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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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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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.
Take Our 2-Minute Wellness Quiz To Up Your Self-Care Game!
Black women are not a monolith. We all are deserving of healing and wholeness despite what we've been through, how much money we have in the bank, or what we look like. Most importantly, we are enough—even when we are not working, earning, or serving.
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Want to discover where you are on your wellness journey? You don't have to look far. In partnership with European Wax Center, we're bringing you a customized wellness quiz to help you up your wellness game. Answer our short series of questions to figure out which type of wellness lover you are, what you need to bring more balance into your life, and then go deeper by shopping products geared towards clearing your mind, healing your body, and soothing your spirit.
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images