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Food shouldn’t just serve as sustenance. You can actually harness some great powers from the meals that you mindlessly shovel down… if you incorporate ingredients with purpose, serving up a dish that’s sleep-inducing, skin-beautifying, even life-enhancing.

There are three particular areas in my life that I can sometimes use a little help in: Sleep, Skin, & Mood. Since I’m all about the holistic approach, before turning to medicaments, skin treatments and “happy pills”, I depend on acupuncture, Chinese herbs, a healthy lifestyle and food. When it comes to sleep, no matter how exhausted I may be, sometimes my mind just won’t stop having all sorts of thoughts that keep me from finally dozing off.

I have an arsenal of sleep aids, but I’ve found natural remedies that work almost as well – like hypnotizing myself with a repetitive mantra, and a combination of calcium and magnesium at dinnertime. Although I don’t suffer from acne, I do get stress-induced eczema and thanks to a “gumby” face with unyielding expressions, I’m prone to wrinkles around my eyes, mouth and forehead. Forcing myself to relax everyday for at least five minutes – whether it’s a bath or yoga is a must for me. I also choose foods high in Omega-3s, Vitamin C and Vitamin E to fortify my skin and fend off the early signs of aging. I’m also admittedly moody.

I have very high highs where I have a noticeable pep in my step and even catch myself giggling for no reason at all. But sometimes my mood drops like a ton of bricks and I can get pretty bummed. Since I am not into mood-altering meds, again, it’s food and lifestyle that I turn to. Whether it’s wrestling on the grass with my dog Beignet or packing my meals with Folic Acid, Tryptophane, and Vitamin B, I find ways to naturally put myself in a better place. Here are a few of the foods that I depend on to regulate my sleep, skin, and mood. Maybe they will help you too…

BETTER SLEEP Everything from stress, to your physical environment can affect the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep you’re benefiting from. Luckily, there are some factors you can control that will help you sleep – like your diet. Yes, a warm cup of milk really does help soothe you to sleep. It’s the calcium that has a calming effect. When paired with Magnesium, this dynamic duo can help relax the muscles too. Try these foods to put weight on your eyelids: Foods high in Calcium: Cottage Cheese, Milk, Yogurt, Fortified Orange Juice, Broccoli, Almonds Foods high in Magnesium: Pumpkin Seeds, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Soy Beans, Salmon, Sunflower Seeds, Black Beans

BETTER SKIN Beautiful, youthful skin is much more than makeup. It’s even more than moisturizers, cleansers and masks. Beyond what you slather on your skin, it’s about how you beautify your skin from the inside out. Fight Wrinkles with Vitamin E Incorporate a little more Vitamin E into your diet to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Get it in these foods: Wheat Germ, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Sunflower Oil, Hazelnuts, Peanut Butter, Broccoli, Kiwi, Mango, Tomatoes Collagen Production with Vitamin C Vitamin C is crucial for the production of collagen. Collagen makes up the structure of your skin, giving it a tight appearance and fighting off wrinkles. Try these foods: Strawberry, Guava, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Raspberries, Lychees, Red Bell Peppers, Kale Moisturize Your Skin with Fat – Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-3 Fatty Acids help moisturize your skin, making it more supple, strong, and resilient. Pick up some of these foods along with your favorite lotion: Walnuts, Flaxseeds, Salmon, Sardines, Cauliflower, Cabbage

BETTER OUTLOOK A plate of chocolate chip cookies or burger with the works… Not all foods that make you happy have to make you feel guilty later. There are healthy, happy foods that do wonders on your taste buds and communicate with various parts of your body to make you feel better long after the last morsel has been devoured. Studies have found that people who suffer from depression often show a deficiency of the following minerals and vitamins in their diets. Be sure to get extra sources of these: Magnesium: Pumpkin Seeds, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Soy Beans, Salmon, Sunflower Seeds, Black Beans Tryptophane: Cottage Cheese, Milk, Tofu, Turkey, Whole Grains, Beans, Rice, Hummus, Hazelnuts Vitamin B: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, Brown Rice, Tuna, Bananas, Potatoes, Chili Pepper Selenium: Seafood, Sea Vegetables, Mushrooms, Whole Wheat Folic Acid : Spinach, Asparagus, Avocado, Peanuts, Fortified Orange Juice, Bananas, Broccoli, Liver, Eggs.

By: Laurel House