The holidays give us all an excuse to put on a little more sparkle. There’s the sparkle you can buy (the lights in your windows and the dazzling jewelry you’ll wear to a holiday party) and the kind that you simply can’t (a glowing complexion and positive mood). Even though they’re not for sale, you can nourish glowing skin and a cheerful holiday mood for the holidays, and year-round, by eating the right beauty foods. Beauty nutrition becomes even more important than usual over the next few weeks, when the festive foods you encounter threaten to leave you looking tired and lackluster when you most want to shine. The biggest minefield of skin-sabotaging foods appears at the dessert table. Refined sugar, white flour, processed pastries and cookies and other high-glycemic foods speed up aging processes in your body, so too many candy canes actually equal breakouts, wrinkles and dull skin in the weeks to come. Not the greatest gift to start the new year.
Still, no one wants to get grinchy about sweets during a season of celebration. The compromise: splurge on desserts made with powerful anti-aging ingredients, like cocoa and cinnamon. Cocoa is packed with antioxidants, including a natural plant compound that blocks wrinkle formation. A 2006 experiment published in the Journal of Nutrition found that drinking a cocoa-rich beverage improved skin hydration and reduced skin redness by increasing the supply of nutrients, blood and oxygen to the skin. It also raises levels of neurotransmitters in the body, giving you a feel-good boost that’ll have you humming holiday carols in no time. For the most beautifying cocoa, go for dairy-free dark chocolate (look for at least 70% dark), since dairy blocks the absorption of some of cocoa’s best nutrients. Cinnamon is also a beautifying addition to any holiday treat. The festive and antioxidant-rich spice stabilizes the blood sugar spiking effects of sugar, keeping your energy and mood in check after you eat sweets.
Behold, your winter beauty warmup: Hot Chocolate Chai. filled with anti-aging spices and cacao. Dark chocolate lovers will adore this recipe as-is, and those with a bigger sweet tooth may want to add one or two drops of liquid stevia.
Hot Chocolate Chai
1 ½ cups almond milk
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp loose chai tea
1 tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder (not Dutched)
1 tbsp bittersweet chocolate chunks (look for 70% dark)
stevia, if desired
In a medium saucepan, combine almond milk, tea and cinnamon and heat until steaming and almost simmering. Steep for 2 to 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in cocoa powder and chocolate chunks. Remove from heat, strain into a mug and add a sprinkle of cinnamon and stevia if desired.