Food Friday: Eat Walnuts for Healthy, Soft Skin

Walnuts are high in Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, both which benefit your skin. Just 1/4 cup of walnuts provides nearly 95% of your daily omega-3 requirements.


Having grown up in New England, I’ve always eaten walnuts. Turns out that’s been good for my skin. Walnuts are high in Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, both which benefit your skin. Vitamin E is a natural anti-inflammatory which can help people with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce free radicals that cause skin aging. Omega-3 fatty acids help your skin to manufacture the essential oils it needs to protect itself, so eating foods like walnuts can help keep skin looking and feeling soft and healthy.

Just 1/4 cup of walnuts provides nearly 95% of your daily omega-3 requirements. So toss walnuts into your cereal, salad, trail mix, or cooked grains. Or make this recipe for apple-maple walnut breakfast quinoa that’s healthy for your body and your skin. High in protein, fiber, and vitamins, it’ll help you look and feel good.

Apple-Maple Walnut Breakfast Quinoa
Makes 2 servings

1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
2 teaspoons butter
1 medium apple of your choice, diced with skins on
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted walnuts, or more if you’d like
1/8 teaspoon apple pie spice
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1. In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring water and quinoa to a boil for 2 minutes. Lower to a simmer and cover for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed the water, puffs up, and turns translucent. If the water has evaporated before the quinoa is cooked, just add a bit more water. Quinoa should maintain a slight crunch when cooked.

2. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add apples and cook 2 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Add walnuts, apple pie spice, and salt. Cook 1 minute more. Add to quinoa and stir.

3. Divide quinoa into two bowls, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve hot.

Photo credit: FCC, Ioan Sameli. Recipe credit: Susan Russo

Am I Sleep Deprived?

Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, headaches, and irritability as well as increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. If you have symptoms of sleep deprivation, then see your doctor.

Sleeping Beauty

I never understood sleep deprivation until I experienced medical residency and worked 24 or 36 hours straight. I’d come home, sit down at my kitchen table to eat and fall asleep with the fork in my hand. I’m not kidding.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your body works overtime to get you to stop what you’re doing and sleep. That’s because sleep is critical to our physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, headaches, irritability, and confusion and put you at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

You won’t become sleep deprived from missing a couple of hours of sleep for one or two nights. You can become sleep deprived if you’re repeatedly cheating yourself out of sleep, pulling all-nighters, or going to bed too late.

If you think you “catch up” by sleeping for 14 hours on your next day off, you can’t. The only way to recover from sleep deprivation is to add 1 to 2 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation happens over time and so does recovering it.

Below are somes classic symptoms of sleep deprivation. If you are experiencing several of these symptoms or have questions or concerns, then you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

1. Falling asleep instantly, including standing up. (Leave that to horses.)

2. Extreme irritation and mood swings.

3. Problems with mental focus and memory.

4. Frequent infections/illnesses.

5. Difficulty socializing.

6. Experiencing hallucinations.

Photo credit: FCC, cyron

Can I Get Rid of Ridges In My Fingernails?

Fingernail ridges occur mostly because of age. Though you can’t get rid of nail ridges, you can reduce their appearance by using moisturizer, taking biotin, and limiting use of nail polish remover.

ridge walk

Ridge walking is exciting. Ridges in your nails are not.

Vertical ridges in your fingernails generally are not a health concern, but they can be unsightly. And many patients ask me, ” Can I get rid of ridges in my fingernails?” The truth is, once you have fingernail ridges, you’ll likely always have them.

Fingernail ridges are caused primarily by aging, something you can’t stop. But you can reduce the appearance of fingernail ridges by following these three steps:

1. Moisturize your nails. Use restorative moisturizing hand creams daily, and gently rub the cream into your nails and nail beds.

2. Consider taking 1500 mcg of Biotin once a day, which is widely available at drug stores.

3. Reduce your use of nail polish remover, which dries out nails and can contribute to the development of nail ridges. Look for non-acetone nail polish removers, and use no more than once a week.

Photo credit: FCC, colchu

Food Friday: On Antibiotics? Eat Yogurt.

Antibiotics can reduce the amount of good bacteria in your gut. If you’re on antibiotics, then you should consider eating yogurt.

Greek Yogurt, Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits

Have you been on oral antibiotics for your acne or rosacea? If so, this post is for you. Antibiotics such as minocycline and doxycycline are sometimes necessary to reduce bad bacteria on your skin. They also reduce the good bacteria in your gut that are essential for good health and good digestion. Here’s how you can put billions of good bugs back into your system: Eat yogurt.

Look for yogurt labeled “live and active cultures,” that is high in protein and low in sugar and fat. We use filling, high-protein, non-fat Greek yogurt in the recipe below along with antioxidant-rich fresh figs and black currants (both currently in season).

Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits
Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons honey
A couple of pinches of cinnamon
A couple of pinches of salt
A couple of pinches of lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
6 fresh figs, quartered
1/2 cup fresh black currants*
1 tablespoon pistachios

1. Heat honey, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest, and rosemary either in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Use two cocktail or other pretty glasses to assemble parfaits. Start with yogurt at the base. Then top with fig pieces, currants, pistachios, and honey sauce. Repeat. Eat. Make again tomorrow.

*Note: Black currants are small, round berries with a glossy black skin and tart flesh. They’re available at farmers’ markets and organic markets. If you can’t find them, blackberries make a good substitute. Dried black currants are more widely available, but their flavor and texture is sweeter like a raisin.

Photo and recipe by Susan Russo of

Why Does Skin Age? Part II: 11 Tips to Slow Aging

Skin aging is caused by intrinsic (genetic) factors and extrinsic (environment and lifestyle) factors. Here are 11 tips to slow aging.

Grandmother & Granddaughter

In my last post I explained that skin ages due to both intrinsic (genetic) factors and extrinsic (environment and lifestyle) factors. Today I’m sharing 11 tips to slow aging in your skin. Notice I didn’t say “stop” aging. That can’t be done. Granddaughters turn into grandmothers. For now, anyway.

  1. Avoid the sun. No single factor is more important to prevent aging than avoiding excess sun exposure. Ultraviolet light breaks down the elastin and collagen in your skin, causing brown discoloration, thinning of the skin, and ultimately wrinkles. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on your face and hands every day.
  2. Stop smoking. Smoking deprives your skin of oxygen, releases damaging oxidizing free radicals and causes wrinkles, dullness, and sallowness. It is a sure contributor to aging. Find a way to quit this summer.
  3. Lose weight. Gaining weight causes excess heavy fat to develop on your face. This will stretch your skin and pull down your cheeks and jowels, aging your face. Have you ever said that someone who has lost a lot of weight looks a lot younger? There is a reason why.
  4. Go low-glycemic. A low-glycemic diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is healthy for your body and your skin. Research has shown that sugary or high glycemic carbohydrate foods can contribute to aging.
  5. Eat less. We know that animals who adhere to a calorie restricted diet age much more slowly than those on a normal diet. Eating 1/3 fewer calories is difficult but would be likely to slow all aging, including your skin.
  6. Control your stress. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can damage your organs including your skin. Meditate, exercise, travel, keep a journal. Do whatever it takes to reduce the stress pounding on you.
  7. Sleep on your back. Sleeping on your face or on your side causes wrinkles overnight. The weight of your head on your pillow can also limit the blood flow, depriving your skin of blood and oxygen overnight. Night after night this can lead to permanent wrinkles. Try to train yourself to sleep on your back.
  8. Cut back on alcohol. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration and can lead to damage of your skin over time. Although it does not cause rosacea, it can lead to unsightly red blood vessels on your face that quickly age you.
  9. Wear make-up appropriately. Wearing too much makeup can actually harm your skin by clogging pores and causing excess dryness. Thick foundations and shimmery makeup make you look much older especially if it cracks or settles into existing fine lines and wrinkles. As you age, a lighter touch and natural shades are most flattering.
  10. Moisturize. Your skin is under constant assault from the elements — wind rain, humidity, hot, dry weather and arctic air all damage your skin leading to wrinkles and dullness. Fight back by applying a facial moisturizer every day to protect your skin. Moisturizers also plump up skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines.
  11. Stop squinting. Whether you’re squinting to avoid the sun or to see your computer monitor, repeatedly contracting your eye muscles will cause permanent wrinkles over time. Wear dark sun glasses every day, and be sure there’s no glare on your computer screen at work or at home.

Photo credit: FCC, Jenny818

Why Does Skin Age? Part I: Genetics

Skin aging results from both intrinsic (genetic) and extrinsic (environment and lifestyle choices) factors. Intrinsic factors cannot be changed, but extrinsic factors can.

The Aged Beauty

A 91-year-old woman who comes to me every few months for treatment of skin cancers came to me recently. While I was removing a basal cell from her scalp, she volunteered: “I should have died at 85.”

“Why would you say that? I asked.

“Just look at my skin,” she said. “There’s nothing left to it. My joints are shot, my heart doesn’t beat right, the bowels don’t work. We just weren’t meant to live this long.”

Mind you, this is from a woman who still drives in to see me. She has managed to stay healthy but has not avoided aging.

Aging is most common disease I see. Billions of dollars are spent each year to conquer and unconquerable foe.

So why does our skin age? And why in this technologically sophisticated world haven’t we figured out how to stop aging?

Skin aging results from both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors are your genetic makeup — your skin color, texture, and elasticity you inherited from your parents — and cannot be modified.

  • Aging begins in your 20’s
  • Loss of elastin leads to lax skin and the formation of wrinkles.
  • Dead skin cells don’t shed properly leading to scaly skin.
  • Loss of natural skin fats lead to dry, itchy skin.
  • Loss of collagen and elastin leads to thin, papery skin on the hands and arms and  vertical ridges around your lips.
  • Loss of underlying fat leads to hollowness under the eyes, sunken cheeks, and sunken backs of hands.
  • Gray hair and loss of hair develop.
  • Nails become thin, brittle, and easily breakable. The loss of nail lunula (the white part of the nail) occurs and nail ridges develop.

Extrinsic factors are things within your control that also lead to aging including sun damage, smoking, sleeping habits, and diet. These are all factors that can be modified. And in my next post, I’ll share my best anti-aging tips with you.

Photo credit: FCC, alex proimos

Food Friday: Make Your Own Natural Vitamin Water

Don’t buy expensive vitamin water; make your own natural vitamin water at home.

Lime Drops

As I’ve said here before, you don’t need to worry about drinking eight glasses of water a day. Drink after you exercise or sweat, if you live in a hot climate, or simply when you’re thirsty.

Drinking drinking water is healthier than drinking juice, coffee, or sodas (even diet). But what type of water should you drink? I don’t buy expensive, aggressively marketed “super” or “vitamin” waters. I drink plain old H20. Sometimes, though, plain water can be boring. So I make my own natural vitamin water by adding fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Here are three ways to make your own natural vitamin water.

1. Add thinly sliced cucumber and lemon or lime juice.

2. Add pineapple chunks and fresh mint.

3. Add orange, lemon, and lime slices.

4. Mix sparkling water with mashed fresh blueberries or blackberries and lime juice. Stir, strain, ice, and drink.

Got other ideas? Please share them with us below.

Photo credit: FCC Henrik Thorn