Hopefully, you’ve seen my recent picture post and YouTube video about my trip to Istanbul, Turkey. It was an absolute blast — I found it incredibly beautiful and inspiring, in so many ways. One source of inspiration was of course all the amazing food! It is so easy to eat healthy there, and in this post I’m going to explain many of the dishes and individual foods I ate while there, along with why applying Beauty Detox principles to Turkish cuisine is both delicious and beautifying. Though part of Turkey/Istanbul is in Europe and part is in Asia/the Middle East, there are some crossovers with Turkish cuisine into Middle Eastern cuisine, so I wanted to broaden this post into tips for Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants in general. I have to warn you though, this post is going to make you want to go out and get many of these ingredients, perhaps even take a trip to Istanbul yourself! I can say that after this recent trip of mine, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting this fascinating and mystical country if you ever get the chance. Let’s get started…
Here Are the Beauty Foods I Ate Most
What follows is a partial list of the foods I ate liberally while on my trip to Istanbul. For each individual food, I’ll explain how it’s typically eaten in the country/cuisine, why it’s so nutritious, and how the nutrition elements of each food can help with both health and beauty.
Eggplant is one of the more underrated plant foods — and it’s very popular in the country. There are dips that include cooked/blended eggplant, and then there are also casserole type dishes where eggplant is the star. Trust me, they are all delicious! Eggplant is also extremely nutritious as well. It contains phenolic compounds, such caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, such as nasunin. You’ve probably never heard of these nutrients, but they can be powerful. Nasunin, in particular, is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger to help protect your beautiful skin. Initial studies have shown that it may protect cell membranes in your brain from damage.
Cucumbers can be found in many of the salads and appetizers. I would always ask for cucumber and carrot slices to eat the hummus with, instead of the bread. Cucumbers are high in hydrating plant water, B vitamins, nutrients and electrolytes — all of which help build skin radiance from within. This watery veggie also contains beautifying minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Lastly, silica found in abundance in cucumber skin is necessary for reaching your maximum potential for a glowing complexion, and makes your skin resilient and radiant…. not to mention helps make your hair more silky!
Tomatoes can be found in so many dishes within Turkish/Middle Eastern cuisine — and that made me happy, as I’m definitely a tomato lover! From their guvec (casseroles cooked in earthenware bowls), chopped salads, to the many veggies and soups cooked with tomatoes or tomato paste, you’ll find this beautifying vegetable all over in Turkey. The good thing is that tomatoes are consumed both fresh and cooked, helping you get the vitamin C and nutrients that come primarily in the raw form — plus, other nutrients like lycopene that often become more bioavailable when cooked.
Were you to go to Turkey, you might not find it immediately obvious that lemon is so popular. But then you eat there for a few days, and you realize it’s in so many dishes — from the salads, to the dips (like hummus), to many of the main courses — lemon is a very frequently used ingredient. They even have lemon tea, which many people there consume daily. Now, I’ve already written about lemons extensively in The Beauty Detox Foods — and here is a direct quote about the benefits of lemons:
Lemon aids with digestion by increasing the secretion of bile from the liver, while also acting as a strengthening agent for the liver’s enzymes. Any support to the liver, which is our primary detoxifying organ, is going to help clear up acne in the long run. Lemon is high in vitamin C, which is water-soluble and travels easily through your body, destroying free radicals and toxins. Lemon acts as a blood purifier and as a cleansing agent to flush out bacteria and toxins in the body. These properties, which aid digestion, also make it helpful in long-term weight loss.
Mmmmmm! I had so many red peppers while in Turkey. They have a version of red pepper dip, which is somewhat similar to our Raw Muhammara Dip from The Beauty Detox Foods and that we carry in Glow Bio! Red bell peppers are fantastically high in vitamin C, which helps repair and regenerate collagen, the protein that gives structure to your skin. Technically a fruit, these brilliantly colored peppers are low in sugar and higher in nutrients than other types of peppers. Red bell peppers are a good source of the mineral silicon, which diminishes wrinkles and makes skin more supple and youthful. If you’re deficient in silicon, it shows up as sagging skin that’s neither resilient nor strong. Who wants that? What’s more, the connective tissues throughout the body are made up of collagen and elastin, which are strengthened by silicon. Eating red bell peppers helps to keep them healthy and supple.
Hummus is a dip most of us in the west have tried, and is typically made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt. I must say, this little dish was definitely a lifesaver in Turkey! Hummus is readily available at most places, and is made fresh at the restaurant or market. (Many hummus brands you find in the grocery store have been made days or even weeks earlier.) I also find hummus to be quite filling, most likely due to its high protein content along with the fat from the tahini and small amount of olive oil. Hummus is rich in amino acids, essential fats, along with the minerals manganese, copper and sodium. I find it to be a very complete and satisfying food. Here at home, I usually make our Raw Zucchini Hummus, aka Chickpea-less Hummus, which is lighter. But I love traditional hummus sometimes, and especially while on the road!
I admit it—I’m crazy for mushrooms! On one of my Dr. Oz segments (by the way, he happens to be from Turkey, originally!) — he and I discuss the many health benefits of mushrooms. I really fell in love with a baked casserole that has a tomato base with liberal amounts of mushrooms—so yummy. Nutritionally speaking, mushrooms are low in calories and contain high levels of selenium, riboflavin, copper, niacin, tryptophan, pantothenic acid, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folate. They also contain iron, calcium, fiber, and magnesium in smaller amounts. A recent study even showed that mushrooms exposed to UVB light are rich in vitamin D (although these mushrooms have not yet received FDA approval or been placed on the market).
Parsley is probably the most popular fresh herb used in Turkish cuisine. It can be found in appetizers, salads, dips, main courses and more — it’s everywhere. And that made me happy, because parsley is incredibly good for you. In fact, parsley is believed to be a potent detoxifier and diuretic, helping to prevent bloating and water retention by flushing out the kidneys. It can also strongly assist the digestive process, help remove toxins from the body, and act as a blood cleanser and purifier. Lastly, its richness in vitamins A, C and E, plus minerals, makes it a very powerful antioxidant food.
Olives are a very popular table food in Turkey. They often serve them with the appetizers, and are delicious in salads, with hummus, and other dishes. Olives can be high in salt (best to choose olives that are cured in natural sea salt), so be careful in that regard. They are one of the best sources of fat soluble vitamin E, which is important for protecting your body’s cells in many ways. They contain healthy monounsaturated fat, but not in a liquified, concentrated form like olive oil. The antioxidant phenols in olives may help “thin” the blood and help your body deliver proper flow of nutrients throughout the bloodstream.
I was pleasantly surprised by the rich selection of fruit in Turkey. From super sweet, flavorful dates, to peaches and apricots, melons, apples and much more — I was in fruit heaven! Of course, if you know me then you know I’m a big believer in fruit, and think it’s important to get at least several servings in each day. One thing I saw there a lot, which I don’t recommend, was eating fruit at the end of meals. Yes, I understand the craving for something sweet to end the meal, and eating fruit is a far better choice than having white flour cake or anything. But as I’ve explained many times on the blog and in my books, digestion is best when you eat foods from light to heavy, with the fastest digesting foods first, the slower ones after. This way, there is no “traffic jam” in your digestive system. Because fruit digests so quickly, I recommend eating it before meals, or ideally in the morning on an empty stomach — so that you digest the fruit perfectly.
You’ll often find many nuts available in Turkey, which can be eaten as a snack, or even included in certain dishes. The most common ones I saw there were pistachios, walnuts, and almonds. While the high fat content of nuts means they should be consumed moderately, they are an extremely rich source of the skin-beautifying antioxidant vitamin E, the major antioxidant in human epidermal tissue, which creates smoothness and suppleness. For vegans, nuts are also an excellent source of protein and amino acids, making them very “building” foods. Just be careful not to overdo them!
Foods I Avoided in Turkey
Below are the three main types of foods I avoided while in Turkey (which I avoid pretty much anywhere I go). As we’ve seen throughout this post, there are so many options, it was super easy to work around them while still enjoying so much of the country’s yummy cuisine.
Unfortunately, bread makes up a very regular part of the diet. They often bake bread twice a day (so at least it’s fresh!), and there is often some form of bread at lunch or dinner. Because I do my best to avoid gluten, I opted not to go with the bread at meals and instead used vegetables to dip into the humus. While common, bread isn’t really necessary to enjoy the cuisine to its fullest — you can have plenty of variety and pleasure without it.
Often there will be little dips or sauces with yogurt as a base and dill or cucumber or other veggies used to add additional flavor. Cheese is also part of certain dishes and meals, though many meals there are completely dairy-free. Given that I consider dairy to be one of the more aging foods out there, I avoided it completely and never had to really think about it finding its way into any of my meals.
While the diet in Turkey is not all that heavy in meat, most tend to incorporate at least a little meat in lunch and/or dinner. Some of the stews and main dishes are meat-based, and one of the most popular ways to consume meat there is on a kebab. Fortunately, the good news is that you can just as easily request a vegetable kebab, which often contains peppers, onion, mushrooms and zucchini — or make one at home. Roasted veggies on a kebab along with salad and a hearty soup or dip is an amazingly filling, beatifying meal.
There are a LOT of beautiful-looking pastries in Turkey! Unfortunately, as you would expect, they are not beautifying. They contain gluten, lots of sugar, dairy products and lots of oils/butter. Thankfully, to quell a sweet tooth there are delicious dried dates pretty much everywhere.
The Health Benefits of Eating Turkish/Middle Eastern Cuisine—The Beauty Detox Way!
So far in this post, we’ve covered many of the foods that I ate while in Turkey — all of which are available to you at your local market. We’ve also explored a bit of the nutrition present on those foods, along with the benefits. Now, I want to explain some of the reasons why I feel the cuisine in Turkey was so healthy and Beauty Detox-friendly — which will give you even more confidence and inspiration to try this out. Here are the seven main advantages that I see:
- You eat so many different veggies throughout the day. As you’ve seen, we named nearly a dozen plant foods. And that represents only a tiny fraction of the many different foods we ate while on our trip. Remember, an abundance of plant foods bring energy and enzymes that can powerfully aid digestion. They also deliver many beneficial nutrients that contribute to your body’s overall vibrancy. This would also be considered a high alkaline diet, which preserves cellular health.
- You only eat unsaturated fats. Saturated fats from animal sources, especially if from a poor source, can clog up your system, leading to heart disease and high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Most of the fat in Turkish cuisine comes from olive oil, nuts and seeds — all of which are unsaturated fats (specifically, they are monounsaturated fat — or omega-9 — which can be helpful in reducing cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of certain cancers. There are also some omega-3 sources, like walnuts, in this cuisine.
- You cut down or eliminate the animal protein and dairy. Both of these foods create a state of metabolic acidity in your body. Since your body needs to maintain an alkaline pH to function properly (and to look your most beautiful), when you eat metabolically acidic foods like animal protein and dairy, your body pulls alkaline mineral salts from your bones and cells to neutralize the acids and return to alkalinity. This hampers cellular rejuvenation. Likewise, dairy contains a protein, casein, and a sugar, lactose, that the human body does not process well. This can create increase toxicity within the body. Further, animal proteins and dairy are one of the highest sources of toxins for humans to ingest, including antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.
- You get tons of antioxidants every day. We’ve covered many of the antioxidants present in these plant foods — from the major ones like vitamin A, C and E — to the more specialized ones that protect your brain, organs and more. Eating Beauty Detox-friendly foods, prepared with the flavors and textures of Turkish cuisine, is one of the surest ways to get a full spectrum of powerful antioxidants into your diet.
- You cut out all the processed food! Part of the reason today’s Western diet is so unhealthy is due to the highly processed foods commonly consumed. These foods contain toxic chemicals, pesticides, artificial flavors, food dyes, sugar, and neurotoxins like MSG. Eating a minimally processed diet like the one found in Turkey, especially when combined with Beauty Detox principles, can help protect you against the many diseases associated with processed foods.
- You eat very little or NO refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar consumption causes spikes in blood glucose, which result in the release of insulin. Excessive sugar consumption in the Western diet causes overuse of the pancreas, which may result in insulin overproduction. It may also stop producing it altogether as the production mechanism wears out. Sugar also feeds Candida albicans, the yeast found in the human body. Proliferation of Candida albicans can cause a whole host of health problems, including weight gain and difficulty losing weight. By eating this way, you automatically lower your sugar consumption far beyond what most individuals eat, setting you up for fantastic progress in your health and wellness. Note: There may be a little sugar added to the sauces of certain dishes, but if you avoid the desserts you’ll consume a very small amount of sugar, comparatively.
- You get an abundance of fiber. You’ve seen all the fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and other plant foods we’ve discussed in this post — fiber is everywhere in Turkish cuisine. And that’s great news for your body, because fiber helps promote colon health, keeping your bowel free of toxins. Fiber intake is associated with lowered risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke. Lastly, fiber can help you feel full faster, can absorb fat consumed in your diet, and can ultimately help you shed weight.
Here’s a Sample Day of Beauty Detox Eating—with a Turkish/Middle Eastern Twist!
- Upon Rising – water with lemon upon rising; lemon tea if you prefer something hot.
- Morning- Have your Glowing Green Smoothie or a GGSo with some of the veggies we’ve covered in this post, including cucumber, parsley, and apple. If no candida issues, you can also have a serving of fruit, perhaps choosing some of the varieties that are popular in Turkey, including apricots, peaches, melons or figs.
- Lunch – Mixed vegetable salad with romaine lettuce, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. Humus dip with cut veggies. If you make the GGSo, garnishing it with finely cut tomatoes and cucumbers will give it a little bit of Turkish flair!
- Snack – If hungry in the afternoon, have more GGSo or even some veggie sticks and a few nuts, to give you some energy and keep you going.
- Dinner – Tomato, cucumber and parsley appetizer salad + baked casserole filled with mushrooms, eggplant, tomato sauce, onion, garlic and more.
This is just a overview of what your menu might look like eating this way — I don’t have exact recipes for these items yet. But I tried something the other day and I am going to work on it and present it here soon… Please let me know in the comments section if you’d like to see that!
Hope This Was Helpful!
I’ve been on the road for a while now, and my week in Istanbul was certainly one of my favorite experiences. With each destination I visit, we do our best to translate and share my journey in a way that’s both inspiring — AND helpful to you on a practical level. I hope that this post opened your eyes for some new ways to eat and how to incorporate some yummy beauty foods, prepared with a unique spin based on the cuisine in Turkey and Middle East. Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to know about any of the foods or dishes — or any questions you may have about this post. Thanks again, and I look forward to sharing more with you very soon! In love and health, Kimberly P.S. — If you enjoyed this and the one-day example of a meals you can eat, I think you’ll be excited to know that we have an in-depth 30-Day Meal Plan Program coming VERY soon. It will be packed with 50 complete Beauty Detox Recipes and be affordable. Stay tuned for more about that!