How food can protect your skin from sun damage

Image via Desktop Wallpapers 4 Me

Image via Desktop Wallpapers 4 Me

We all love to get out in the sunshine, but even on cloudy days the sun’s rays can cause damage to our skin. All our lives, we’ve been advised to wear sunscreen and to protect ourselves from potential sun damage. Sometimes we even end up with damaged skin anyway.

Granted, we live in Ireland, but my post last week on the health benefits of sunshine really got me thinking of how we can protect our skin from the sun’s rays, should we get any rays in the last few weeks of autumn.

There’s nothing more annoying than covering yourself in greasy sun lotion every few hours only to find that the rays have discovered that one spot you missed and destroyed it. Red, raw skin is the least of your worries though, as we all know how the sun can cause skin cancer and other serious forms of sun damage.

But did you know that there are some foods that can keep your skin healthy and, along with your  sunscreen, protect you from sun damage?

Watermelon: This is a fruit that I praise regularly on my blog. It’s great for everything – beautiful skin, water intake, and now protection against the sun too. Watermelon is a great source of lycopene, an anti-oxidant which has been shown to reduce UV-induced free radicals by up to 50%.

Bell Peppers: One of my favourite vegetables to include in a salad, or a curry, or a chilli, or pretty much  anything is a delicious, ripe, red bell pepper. Just one bell pepper can protect you from sun damage. Bell peppers contain an anti-oxidant called capsiate, which fights UVB-induced skin damage.

Pomegranate: Not only is this fruit delicious, but its seeds protect the skin from UVA and UVB free radicals. The seeds inhibit hyper-pigmentation and can also enhance the protection of sunscreen by up to 25%. The juice of a pomegranate is full of anti-oxidants, but without the seeds, there’s no fibre, and it converts to sugar quickly.

Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon – wild salmon in particular – inhibits inflammation from UVB rays by over 50%. This fish also blocks the release of UV-induced enzymes that cause lines and sagging by eating at collagen.

It’s summer-time and here in Ireland, we’re starting to feel a bit of heat. It’s always important to wear sunscreen, but a little extra protection goes a long way. By eating the right foods, your skin can protect itself even more, while also staying healthy and fresh.

But don’t be too afraid of the sun. Check out my article on how sunshine is good for you!

Salmon and bell peppers for dinner, methinks, followed by a watermelon and pomegranate seed salad.

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Cherries on Top: why you should eat more cherries

Image via Flickr: Pink Sherbet Photography

Image via Flickr: Pink Sherbet Photography

Recently, I have developed an addiction to cherries. I just can’t get enough of those delicious fruits. I would eat box after box if I could. My favourite way to eat them is with low fat natural yogurt and strawberries.

Because I’ve been eating them in large amounts, I decided to research the benefits cherries can have on my health. I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered…

High in anti-oxidants: Cherries are high in anthocyanins, which are anti-oxidants commonly found in brightly-coloured fruits. These anti-oxidants lower the risk of heart disease and cancer while also promoting healthy skin and brain cells. They may also prevent dementia and memory-loss.

Anti-inflammatory: Cherries inhibit enzymes in the body that cause muscle pain and therefore prevent inflammation. Studies show that they can act as a painkiller and have almost the same effectiveness as ibuprofen, which is very valuable to athletes who may suffer from post-exercise muscle pain. It is also good for those suffering from gout and arthritis.

Healthy Sleep: I’ve been sleeping like a log lately, and I was happy to discover that my love of cherries is the reason for this. Sour cherries contain the anti-oxidant melatonin which occurs naturally in the body to promote and regulate our sleep-patterns. No wonder I’ve been getting my eight hours so easily!

Lower Cholesterol: Cherries limit the uptake of fat into the body, controlling cholesterol levels of the blood. This makes them great for weight-loss and also promotes a healthy heart. They lower the levels of inflammation indicators in the blood, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

High in vitamins: Cherries are very high in vitamins A (great for healthy eyes), C (for a healthy immune system) and E (for beautiful skin) and also contain iron, magnesium and potassium. They are also an excellent source of fibre, which means they are great for digestion.

What an excellent snack to get addicted to!

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The health benefits of Magnesium


Magnesium has long been praised for its healing properties. I personally use it as a natural pain-killer and find it to be far more effective than any store-bought drug.

There are several ways in which Magnesium can benefit you. By simply taking one capsule a day you’ll find yourself sleeping better, feeling more hydrated, and more relaxed.

Many people believe they can get more than enough of this mineral from their food, without the need for supplements, but remember that even soil can be depleted of vital minerals such as Magnesium. Even if your food did provide you with enough of this mineral, it can escape your body if you consume substances such as alcohol, coffee or black tea to name but a few.

There are several reasons you should increase your Magnesium intake. Here are just a few of those reasons.

Better sleep: Magnesium relaxes the body, the muscles and nervous system while also regulating the hormone, melatonin, which is essential for sleep. It also balances and controls the stress hormones that can lead to insomnia. Before sleeping is the best time to take Magnesium.

Hydration: Magnesium, along with minerals such as Calcium, Potassium and Sodium is an electrolyte, which is essential for proper hydration of the body.

Relaxation: It calms and relaxes the body by promoting the production of Serotonin, the happy hormone which will boost your mood.

Pain-relief: It relaxes the muscles, relieving cramps and other pains, and loosening tight muscles. A Magnesium deficiency can result in the build-up of lactic acid, which causes pain and tightness, as opposed to the greater flexibility achieved with a healthy Magnesium intake. Furthermore, Magnesium is an excellent way to relieve the stomach cramps and headaches that come with period pain.

Muscle-building: Magnesium allows the body to produce more of the Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1), which contributes to the growth and strength of the muscles. The cell’s energy store, Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) is also created using Magnesium.

There are several other benefits to Magnesium. It helps to strengthen bones and teeth; it alkalises the body and balances pH; it relieves constipation and can even prevent strokes and heart disease. The benefits of this one mineral are endless. Just one Magnesium tablet a day can provide all of the above benefits and more. I better start taking mine a bit more often.

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How to eat your water

Photo via Flickr: Harsha K R

Photo via Flickr: Harsha K R

Our bodies are made up of 70% water. Our brains are 90% water. So it’s only natural that our bodies should need water to function correctly. Without it, we are prone to dehydration which can cause fatigue, cravings, headaches, dry skin, hunger and tonnes of other less than comfortable conditions, such as constipation or muscle cramps.

There are so many benefits to drinking water. It increases energy by hydrating your brain. It promotes weight loss by keeping cravings and hunger pangs at bay. It removes harmful toxins from the body via sweat and urination.

Water naturally moisturises your skin, keeping it looking fresh, young and healthy. It aids digestion, preventing constipation and other digestive problems. It boosts your immune system and fights sicknesses like the flu or even cancer.

It prevents muscle pain by keeping the muscles more elastic and lubricating the joints. Furthermore, it relieves headaches, migraines and even back pains, which are often caused by dehydration.

Most importantly, it puts you in a good mood. When your body feels at its best and your brain feels hydrated, it’s only natural that your mood will get a little lift too.

Yes, our bodies need water, probably more than anything else. But sometimes it can be difficult to drink glass after glass of a tasteless drink. If only there was a way to take in water without having to sip it all day long… Well there is.

There are many delicious foods that are literally bursting with H2O. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent way to get your recommended daily water intake.

It all seems so much easier when you know you can eat a slice of your favourite melon instead of gulping down that glass of liquid. A tasty salad will keep you more hydrated than that boring glass of H2O you’ll never drink.

So without further ado, here is a list of foods that have wonderfully high water content.

Watermelon: This is one of my favourite fruits to drink. Watermelon is deliciously sweet and refreshing, and best of all; it’s made up of 96% water!

Cucumber: Delicious in a summer salad, cucumbers contain 96% water and also provide a crunchy, tasty, delicious bite to any sandwich.

Celery: Those celery sticks dipped in hummus are a better snack than you thought. With 95% water, this vegetable is sure to keep you hydrated while also satisfying a little hunger pang.

Pineapple: One of my favourite fruits, pineapple is made up of 95% water and is the perfect snack and a refreshing pick-me-up.

Blueberries: Great for eye health, and delicious when mixed with low fat, natural yogurt and a handful of other berries, blueberries contain 95% water and tonnes of vitamins.

Lettuce: Salad is a delicious way to up your water intake, and with crisp, refreshing lettuce that contains 95% water, it’s an excellent substitute to a glass of water – especially when mixed with cucumber and celery!

Tomato: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. A little extra wisdom is knowing that it is made up of 94% water. Put it in your salad.

Pears: A delicious addition to any lunch box, pears are bursting with 92% water, making them a juicy snack for the office.

Grapefruit: Many people eat this watery fruit for breakfast, most commonly when trying to lose weight. There’s some method to the madness though, as it contains 90% water and is an excellent start to a healthy day.

Melon: I’ve already mentioned watermelon has 96% water. It is therefore in a league of its own, way above all other melons. But if watermelon isn’t your cup of tea (or indeed water), you’re in luck. Other melons contain 89% water and are still more than excellent when it comes to taking in your recommended H2O.

There’s bound to be at least one of the above fruits or vegetables that is to your taste, and if there is, pounce on it and eat (and drink) it to your heart’s content. I’m off to eat some salad.

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Fact: Sunshine is good for your health

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

We’ve all heard how dangerous the sun is for your skin. Even one bad burn can greatly increase your risk of skin cancer. So the most logical thing to do is cover ourselves in sunscreen, seek shade wherever possible, and stay indoors when we can, right? Wrong.

Yes, the sun can be quite dangerous, but there’s no sense in hiding from it. If you ensure you’re well protected, the sun can greatly improve your health. Plus, we all feel so much happier and optimistic when we feel that warmth on our faces as we gaze up at a beautiful blue sky.

Only last week, Galway (and the rest of Ireland, in fact) was blessed with a few fabulous, sunny days – the kind that make you think of the beach. The sun has always made me feel not only happier, but healthier too. I feel like getting up earlier, drinking more water, and eating more fruit. So I thought I’d research some health benefits of sunshine and share them with my readers.

Reduces risk of cancer: I know what you’re thinking: “What about the aforementioned risk of skin cancer?” You’re right to think this. As I mentioned earlier, the proper protection against the sun is also proper protection against skin cancer. But it came as a surprise to me that sunshine can reduce the risk of other cancers. Regions of higher solar UVB exposure actually have lessened mortality rates for around 20 types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer and rectal cancer. Patients with a higher level of vitamin D in their blood had a much stronger chance of survival than those with low vitamin D levels. If that’s not reason enough to get out in the sun, or at least start taking a vitamin D supplement, then I don’t know what is.

Boosts the immune system:  The production of vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) results in a better immune system. This vitamin is essential for the function of T-cells, which are the body’s first line of defence when it comes to fighting infection. When these T-cells come into contact with a foreign pathogen, they use vitamin D receptors to search for this vital vitamin. A lack of vitamin D means the T-cells will not be able to respond to threats of infection.

Improves metabolism: Did you know that the body goes into winter mode if it doesn’t get enough exposure to the sun? Yes, your body actually starts to think it’s winter, so it slows down your metabolism and starts to store fat to keep you warm. Have you ever noticed how quickly you get hungry when on holiday in a hot country? This is because sunshine speeds up your metabolism, keeping you happy and healthy while also stopping you from gaining a few extra pounds. So basically, spending time in the sun is a great way to fight conditions such as obesity.

Lowers blood pressure: Again, vitamin D is vital for blood pressure. High levels of vitamin D have been shown to lower blood pressure as effectively as medication. As well as this, the warmth of the sun is great for the circulation. Is there anything vitamin D can’t do? Apparently, exposure to the sun is the best way to take in vitamin D. No supplement is as good as the real thing. It’s just a pity there’s so much cloud here in Ireland!

Makes you happier: We’ve all witnessed the positive effects that sunshine can have on our mood. In Galway, for example, the sun brings everyone together. Eyre Square, Spanish Arch and the Salthill Promenade are packed with people as soon as the sun shows its face. Sunshine is also great for fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and for combating stress. Plus, we feel more like exercising when we’re in the sun, and that releases endorphins which improve your mood.

I hope these tips will be reason enough for you to get out in the sun. Now we just need to hope we get the sunshine to bask in!

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#ITWBN: A taste of 56 Central and Bubbles


56 Central

There’s nothing I love more than good, nutritious and healthy food, and at a recent Into The West Blogger Network (#itwbn) event, I got the chance to sample the menu at one of Shop Street’s newest restaurants, 56 Central.

‘Healthy is the new sexy’ was the motto when Gill Carroll set up 37 West two years ago. Located on Newcastle Road, the small restaurant prides itself in its range of healthy dishes, offering something different to Galway’s food scene.

Now, after experiencing success with 37 West, Gill has expanded to Galway City Centre, taking over Lynch’s Café and opening a new, larger restaurant: 56 Central.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to interview Gill Carroll for the Galway Independent, and she gave me plenty of information about her new restaurant.

“56 Central has more of a focus on slowing things down and reconnecting to food and life and people,” Gill explained to me at the time, and so far she’s connecting with plenty of people who have already flooded through her restaurant doors.

When Gill organised a tasting event for a group of local bloggers, she certainly connected with people in new ways. All night, bloggers were tweeting photos and comments about the food, the service, the art. We were delighted to get the chance to sample her menu, and to experience the amazing atmosphere of the restaurant itself.

The lovely Gill Carroll pouring us some delicious prosecco and elderflower cocktails. Photo: Jessica Thompson

The lovely Gill Carroll pouring us some delicious prosecco and elderflower cocktails. Photo: Jessica Thompson

Located in the heart of Galway, 56 Central is truly the most stylish restaurant in town. The space has been carefully designed by a team of local talents including Dan Gardener Original and Finbar 24/7 and of course Gill herself.

56 Central has become a breeding ground for successful entrepreneurs who come in to work on creative projects and soak up the energy of the art on the walls and the energy from the old Galway wall which holds up the central Processo bar.

As you enter 56 Central you will see a giant heart, which has two pumps. Each pump sends blood around our body – the blood line is represented by a continuous line around the building into all of the restaurant’s rooms of reflection:

1. The Garden – nature
2. The Site – food
3. The Art Room – Art & Culture
4. The Vault – people love & connection

All the crew wear t-shirts saying ‘Grateful’, because they are all so grateful to have 56 Central.

The beautiful display that greeted us when we arrived at 56 Central. Photo: Jessica Thompson

The beautiful display that greeted us when we arrived at 56 Central. Photo: Jessica Thompson

As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by Gill herself, who proceeded to pour the most delicious prosecco cocktails, which we all enjoyed while we met our fellow bloggers and chatted amongst ourselves before taking our seats.

Each place at the table was set with a small bottle of prosecco, a greeting card, a lollipop and a name tag with each individual blog written on it. Mine said ‘#Sin’, as I’m the editor of Sin Newspaper in NUI Galway.

Once we were seated, we enjoyed a range of delicious dishes. There’s a large focus on locally sourced produce in 56 Central, and everything on the menu, apart from the Ballymaloe relish, is sourced in Galway or other parts of the West of Ireland.

When I interviewed Gill a couple of months ago, she talked about the importance of supporting local producers and the local food industry. She feels that the last couple of years have seen a really good growth in the west, but “people are going back to basics” and trying new things and using fresh ingredients.

“I think it’s really important to support local producers because they’re the ones who are so close to you and they can give you something that’s so fresh and so unique as well,” Gill told me.

“We have a dish on the menu called The West and basically everything in it is from the West of Ireland. We have all the produce here; it’s just a matter of slipping them into your menu and allowing people to taste them, because you can instantly taste the difference between a baguette that’s made from 20 minutes away as opposed to it being frozen and mass-produced.


Collerans mince beef burger on Jeremy Les Petit Doucher mini brioche buns with ballymaloe relish. Delicious! Photo: Jessica Thompson

Colleran’s mince beef burger on Jeremy Les Petit Doucher mini brioche buns with ballymaloe relish. Delicious! Photo: Jessica Thompson

The food was delicious, and included:

  • Mini Colleran’s mince beef burfer on Jeremy Le Petit Doucher mini brioche buns with Ballymaloe relish.
  • 56 Central homemade gluten free bread 56 central baked ham from Castlemine butcher Lizzi’s piccalilli.
  • Sausage sliders made from Castlemaine Meat with Loughrea honey and The Lodge Barna’s Prosecco and Tarragon Mustard.
  • 56 Central Cuinneog buttermilk Chicken (this was definitely my favourite).
  • Spicy Potato Bravas.
  • Galway Goat Farm Goatscheese with beetroot piccalilli and garnishes.
  • Mini fish cakes tartare and caper made with Alis Fish Market Fish.
  • Naturally Gluten Free Nacho canapés from Blanco Nino (Little Ass Buritto).
  • Sweet selection from Sugar & Spice – Mini mint aero, mini oreo, carmel, mini brownie & mallows.

Once we’d had our fill, Gill came around with beautiful cupcakes – one for each of us. She also offered takeaway cups so we could take the cupcakes home to enjoy the next day.

Delicious cupcakes for every blogger! Photo: Jessica Thompson

Delicious cupcakes for every blogger! Photo: Jessica Thompson

But aside from the fantastic, locally produced foods, Galway itself is a fantastic location to open up a business, Gill told me during our chat over the summer.

“Galway people are so excitable. They really want to help support new business and the love and support that we got for 56 was unbelievable. Everyone really got behind it and they were so excited about it,” she said.

“That’s a huge pro for me, because it makes it easier, and even when I set up 37 West it was quite different with the healthy food and everything, but they’re willing to try, and they’re willing to go out of their way to go somewhere different.”

We thoroughly enjoyed our night with Gill. The food is excellent, and I doubt there’s one blogger who gave it a bad review. I’ll certainly be going back – especially for that buttermilk chicken – delicious!

After our time with Gill and her staff, we had the pleasure of visiting Garavan’s Bar on Shop Street, where we tasted a range of whiskeys.

I’m not much of a whiskey-drinker, and whiskey generally tastes like whiskey to me. But I enjoyed the experience of taking a sip, then adding water and seeing how the flavours changed.


Some of the whiskey samples we were treated to at Garavan’s Bar. Photo: Jessica Thompson

Overall, we had a fantastic night. This is the first mini #itwbn event I’ve attended, but I found it so much easier to talk to people than I do at the larger meetings, because there are fewer people. Things are so much more intimate and I really enjoyed getting to know other bloggers.

Sadly, I missed the Retro Flame event, which was on last week, but I’m looking forward to the next big event or mini-mixer, whichever comes first.

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5 of the Best Vitamins for Healthier Skin

Image via Flickr: tommerton2010

There are countless skin products lining the shelves of supermarkets, pharmacies and cosmetic counters that all claim to offer anti-ageing properties and an improved appearance of the skin. However, the best way to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy is to start from the inside. Nothing beats naturally healthy and beautiful skin and the best way to achieve that is by living a healthy and active lifestyle, eating the right foods and ensuring that your body gets the right amount of vitamins on a daily basis.

Taking daily vitamin supplements will ensure that you are getting the right amount of vitamins every day and popular health food stores, such as Evergreen, have a wide range of vitamins for healthier skin and much more.

However, here we look at the top 5 vitamins to help you on your way to perfectly radiant skin.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well known for its immune-boosting and anti-oxidant properties, and can improve skin texture and appearance by applying anti-oxidant properties to detoxify your skin, helping to rid it of any impurities. Vitamin C is often found in many anti-ageing skin creams, as it stimulates collagen production, which makes your skin suppler and helps to fight the signs of aging. Vitamin C also helps to protect your skin from sun damage by decreasing cell damage and helping the healing process of damaged skin.

Vitamin E

For optimum skin health, one of the best vitamins you can take is vitamin E. This vitamin is an anti-oxidant that effectively kills free radicals, which accelerate the aging process and are yours and your skin’s biggest enemy. Vitamin E helps to get rid of free radicals to promote younger looking skin, helps to protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays, moisturises the skin, and can be used to treat some skin inflammations.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B complexes provide a wide range of benefits to help promote healthy and glowing skin. For example, vitamin B1 gives the skin a healthier glow as it boosts the blood circulation throughout the body, whereas vitamin B3 helps reduce acne by maintaining a high level of oxygen in the blood. A vitamin B complex often contains a nutrient called biotin, which is very important in the development of healthy hair, nails and skin.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K works very well in the body to reduce the appearance of skin discolorations, such as dark circles under the eyes and hyperpigmentation, whilst also helping to reduce the appearance of acne scars. Vitamin K is essential in aiding the body’s process of blood clotting and can help to heal, lighten and reduce areas of bruising. In addition to this, it can also help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, scars, stretch marks and spider veins.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is vital for the repair and maintenance of our skin, but can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by aging and sun exposure as well. Additionally, it can also help prevent dry, flaky skin and acne.

Getting good skin through a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water along with taking some extra vitamins doesn’t have to take a long time, and some users notice a difference within a few days.

Thanks so much to Suzanne Elly for writing this post!

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Image via Flickr: tommerton2010