” Menopause 15, no. 4 (2008): 748–57.

57. P. Wei, M. Liu, Y. Chen, and D. C. Chen, “Systematic Review of Soy Isoflavone
Supplements on Osteoporosis in Women,” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical
Medicine 5, no. 3 (March 2012): 243–48.

58. H. M. Hsieh, W. M. Wu, and M. L. Hu, “Soy Isoflavones Attenuate Oxidative
Stress and Improve Parameters Related to Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in
C57BL/6J Mice Treated with D-Galactose,” Food and Chemical Toxicology 47, no. 3
(2009): 625–32.

59. S. E. File, N. Jarrett, E. Fluck, R. Duffy, K. Casey, and H. Wiseman, “Eating Soya
Improves Human Memory,” Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 157 (2001): 430–36.

60. M. J. Engelhart, M. I. Geerlings, A. Ruitenberg, et al., “Dietary Intake of
Antioxidants and Risk of Alzheimer Disease,” JAMA 287 (2002): 3223–29.

61. P. Giem, W. L. Beeson, and G. E. Fraser, “The Incidence of Dementia and Intake
of Animal Products: Preliminary Findings from the Adventist Health Study,” Neuroepidemiology 12 (1993): 28–36.

Soy is a super food choice, but remember that we can eat too much of any food (okay well maybe not leafy green vegetables!). It’s not a good idea to rely too heavily on soy foods to meet our protein requirements and the healthiest diet is one that contains an variety of plant foods. One or two servings of soy each day is health promoting, seven or eight servings a day is not. Another note for the wise: soy in the form of soy protein isolate is heavily processed and does not possess the same health benefits of unprocessed soy products.

What are great sources of soy you say? Tofu, tempeh, edamame, and unsweetened soy milk are fantastic!

For more information CLICK HERE for an excellent article by my father or CLICK HERE for an equally excellent article by Dr. Ben Kim.

Hooray for unprocessed soy!

Hooray for unprocessed soy!


[i] Trock BJ et al. Meta-analysis of soy intake and breast cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006; 98(7):459-71.

[ii] Sarkar FH, Li Y. Soy isoflavones and cancer prevention. Cancer Invest, 2003; 21: 744 – 57.

[iii] Wu AH et al. Epidemiology of soy exposures and breast cancer risk. British Journal of Cancer, 2008; 98: 9– 14.

[vi] Goodman-Gruen D, Kritz-Silverstein D. Usual dietary isoflavone intake is associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women. J. Nutr, 2001; 131(4): 202-1206.

[vii] Marini H, Minutoli L, Polito F, et al. Effects of the phytoestrogen genistein on bone metabolism on osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomized trial, 2007; 146(12): 839-847.

The sunscreen lowdown you need to know to keep your skin lookin’ marvelous. And safe too!

Categories: Natural Beauty 411,Nutrition Tips,Talia's Must Read,Uncategorized,

My sunscreen and I say "Happy & Safe Summer Days!One of my favorite chapters in the LYB Book is about skin health and how to make sure that our skin looks the best that it can be both now and as we get older. Protecting our skin from the sun is a HUGE component of ensuring that our skin maintains its gorrgeeeousss appearance. If you could do me a favor and pretend you’ve just heard me say, “gorrgeeeousss!” this would be most ideal for both of us. You see, I talk like this is real life and I want you to remember the contents of this article just as if we were meeting right now, face-to-face in a coffee shop under a blazing sunlit sky. Learning about the harmful ingredients lurking in most sunscreens is so important. We both need to remember to stay sunscreen smart in the sun!

I live in Southern California where the sun hits the earth with impressively brutal intensity and cloudy days come to pass almost as frequently as earthquakes (translation: they are virtually nonexistent). Combine this with the fact that summer is here and well, if I don’t protect my fair skin, I will not only end up with a painful sunburn, but premature wrinkles when I am older. That vivid image of those sun damage induced wrinkles on my skin when I am circa 65 year old is more than scary enough to propel me to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen. It’s also more than enough ammunition to post this article with my favorite sunscreen recommendations.

As excited as I am to the get to the recommendations part, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself and skip over the whys and the omgoshs regarding the harmful ingredients used in the majority of sunscreen brands. So, let’s talk dangerous chemicals for a moment.

Avoid the following ingredients like you would avoid eating chalkboard covered in carcinogens and sprinkled with gross dead bugs on top. P.S. I never claimed to have a normal mind. That sentence you just read is a manifestation of my crazy imagination recorded for Internet eternity in this blog post.

Now for the list of noxious sunscreen ingredients.

Behold these dangerous chemicals lurching in sunscreens!

1) Oxybenzone~ Oxybenzone can penetrate the skin easily and is an endocrine disruptor, which alters our hormone balance! It’s also a photoallergen and can trigger allergic reactions on the skin that can cause it to turn red. Another concern is oxybenzone’s ability to create excess reactive oxygen species (a category of free radicals). These can negatively affect our cells in the following ways: increased rigidity of cell membranes, decreased activity of enzymes bound to cell membranes, abnormal activity of receptors on cell membranes, and altered permeability of cell membranes. As a result, signaling between cells is disrupted. Yikes! All this happens at a microscopic, cellular level, but it can damage our organs, leading to nasty health effects. This is one of the most health damaging sunscreen ingredient offenders. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

2) Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate)~ This synthetic form of vitamin A has been linked to an astonishing number of health risks, from birth defects to increased risk of cancer cell formation. A 2009 study by U.S. government scientists found that retinal palmitate may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. Eek! Synthetic vitamin A is found in foods like fortified orange juice and milk (nondairy milk too), so the more we learn about it and are aware of the products it’s in, the better! CLICK HERE to read more about it.

3) Nanoparticles~ Nano-titanium dioxide (TiO2) and nano-zinc oxide (ZnO) are nanoparticles added to most sunscreens.  Nanoparticles are easily absorbed by our skin and the health effects, while inconclusive, are suspected to be quite harmful. I wrote about nanoparticles in my book! ~>

“Nanoparticles make the sunscreens more transparent when applied to the skin—often advertised as a bonus: “No white residue!” Yet who cares about transparency when our health is at stake? Research on nanoparticles remains inconclusive, but they are suspected to be harmful, as they can reach different parts of the body, bypass our body’s natural defense mechanisms, cross the placenta and affect a developing fetus, and cause DNA damage that results in cancer. These risks are not present with the non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but those do not disappear when rubbed on the skin. The FDA has yet to mandate comprehensive testing on all nanoparticles currently being added to sunscreens and other cosmetics.”

4) Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC)~ Like oxybenzone, OMC is an endocrine disrupter that easily penetrates our skin and disrupt the natural levels of our sex hormones. An Environmental Working Group report notes that OMC “produces excess reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signaling, cause mutations, lead to cell death and may be implicated in cardiovascular disease.” Yikes!

5) Fragrance~ “Fragrance” is simply a word for any ingredient a cosmetics or skincare company uses to make their products smell nice. We are talkin’ ANYTHING, dangerous chemicals included. Often, fragrances contain petroleum based ingredients linked to organ toxicity and allergies.

Did you know that there are over 1800 different sunscreens available to buy?! That’s a whole lot of sunscreens to choose from. Stick with one of these brands or a brand that rates between 0-2 on Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database and you will be all set for safe play in the sunshine wherever it is you live!

My comprehensive list of recommendations:

1) Abrey Organics SPF 26-45
2) The Honest Company (online only), SPF 30
3) Seventh Generation, SPF 30
4) John Masters Organics, SPF 30
5) Badger, comes in many SPFs, it’s certified organic too!
6) Kiss My Face Natural Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 15-50
7) All Terrain AquaSport, comes in many SPFs
8) Beauty Without Cruelty Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 30
9) Beautycounter Sunscreen, SPF 30
10) Burt’s Bees Sunscreen, SPF
12) California Naturel All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
13) Caribbean Solutions, SPF 20-25

Now I don’t use all of these brands in real life. That would be a lot of sunscreen, even for naturally pale me! My personal fav, which I use everyday, is the Kiss My Face brand. This is likely because it’s totally safe, but also very convenient for me to purchase along with my groceries at Whole Foods Market. Any of the sunscreens on the list are safe though, so let me know in the comments which brand you like the best!!

Be maaavvvaaalous and keep that maaavvvaaalous body of yours safe, healthy & looking great too!

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