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Some Foods Literally Enhance Our Melanin (Who Knew?)

Here are 10 foods that help our natural-born melanin glow even more than it already does!

Wellness

I'll admit that, until I happened upon a health-related article on melanin and how to protect it, I had absolutely no idea that you could literally "eat your way" into increasing the melanin in your skin, hair and nails. If you didn't either, here's how doing that is possible.

In short, melanin is what gives us our skin pigmentation. Aside from the Most High, it's the reason why we come in such beautiful hues. It's what makes us smile, big time, whenever we watch informational and entertaining programming like PBS's Say It Loud (if you've never checked it out before, it really is pretty dope!). It's what makes us stand a little taller whenever we wear apparel from sistah-ran brands like Melanin Babes Apparel. It's what makes us proud to be profoundly and unapologetically Black. Melanin? It's everything.

Now, from a scientific standpoint, the reason why it's important to take care of our melanin is because it's also what helps us to protect our skin from sun damage. Because yes, y'all, contrary to popular belief (which is really no more than a myth), Black people can get sunburned. We can get skin cancer too (the risks are much lower than Caucasians for sure, but it does indeed happen).

So, if you want to be proactive when it comes to your own natural-born melanin and even want to do your part to enhance the amount of melanin that you have (because some studies claim that taking in more melanin can give our skin, hair and nails a "deeper" appearance over time), here are some foods that are proven to help you do it.

1. Broccoli

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Vitamin C strengthens your immune system and helps your body to produce collagen (which keeps you looking young). Vitamin K helps to keep your bones healthy and promotes wound healing. Fiber keeps you regular. Folate helps your body to produce new cells. Broccoli contains all of this, plus Vitamin A, potassium and even some protein.

The reason why it's featured in this particular article on melanin is because it's a green vegetable; those contain micronutrients like flavonoids or polyphenols which help to play a significant role in increasing melanin production in our system. (By the way, if you boil your broccoli, please stop. You get much more nutrients out of it by steaming your broccoli instead.)

2. Turmeric

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I take turmeric in supplement form. I will give a heads up that while I used to do it every day, now it's down to a couple of times a week. The reason why is because it's a kind of spice that can thin your blood; for me, that resulted in a much heavier period flow. Still, I have no regrets with adding it to my health regimen because when it contains curcumin too, turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, helps to prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease and is even great at relieving arthritis and depression-related symptoms.

Whether you take turmeric in supplement form or cook with it, it's interesting what it can do. On one hand, it contains properties that can inhibit the overproduction of melanin that can ultimately result in hyperpigmentation issues. On the flip side, because turmeric is also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, it can increase melanin production; especially when you're in the sun.

So, how do you know which way to make it work in your melanin-increasing favor? If you want to consume turmeric in order to add melanin to your body, get the kind that does not have curcumin in it. It's the properties in curcumin that blocks the ACTH hormone in your system and helps to keep melanin from increasing in your body. If you get some that doesn't contain curcumin, you should be pretty good to go.

3. Eggs

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Eggs are high in protein. They also contain betaine and choline to regulate your cells and protect your heart. It also has the lipoprotein HDL to maintain your body's "good protein", the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin to keep your eyes strong and amino acids to support your body tissues.

Two other things that eggs have in them are Vitamin D (the same nutrient that the sun gives us) and Vitamin E. As far as Vitamin E goes, what a lot of people don't know is if you do decide to sunbathe (because yes, a lot of us do it too) and you want a more radiant glow, you should consume Vitamin E and put some Vitamin E oil onto your skin as well. The reason why is because it's a nutrient that "triggers" the production of melanin in your system. Oftentimes, you'll see slight physical effects of this within hours of eating it and putting it on. (As far as eggs go, focus on the yolk more than the egg whites; that's where most of the Vitamin E is found.)

4. Red Peppers

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If you're someone who likes to cook with red peppers, you're in luck. They're a veggie that is loaded with antioxidants, burns calories and, thanks to the folate and Vitamin B6 that's in them, they're also good for you if you are currently pregnant or are trying to conceive a child.

Melanin-wise, bell peppers made the list because of all of the Vitamin C that they contain. Vitamin C is also a proven nutrient that increases the production of melanin in our bodies. And, as far as red peppers go, they contain a whopping 200 percent more than the reference daily intake (RDI) of C. So, on the getting your Vitamin C in tip, it's a vegetable that definitely has you covered.

5. Peas

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At some point in your childhood, you were probably told that you couldn't get up from the dinner table until you finished your peas. Good thing too because that means you got a good amount of vitamins A, B1, B6 and K, folate, manganese, iron, fiber and protein in your system. As a direct result, you were able to digest your food better and your blood sugar was kept under control.

Peas also have Vitamin C in them to produce melanin. Also, thanks to the folate (folic acid) that are in peas, you can slow down the lack of melanin in your hair's strands; it's something that typically comes with age or even premature greying.

6. Orange Fruits and Veggies

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Something that all orange fruits and vegetables—oranges, papaya, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, etc.—contain beta-carotene. We all need beta-carotene in our system because it's also an antioxidant. Some of beta-carotene's benefits include that it can help to keep our lungs healthy and strong, it protects your brain from cognitive decline, and it can even help to prevent diabetes and cancer. From a beauty standpoint, beta-carotene is awesome because it reduces our sensitivity to the sun, increases hair growth, and gives your skin a natural healthy glow.

Beta-carotene is a must-have, melanin-wise, because it contains carotenoids that help us to maintain our natural skin color. It works well even during the cooler seasons when we tend to not have quite as much exposure to the sun.

7. Almonds

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It can never hurt to snack on a few almonds every day. They've got fiber, protein, manganese, and magnesium in them. They're also full of antioxidants. And, as far as proven health benefits go, they are the kind of nut that stabilizes your blood pressure, lowers cholesterol levels, and they can reduce your overall caloric intake by helping to curb any midday cravings that you may have.

We've already discussed why consuming Vitamin E is critical to the health and quality of your melanin. Well, when it comes to Vitamin E, almonds have a whopping 37 percent of your RDI in just one ounce. So yep, a few almonds a day can be just what you need to keep your melanin on point.

8. Green Tea

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How good is green tea for you? The list is kind of endless. It contains a lot of antioxidants to strengthen your immune system. It's got polyphenols that help to reduce bodily inflammation and prevent cancer. Green tea also has compounds in it to improve your brain function, improve your workouts, lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes—and that's just for starters!

It's a good idea to drink green tea because the properties in it can also help to regulate melanin production in your system; it will help to keep your hair, skin and nail's pigment in balance.

9. Brewer's Yeast

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If you don't have a container of Brewer's Yeast in your pantry, maybe this will gas you up to buy one. Basically, if you're looking for a type of supplement that will provide you with more energy, this is the one that will do it. That's because it contains magnesium, iron, protein, zinc, and just about every B-vitamin that you can think of. Because Brewer's Yeast is loaded with so many vitamins and minerals, it has a great reputation for naturally maintaining your hair, skin, and nails. Plus, it's loaded with Vitamin D; the same thing that the sun offers us to give our skin—our melanin—a rich warm glow.

Just make sure that if you are already on any type of medication that you consult your healthcare provider before taking Brewer's Yeast. Otherwise, you could end up with diarrhea or chest pain as a side effect of consuming it.

10. Plums

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Plums are a fruit that have the organic compounds isatin and sorbitol in them. Both of these are necessary because they help to relieve constipation. Plums also contain antioxidants that keep free radicals at bay and fiber to lower your cholesterol levels. Something else that's in this particular kind of fruit is the mineral boron; it aids in preserving bone density.

Another good thing about plums is, like eggs, they have Vitamin E in them too. This kind of vitamin is not only essential to the health of your skin, but again, it also has the ability to increase the production of melanin in your body. Plus, they're in season through the middle of October which is just a few weeks away (then they return again in April).

So, the next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a few. You can eat them raw or try this easy to make plum jam recipe (here). They're sweet, they're delicious, and they're just one more way to give your already bomb melanin an extra boost! Pretty cool, huh?

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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