Naomi Whittel used to wear only pants and long sleeves as a teen to conceal the red, inflamed patches on her skin caused by eczema. But when she had her heart set on a certain boy taking her to a school dance, she decided to take a risk and wear something different to school.
"So I took a chance and exposed my skin. This boy took one look at me and proceeded to take another girl to the dance. It was crushing,” she says.
Naomi tried various treatments for years, but didn’t see a ton of success at managing her eczema flareups.
She says it took totally changing her diet to see any visible improvement in her skin.
This isn't surprising to celebrity dermatologist Whitney Bowe, “Diet can absolutely impact eczema,” says Bowe. “The gut, the brain, and the skin are intimately connected.”
In short: A poor diet can throw off the good bacteria in your gut, causing system-wide inflammation that can affect your skin, Bowe says. (Eczema is an inflammatory condition, so a poor diet or food allergy can certainly trigger a flareup.)
Naomi says changing her diet has left her feeling (and looking) amazing.
She's sharing her secrets in her latest book, Glow15: A Science-Based Plan To Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, And Invigorate Your Life, but you can take a peek at her food diary right here:
Salmon, onion, cream cheese, and dill egg muffin
"I love the delicious creamy texture that the cheese adds to the egg muffin, and will take any opportunity to get my anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in the morning with salmon," says Naomi of her typical breakfast. She says she likes starting the morning off with fat to help her feel fuller throughout the day.
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease six cups of a muffin tin with one and a half teaspoons tea seed oil.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together six large eggs, six egg whites, and a dash of salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In a pan, heat a half teaspoon tea seed oil over medium-high heat. Add half a chopped onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, five to eight minutes. Set aside to cool.
4. Layer the onion, four ounces of Nova Scotia smoked salmon or lox, and cheese in the muffin cups, dividing them evenly.
5. Divide the egg mixture among the muffin cups, being careful not to overfill them.
6. Sprinkle one chopped tablespoon of dill over the egg, dividing it evenly.
7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
8. Serve immediately, or let cool completely and freeze.
Wild salmon with mixed herb butter
"I love nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods that also leave me feeling light and energized," Naomi says. "Salmon is one of those foods that does it for me. It helps me feel focused and sharp, and not to mention the essential fatty acids help increase my skin's glow."
1. Preheat the broiler to high with a rack six inches from the heating element. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Place four six-ounce salmon filets on the foil. Place one teaspoon unsalted butter on top of each fillet. Squeeze lemon juice over the fillets. Sprinkle evenly with two teaspoons fresh or a half teaspoon chopped dill and thyme and two garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Broil for five minutes, or until cooked to your liking, being careful not to burn the garlic.
4. Transfer the fish to individual plates. Top each fillet with a pat of the remaining butter and allow to fully melt. Serve warm.
Nutty chia clusters
"I have never done well with the mindset of deprivation," Naomi says. This chocolate treat is indulgent, while also filled with omega-3s from the chia seeds and polyphenols from the walnuts.
1. In a large saucepan, melt two tablespoons coconut oil over low heat. Add a quarter cup pure maple syrup, one serving high-quality hydrolyzed collagen peptides (check the package for serving size), and two tablespoons nut butter of your choice and stir until smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in two tablespoons chia seeds, a quarter cup chopped walnuts, one cup puffed brown rice cereal, two tablespoons of high-quality dark chocolate chips until well combined.
3. Using a tablespoon or a small ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper.
4. Refrigerate until hardened, at least an hour or two. You can freeze these as well.
Naomi considers snacking on sauerkraut, which is packed with gut-healthy probiotics, a key part of "eating your medicine."
You can buy sauerkraut or make it yourself like Naomi does. Use it as a side dish or on its own as a savory snack.
1. Shred one head cabbage using a food processor fitted with the shredding plate or by hand with a sharp knife.
2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add one tablespoon sea salt. Use a large wooden spoon to pound the cabbage to release its juices, about 10 minutes. The cabbage should release quite a bit of liquid.
3. Place the cabbage and any liquid in the bowl in a sterilized wide-mouth (three-inch) mason jar and press down firmly until the liquid rises above the cabbage. The cabbage needs to be submerged in the liquid for the anaerobic process of fermentation to occur and to prevent the growth of mold. If you need to, add filtered water and place a clean rock on top of the cabbage to act as a weight and keep the cabbage submerged.
4. Cover tightly and set aside at room temperature for three days.
5. Transfer to the fridge; eat the sauerkraut immediately or continue to let it ferment in the fridge for up to one month.
Prawn and broccoli stir-fry
"It’s really simple to recreate Asian-flavoured meals using high quality, healthy ingredients that are delicious and help heal inflammation," says Naomi. You're getting polyphenols from the garlic, ginger, and broccoli, omega-3s from the prawns, and a dose of probiotics if you add kimchi on top at the end.
1. In a medium bowl, toss one pound peeled and deveined prawns, three thinly sliced scallions, one garlic clove, a half-inch piece of peeled and minced ginger, one tablespoon gluten-free tamari, one tablespoon pure maple syrup, and one tablespoon dark sesame oil. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to four hours.
2. While the prawns is marinating, in a small saucepan, combine a half cup quinoa and one cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon tea seed oil over high heat. Add five cups of sliced broccoli stems and cook, stirring continuously for 30 seconds. Add the broccoli florets, the remaining garlic and ginger, and two tablespoons water and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring continuously, until the broccoli is bright green, about two minutes. Transfer to a plate.
4. In the same skillet, heat two tablespoons tea seed oil over medium heat. Add the marinated prawns and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook, stirring continuously, for about three minutes. Return the broccoli to the skillet and add a tablespoon or two more water if the pan looks dry. Cook, stirring continuously, until the prawns are cooked through, a minute more.
5. Divide the quinoa among four bowls. Place the prawn stir-fry on top and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve with a side of kimchi, if desired.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US