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Monday Medical: Food for thought … and skin

Monday Medical

If you go

What: Real Food Talk: Herbs and Medicinal Foods – Memory Health and Skin Care

When: Noon to 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 15

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Rooms

The next time you're searching for a supplement to help protect your skin or bolster your memory, you may want to start in your kitchen.

"People can find good, natural remedies at the grocery store," said Cara Marrs, a registered dietician nutritionist with Yampa Valley Medical Center. "You don't even have to buy expensive preparations of these things — you can go to Natural Grocers and buy them in bulk."

Various herbs and foods offer a range of health benefits: Ginger and marshmallow root aid in digestive health, honey and slippery elm can soothe sore throats and green tea, cacao and garlic promote circulatory and joint health. Some herbs and spices are powerhouses, such as turmeric, which is good at easing joint pain, digestive issues, skin conditions and more.

Following, Marrs outlines a few of the foods and herbs that promote brain and skin health and encourages patients to consult their primary care provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist with any questions prior to use.

Brain health

Ginseng: The root of the ginseng plant has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is shown to improve mental acuity, reduce anxiety and depression, combat fatigue and stress and help with memory loss.

Marrs recommends making a tea with the ginseng root or taking the powdered herb in capsule form.

As with some natural remedies, there may be side effects. People with low blood pressure or diabetes should be cautious when using this herb.

Valerian root: Taken as a tea, in a tincture or in capsule form, the root of this plant can help with mild anxiety and insomnia. Talk to a doctor, first, if you're already on antidepressants.

"As with many of these remedies, we don't know exactly how it works," Marrs said. "But valerian does work on the central nervous system."

St. John's Wort: This herb can be good for anxiety and mild to moderate depression. Often, it's an ingredient in calming teas.

But Marrs recommends talking with your doctor to see if this herb is right for you: People who are already taking antidepressants should not also take St. John's Wort.

Skin health

Avocado: Avocados are a great source of healthy fats, which benefit the brain, lower risk of heart disease and act as a powerful food for the skin.

"Our skin is very affected by what we put in our bodies," Marrs said. "In our dry climate, it helps to make sure we have a lot of these good fats in our diets."

Eating avocados or mashing them up and applying them to the face as a mask can keep skin soothed and moisturized, while reducing signs of aging and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Coconut oil: Don't be afraid to rub a bit of this affordable, sweet-smelling oil onto your face. Coconut is another food that's beneficial when eaten or applied to the skin. Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer, containing antioxidants, such as Vitamin E, which can soothe eczema, psoriasis and even sunburn. It's also naturally antibacterial and antifungal and absorbs quickly into the skin.

Olive oil: High-quality olive oil helps keep skin moist and healthy. Like many natural remedies, it has more than one benefit: It also promotes a healthy heart, joints, brain and more.

"It's not just that this is good for one thing — it's good for a lot of things," Marrs said.

Beyond trying some of these natural remedies, Marrs recommends paying attention to what you eat.

"Eating foods with a lot of antioxidants is paramount," Marrs said. "Whole foods, lots of vegetables and fruits and nuts and seeds — these are the best places to get antioxidants. Certainly, when people change their diet and are eating better food, their skin and even their mental acuity can improve."

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.