Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #051 10/19/10 Stinky Food, Glowing Skin!

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5 Foods That Make Your Skin Glow

By Tony Horton, creator of P90X

So you're saying to yourself, "Tony's giving me tips on how to improve the look of my skin?" Yes! That's because better health isn't all about push-ups and pull-ups, you know. Your skin needs some attention too. And I've learned to listen to the smart women in my life who know about this stuff. Healthy, glowing, youthful skin is something we all appreciate and want to hold on to as best we can. With high-end skin creams selling for as much as $400 per ounce (and with little evidence that they actually do even a percentage of what their labels promise), it might not be such a bad idea to head to the market and pick up foods loaded with nutrients that are known to have sun-protecting, skin-hydrating, and even wrinkle-preventing powers.


Manhattan-based dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, recommends the following as the best foods for your skin.

  1. "Eat more fruits and vegetables!" I know you've heard this your entire life, but if I told you they prevent wrinkles, would you be more likely to take this advice to heart? The antioxidants in fruits and veggies work to get rid of free radicals that damage cells and contribute to just about everything that affects your skin, from dryness to wrinkles. Dr. Wechsler's top picks: sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and tomatoes.
  2. Vitamin C the easy way? Eat some citrus every day. Your body can't store wrinkle-fighting, collagen-building vitamin C, so you have to replenish your supplies throughout the day for optimal benefits. The doc's top picks: oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Yes, you can only eat so many oranges, so feel free to juice out your vitamin C, add a squeeze of lemon or lime to foods, or throw some grapefruit in a salad. A little here and a little there adds up over the day.
  3. Go green. One of the most important nutrients for your skin is vitamin A, and certain dark-green veggies are chock-full of it. Whether they're fresh, frozen, raw, or steamed, Dr. Wechsler's top three choices are spinach, turnip greens, and broccoli—all pack a vitamin A punch. What's so great about vitamin A? It supports skin cell turnover, which promotes cell growth and development. Without it, skin gets dry, tough, and scaly.
  4. Green TeaSpeaking of green. Have a cup of tea—green tea, that is. All true teas contain the antioxidant EGCG (epigallocatechin 3-gallate), and green tea has the most. EGCG fights inflammatory chemicals that promote acne and sun-related aging of the skin. On top of that, green tea has L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces the flow of cortisol, which helps keep collagen fibers intact.
  5. If you can't grow it, fish for it. Omega-3 fatty acids have all kinds of benefits for your overall health, including properties that fight aging in your skin. Omega-3s fight inflammation, which is a top skin-ager, and help protect against sunburn (we all know how bad that is for skin). The protein in fish has restorative powers to boot. The doc's top fish picks: salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, Pacific herring, and even most shellfish. Unlike veggies, fish is one age-fighter you don't want to go overboard with. Concerns about mercury levels in some fish caution us to limit seafood or freshwater fish to about two meals per week.

And don't forget—exercise is also important for promoting healthy, youthful skin, so eat these nutritious foods in conjunction with a fitness regimen, like P90X® or 10-Minute Trainer®.


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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, October 25th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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4 Smelly Superfoods

By Jeanine Natale

Were you one of those kids who hated "stinky" veggies like broccoli and cabbage? Did serving you a spoonful of cod liver oil mean a battle royale for your parents? "But it's good for you!" they'd coax, as if that mattered one bit to you. For some of us, if a food stinks, no amount of vitamins and minerals will cause us to force it down.

Durian Fruit

If that's the case, maybe some perspective might help. Truth is, none of those foods actually smelled that bad (except maybe the fish oil). You want to know about some real stinky foods? We've got four right here that are guaranteed to make you scrunch up your face, spit them out, and head for the (sweeter-smelling) hills. Yet they're all allegedly supposed to be incredibly good for you. Are they all worth the gag factor? Let's check out these four super-smelly "superfoods."

  1. Kombucha. Yeast. Bacteria. Delicious.

    My favorite massage therapist recently told me about a fermented tea known as kombucha. Having never heard of it before, I was soon intrigued by the many Web sites and blogs dedicated to the stuff, and the glowing testimonials from dedicated fans—even YouTube® videos by drinkers extolling the virtues of this ancient Asian wonder tea that has apparently become the hot new thing in America. That being said, I was definitely grossed out by the main ingredient of kombucha: a big, smelly, slimy grayish blob of yeast-bacteria culture that kombucha lovers call the "mother." It's a symbiotic, probiotic colony of yeast and bacteria (the friendly type), and kombucha is made by combining this culture with a mixture of black tea, water, and sugar. (The "mother" is created from an originating batch of tea, water, and sugar that successfully ferments, so becoming the culture for all subsequent batches—much the way sourdough bread is made.) The ingredients are allowed to ferment, usually from 7 to 10 days, preferably in a wide-mouth jar covered in a porous cloth that will allow the mixture to "breathe" while filtering out any impurities. However, it's at this stage that contamination can easily occur (most impurities are airborne—especially in this case), which could turn the tea into something that could get you really sick if ingested. If all goes well, however, the result is a jar of fizzy, cider-like brew topped by a floating jellyfish-like mass that smells—by most accounts—like a mix of stinky feet, stale sweat, and the sticky, beer-soaked carpet of your local dive bar. The taste is similarly quite pungent and tangy, but the tea is said to contain "dozens of elements, many of which are known to promote healing for a variety of conditions."1

    What does this mean, exactly? It's suggested that newcomers to "K-tea" start out with no more than 1 to 4 ounces in a day, and to let ther bodies get used to the stuff gradually before increasing the amount of daily intake. So a one-ounce serving of "plain" kombucha (no added sweeteners or flavors) contains 5 calories, 2.1 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12, 3.1 percent of the RDA of folate, 1.3 grams of sodium, 1 gram of total carbohydrate, and 0.5 gram of total sugars. Also present are varying amounts of lactic, acetic, malic, oxalic, gluconic, butyric, nucleic, and amino acids, as well as enzymes.

    And therein lies the rub: While regulated amounts of vitamin B12 and folate should be part of a healthy diet, the jury's still out on the host of acids and other elements found in kombucha, which are indeed responsible for the smell and flavor of the tea. But are they actually good for you? For instance, malic acid is present in unripe fruits. It's what makes apples sour and tart, but it'll also burn your mouth if you eat too much, and just like Mom always predicted, too large a dose will give you a tummy ache. Butyric acid is found in Parmesan cheese—and vomit. (You make the connection.) Oxalic acid's main applications are bleaching and rust removal, while calcium oxalate is the most common component of kidney stones. There have not yet been any conclusive studies showing that the regular consumption of these elements actually produces consistent beneficial results. And, as even kombucha lovers will tell you, too much is not a good thing.

    Kombucha TeaBottom Line: The risk of contamination in a homemade kombucha brew is high—the consequence of which is turning your tea from healthy to potentially deadly. Some of the elements present in this brew can be good for you in very small amounts; however, ingesting too much of the other elements present can have the opposite effect. Furthermore, there's a lot to be said for regularly brewed, unfermented tea, which is loaded with antioxidants. The conclusion? Just because it smells bad doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you.
  2. Smelly Superfood Vote: NO.

  3. Durian. A fruit that could kill you if thrown with enough force, and smells deadly too.

    This tropical fruit is widely eaten and loved in Southeast Asia, apparently for both its taste (which has been described as having elements of mango and creamy custard with notes of onion or garlic) and its nutritional value. It's a fascinating fruit—grown on trees throughout the region, a ripe durian is about the size and shape of a rounded football and is covered in thick, sturdy half-inch-long thorns, making it look like a very distressed blowfish. Indeed, it's recommended that those who harvest the fruit wear a hardhat, and there are often signs posted at the base of the trees warning people not to linger under them too long for fear of being bonked on the head—a bloody and potentially fatal occurrence.

    It takes a really sturdy, large knife to crack these things open, and it's best to do this outdoors, on a solid, steady surface. Opening a durian outdoors is also recommended because it'll stink up your place pretty quickly, with the odor (imagine rotten, mushy onions mixed with sweaty old gym socks and a dash of vomit) lasting for a good, long while. The flesh, which is a pale yellow with a creamy or custardy texture, surrounds five or six large seeds—the layout of flesh and seeds is much like that of an avocado. It's a bit of a challenge to find durian in the U.S.—some Asian markets will carry them, usually in the freezer section, but because of their extreme smell, shipping from overseas is not a common occurrence. It's also important to understand that even in the countries where durian is a beloved and popular treat, many office buildings, hospitals, and mass transit systems actually forbid the fruit to be carried, let alone opened and eaten on the premises! However, if you do come across some and you really want to buy one, it'll cost you anywhere from $5 up to $25—depending on availability and quality.

    So how does this superfruit add up? A single 243-gram (1 cup) serving contains 357 calories, with 108 of those calories coming from unsaturated fat. You will however, receive 80 percent of your RDA of vitamin C and 37 percent of your RDA of dietary fiber, along with substantial RDAs of thiamin (61%), riboflavin (29%), vitamin B6 (38%), folate (22%), potassium (30%), manganese (39%), copper (25%), and magnesium (18%).

    Bottom Line: For those in areas or economic situations that make a nutritionally sufficient diet a hard thing to come by, or for anyone living in Southeast Asia, durian could definitely be of value. But for the sheer desire to add something healthy and smart to balance out a diet, my vote is definitely a big thumbs-down. Lack of availability, difficulty of preparation, and high fat and caloric content all make this fruit not so super.
  4. Smelly Superfood Vote: NO

  5. NattoNatto. Mucus-y snot-chunks flavored with mustard, vinegar, and soy sauce . . .

    Eloquently described by a Japanese friend whose mom looooves to eat the natto, or fermented soybeans, this stuff is something both old-timers and young people throughout Japan have historically enjoyed eating in a variety of ways. And as Japanese culture and cuisine have become more known and loved around the world, so has natto. It's common knowledge that soybeans must be cooked or fermented in some way in order to release their nutritive value (as we have learned from miso, soy sauce, tofu, and edamame). Long hailed as a staple of traditional Japanese diets, natto consists of soaked and steamed soybeans that are then laced with Bacillus subtilis natto (a "good" bacteria) and left to ferment in a warm, moist, dark, and airtight place for a day or so. Another week of successful aging, this time in the refrigerator, results in the beans becoming covered in a thick, slimy goo, the odor of which is quite reminiscent of, well, Limburger cheese. Usually natto is found in a market's refrigerator section, in little ready-to-eat single-serving packs with pouches of mustard and soy sauce. Natto lovers enthusiastically flip open the lid, peel off the plastic-film cover, and give the beans a brisk stir—"15 times" as an old saying goes. This makes the beans even slimier, and the thick, mucus-like coating gets extra-stringy and goopy, all good signs of a really yummy batch of natto. It's commonly eaten over a bowl of rice, and lots of natto fans add a raw egg to the whole mess, along with a handful of sliced green onions.

    How does this treat add up, nutrition-wise? Well, perhaps millions of people can't be that wrong. One 100-gram serving of natto contains 212 calories, 18 grams of protein (35 percent of your RDA), 47 percent of your RDA of iron, 16 percent of your RDA of total fat, 7 percent of your RDA of saturated fat, and 21 percent each of your RDAs of dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. If you're manganese-deficient, this stuff is for you—it's got 76 percent of your RDA, along with significant amounts of copper (33 percent of your RDA), vitamin K and magnesium (38 percent of your RDA each), potassium (30 percent of your RDA), zinc (20 percent of your RDA), phosphorus (17 percent of your RDA), selenium (a whopping 212 percent of your RDA), thiamin (10 percent of your RDA), riboflavin (11 percent of your RDA), vitamin B6 (6 percent of your RDA), and folate (2 percent of your RDA). So that's why people eat the stuff! According to the Federation of Japan Natto Manufacturers' Cooperative Society, as of 2007, approximately 130,000 tons of soybeans went into natto production yearly, and more than 79 percent of those who chose to eat natto did so because of its nutritional value.

    Bottom line: It's smelly, it's slimy, it looks and tastes weird, and it kinda has a lot of calories too. However, I like blue cheese, so who am I to talk? Many, many people who love to eat natto will tell you right off that it's an acquired taste, but that you will grow to love it. And the nutritional punch this stuff packs makes it an Official Smelly Superfood. I might just be willing to give it another try.
  6. Smelly Superfood Vote: YES

  7. Marmite®. "Love it or hate it." It says so right in the ad!

    Despite the fact that this sticky, gooey stuff stinks to high heaven, it seems to be gaining popularity among a whole new generation of Marmite eaters. According to the "i like marmite" Facebook page, Marmite is "made from spent brewer's yeast, that comes in a distinctive black jar with a yellow lid." Although Marmite is currently owned by corporate leviathan Unilever, the Marmite Food Extract Company came into being back in 1902, when someone at a food factory figured out that all the leftover yeast extract from the brewery next door actually had some nutritional value—mainly a host of B vitamins, which are good for cell metabolism, healthy skin, and fighting off anemia, among other things. Marmite's makers have shamelessly kept the exact recipe secret. However, they tell us that extra vitamin B ingredients do get added to the mix, along with some vegetable and spice extracts. The general breakdown goes something like this: A single four-gram serving contains 9 calories, 200 mg of sodium (8 percent of your RDA), and 1.5 grams of protein (3 percent of your RDA). It'll also give you the following RDAs: 60 percent of vitamin B12, 50 percent of folic acid, 36 percent of riboflavin, 18 percent of thiamin, and 17 percent of niacin.

MarmiteMarmite is really salty, quite pungent, savory, and tangy. Think of it as really smelly, thick, nutritious soy sauce, if you know what I mean. I asked my neighbor, who hails from London, what he thought of Marmite. "Hate it!" he immediately exclaimed. "But," he added, "my children both love it." Apparently, Father doesn't always know best.

Bottom Line: Go for it! (In, of course, very small doses.) If you put it on your toast, the thinnest of layers will do.

Smelly Superfood Vote: YES

1From kombucha.org.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, October 25th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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P90X® Improv Comedy with Tony Horton

He's worked out every other part of your body . . . it was only a matter of time before he got to your funny bone. Check out what happened when Tony took his show on the road to the ComedySportz theater in Los Angeles. See the video below.

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Recipe: Black Bean Salad

Black Bean Salad

Black beans are a delicious staple of Central and South American cuisine—they fill you up without filling you out. This black bean salad with a decidedly Southwestern flair is quick and easy to make, high in protein and fiber, low in fat and calories, and tasty as all get-out.

  • 2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups freshly cooked black beans)
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • The juice of 2 medium limes (about 1/4 cup)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and enjoy! Makes 6 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
174 12 g 12 g 37 g 1 g 0 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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