Sooo…what have you been feeding your vagina lately? It might sound like a crazy question on the surface, but if it is indeed true that we are what we eat, this means that whatever we put into our mouths, our va-jay-jay is not exempt from receiving whatever is in it—good or bad.
I don't know what it is, but the older that I get, the more intentional I am about paying my vagina some much-needed attention. A part of the reason may be because a part of me wishes I had been more cautious about who I let enter into her back in the day and I want to pamper her for riding a lot of that "hindsight foolishness" out for so long. Also, it could be because those three grey pubic hairs that have popped up are reminders that everything ages; even vulvas. Plus, I'm learning to love on every part of me, from head to toe, unconditionally so (which is what a stunning YouTuber by the name of Salkis Re reminded me to do when she popped up in my suggestion feed recently).
Anyway, in the effort to give the gateway to my womb the love, in the form of nutrition, that it deserves, I've been switching up my diet a bit by feeding my body with foods that directly benefit my vagina. There are actual foods that do it? Yep. And I'll tell you what, sis. Ever since I've been consuming them, I can tell the difference too. Real talk.
1. Dark Leafy Greens
If there's a vegetable that all of us need to consume on a daily basis, it's dark leafy greens. They all have lots of antioxidants in them. Kale specifically is loaded with vitamins A, E and K, and beta-carotene (a type of antioxidant). Collards are a powerful source of calcium, folate and vitamins A and C. Spinach has vitamins A, K and manganese. Turnip greens have calcium, manganese, folate, and vitamins A and C in them. Arugula and Romaine lettuce are full of vitamins A and K too. All of these greens help to keep you regular, support bone health, reduce stress and boost digestive enzymes and your immune system.
The great thing about dark leafy greens as it relates to your vagina is the fact that they help to purify your blood, increase your blood's circulation (including to your vaginal region) and, they are able to relieve vaginal dryness due to their ability to sexually stimulate (via the increase in your blood's circulation) you too.
A kind of food that definitely does your body good is squash. Not only is it loaded with vitamins A, B6, C along with folate, fiber, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, it's a vegetable that is proven to aid in the management of diabetes, while keeping your eyes and lungs healthy and, even preventing anemia.
Another awesome thing about squash is it's got a lot of zinc in it. If you're prone to having recurring bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, zinc can help to keep both of those at bay. There are also studies to support the fact that there is a direct link to low libidos and zinc deficiency. Just one more reason to have some squash this evening, right?
In order for our bodies to get the probiotics that we need so that our digestive system remains healthy, it helps to eat fermented foods. Just what is a fermented food exactly? It's a natural process that transpires when foods that contain sugar and starch are converted into alcohol or acids so that they can act as a natural preservative. Anyway, when your body has probiotics in it, it will lead to a stronger immune system, less anxiety, a healthier heart, less weight around your midsection and less calorie intake.
Your vagina will love a fermented food—well, drink—like kombucha (it's pretty much a fermented sweet tea) because it will keep yeast from overtaking your vagina, maintain your vagina's natural flora and make you less susceptible to urinary tract and bacterial infections. Kombucha will also help to keep your vagina smelling good and tasting less acidic too.
4. Bell Peppers
If you like to cook with bell peppers, whether you realize it or not, you're doing wonders for your health. Bell peppers have a good amount of vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, as well as potassium, copper, fiber and folate. Something else that bell peppers have in them is carotenoids which fights off eye disease and various kinds of cancer. Bell peppers also contain nutrients that properly maintain cognitive abilities, fight signs of aging, improve respiratory and digestive health and, thanks to the phosphorus that are in them, they are also the kind of veggies that ensure proper blood flow (including to your nether regions).
Something else that's cool about bell peppers is the amount of C that's in them can help to fight and prevent future bacterial vaginosis attacks. And, the Vitamin E that's in them, will boost your libido in the process.
Almonds are high in calcium, magnesium and Vitamin E. Cashews are rich in iron and oleic acid (a fatty acid that is great for your skin, fights infections and burns fat; olive oil contains a ton of it). Hazelnuts also have oleic acid in them, along with vitamins B and E, magnesium and calcium. Peanuts are loaded with folate and Vitamin E. Walnuts contain omega 3 fats, antioxidants and phytosterols (a plant sterol that regulates your body's cholesterol levels). So yeah, whether you eat a handful of one of these or a combo, you're in for a pretty beneficial snack.
On the sex tip, nuts do your body good because they are considered to be healthy fats that will regulate your cholesterol levels. When your cholesterol is in good shape, your hormones (including your sex hormones) are stabilized. That results in a healthy mucosal lining throughout your body to fight off infections (including vagina infections) and a healthy sex drive as well.
Considering that celery is made up of 95 percent water, it's kind of a trip how beneficial it is. It's got antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support digestion. It also has vitamins A, B, K and folate, magnesium and potassium in it. Some other things that are cool about celery is it treats high blood pressure and it's a muscle relaxant. Celery also aids in weight loss, relieves bloating and can reduce the risk of contracting a urinary tract infection.
When it comes to your vagina, celery also has a lot of vitamin C, beta carotene, and flavonoids in it; this is good because they all help your vagina to maintain a healthy pH balance. As a bonus, celery can remove the bitter taste that your vaginal fluids may have.
7. Guava Fruit
Guava fruit is a fruit that's in season from November to April. It's got vitamin C, potassium, fiber and antioxidants in it; all of these things work together to lower your blood sugar levels, prevent fine lines and wrinkles, fight and prevent cancer cells, give you consistent bowel movements and even reduce the intensity of menstrual cramps.
Vaginally, for years, Indian women have boiled guava leaves and used them as a wash to treat vaginal infections. Drinking the "tea" that the boiled leaves create can also get rid of any unpleasant vaginal odor you may have. And, thanks to the C that's in it, guava fruit can keep your sexual appetite strong.
I don't know about you, but salmon makes me pretty happy and I really like that it's as good for me as it is to me. The omega-3 acids in it will decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer. Because of how much protein that's in salmon, it helps to protect your bones and maintain muscle mass. If you don't feel like taking a B-complex pill, a slice of salmon has about every B vitamin you can think of in it. It's also a great source of potassium, selenium and the antioxidant astaxanthin which lowers your heart disease risk and increases your skin's elasticity and hydration.
It's because of astaxanthin that salmon also made the list. Consuming this kind of fish 1-2 times a week will aid in increasing vaginal lubrication in both pre- and post-menopausal women.
9. Black Eyed Peas
Some of us eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck; health-wise, we just might be onto something by doing so. For starters, they deliver 20 percent of the daily value of magnesium, calcium and iron. Black eyed peas also have loads of fiber, folate, manganese and Vitamin A as well. By consuming these types of peas, you can prevent anemia, lower your blood pressure and significantly increase your skin and eye health.
Something else that Vitamin A does is help to heal your body should you have a yeast infection. Vitamin A can also strengthen your vaginal walls; think of it as being an "edible kegel".
If there's any part of you that's ever wondered where cinnamon comes from, you can thank the bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. Another interesting fact is there are different types of cinnamon; the most popular are Ceylon cinnamon (the most potent form of it) and Cassia cinnamon (the kind that you typically see in the seasoning section of your local grocery store). As far as what it can do for your health, cinnamon contains a ton of manganese and a fair amount of calcium, iron and Vitamin K. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, relieves body inflammation, protects your heart, stabilizes your blood sugar levels and contains antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties that fight infections and viruses in your system.
As if that isn't enough, because it is an alkaline spice, cinnamon has the ability to neutralize the acid in your vagina which will make your vaginal fluids taste less acidic (the same goes for fellas who eat it). Another fun fact is, if you mix a few drops of cinnamon oil with some sweet almond oil, you'll have a delicious massage oil that is both sweet and a little hot on your taste buds. Yep. Cinnamon is one of the best things for your vagina—both in oil and powder form. Enjoy!
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
15 Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Your Own Vagina
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My Vaginal Health Was Out Of Wack Until I Made This Change To My Diet
Featured image by Shutterstock.
Originally published on July 17, 2019
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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