Calabar is a region in the coastal south-eastern part of Nigeria where the women are known for their flawless skin, long and beautiful hair, strength and cooking skills. When it comes to skin, hair and other externals my philosophy is quite simple: take care of the inside and the outside will take care of itself. This is why I believe the Calabar girls beauty is directly linked to her diet and in this post I will be exploring three basic elements of that diet
1) Dark green leafy vegetables – The people of this region are known for their love of all that is leafy, dark and green. It is a staple and non-negotiable aspect of their diet, from edikangikong, Afang to editan and the likes. So what has dark leafy vegetables got to do with the skin?
Dark green leafy vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin A – This vitamin also known as retinol is widely acknowledged as the skin vitamin, as it helps keep the outer layer of tissues (skin, hair, gums, teeth etc) and organs healthy. When applied externally it has been known to help in the treatment of acne, superficial wrinkles, impetigo,boils, carbuncles and open ulcers.
- Vitamin E – If I were to name this vitamin I would call it the vitamin of youth, a powerful anti-oxidant it helps keep the skin looking younger by retarding cellular ageing due to oxidation.
- Folate (Folic Acid) – This vitamin is essential for the production of nucleic acid (RNA and DNA). Its helps in the metabolism of protein and helps to promote healthy looking skin.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant which plays an important role in the formation of collagen which is key for the growth and repair of skin cells, hair, gums, blood vessels, bone and teeth.
- Lutein and Chlorophyll – These are both anti-oxidants, with lutein helping to boost hydration levels and improve elasticity in skin and hair and protecting against sun damage.
2) Unprocessed Palm oil – This oil is the oil of choice for cooking most dishes in this region of Nigeria.
Palm oil is a great source of beta-carotene (Vitamin A) having 15 times more beta-carotene when compared to carrots. Beta-carotene is an effective anti-oxidant for fighting free radicals that can damage skin as a result of exposure to UV rays.
Palm oil is also a rich source of Vitamin E which helps prevent signs of ageing by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on skin. The anti-oxidants properties of vitamin E make it great for stimulating hair growth as it promotes blood circulation round the body including the scalp.
3) Fresh Wild Caught Seafood – Being a coastal region, seafood is what is largely consumed. Seafood is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that help improve blood circulation which is crucial for healthy hair, skin, nails etc. Some food sources of Omega- 3 fatty acids commonly consumed by the people of this region include catfish, shrimps and Tilapia.
Seafood is also a rich source of zinc which is essential for the synthesis of protein and collagen formation. Zinc is also known to help fight acne because it’s involved in metabolizing testosterone, which affects the production of an oily substance caused sebum, a primary cause of acne. Zinc also assists in new-cell production and the sloughing off of dead skin, which gives the skin a nice glow.
The beauty of a diet like that of the Calabar people is that all the ingredients work in harmony with each other. Majority of the nutrients found in green leafy vegetables are fat soluble therefore requiring the presence of a saturated fat like Palm oil in order to be absorbed by the body. In addition Zinc found in seafood works best the presence of vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus (both of which is found in the green vegetables) making this diet a recipe for show stopping skin, hair, nails, teeth, gum etc.
When we take all of these into consideration, we understand that a flawless skin is not merely a gift of nature but the product of adequate nutrition. Little wonder that the first ever Miss world Nigeria produced is from this region. 🙂
In my next post I will be sharing a traditional recipe from this region, a recipe for show stopping skin! lol
Any guesses what this recipe is?
References 1) Mindell. E and Mundis. H (2011) New vitamin bible, New York: Warner Books Inc 2)http://www.earth-goodness.com/natural-oils/palm-oil 3) Layton, Julia, and Katie Lambert. "Top 10 Foods for Beautiful Skin" 4) http://www.livestrong.com/article/198458-what-are-the-benefits-of-palm-oil-on-hair-skin