Virginia’s Beauty Secrets: The Heritage Foods That Can Make You Shine

By Jennifer Kingston

An enormous amount of time and effort is put into researching the best foods to eat to remain healthy. Fortunately, for anyone living in Virginia it is easy to stick to a diet that is not only local, tastes great and is very varied, but that also ensures an inner and outer health that reveals itself in luscious hair and radiant skin. There are some key vitamins and nutrients that are essential for a healthy appearance, and they can all be found in Virginia’s heritage food.


As skin and hair are both made with protein, it is only natural that protein in the diet can help to ensure that neither becomes dry and the hair doesn’t become brittle. Hair requires amino acids to remain strong and healthy, which means that protein is an essential part of a healthy food regime. There are plenty of opportunities to include protein from Virginia’s farms in your diet. Pink House Farm, for example, breeds Red Ranger chickens for both meat and eggs, so there is a vegetarian option for protein as well. Eggs have multiple other health benefits too (see below), so be sure to take advantage of the abundance of high quality eggs in the state.


Zinc is surprisingly common in many foods and is excellent for healthy skin and hair. One of its benefits for the skin is helping to repair any damage that may have been caused, and to recover it from dryness so that it becomes soft and smooth once more. If both the skin and hair are dry – particularly if accompanied by tiredness and muscle aches – it can be an indication of an underactive thyroid, in which case it is advisable to speak to a doctor. However, sometimes a lack of zinc in the diet can be the cause. It is also a contributing factor in hair loss, as zinc is necessary for the cells in the body to carry out a number of functions, such as protein synthesis. Conversely, too much zinc in the diet can have adverse health effects such as zinc toxicity, and the recommended daily allowance is 11mg for men and 8mg for women. It is therefore important not to exceed this recommended intake, and if the limit is reached and hair loss is still not improved there is some good value medication than can help to treat baldness.

To ensure that sufficient zinc is obtained in the diet – but not too much – it is useful to know where it can be found. Beef is rich in zinc, and will also ensure that the body is getting enough protein. Gryffon’s Aerie in Crozet produces beef that is grass-fed and free from antibiotics, and it is a perfect source of zinc, protein and iron. Iron is another essential nutrient for skin maintenance and general health, as it assists in the circulation of oxygen around the body which enables cells to function more efficiently, including those that are involved in repairing the skin. Once again, eggs step to the forefront of healthy eating as they not only provide protein, as mentioned above, but also zinc and iron. As well as Pink House Farm in Louisa, there are many farms providing a whole range of different eggs to try, and you are sure to find one near you. Iona Farm sells certified organic eggs from their site in Scottsville, for example, and is also breeding heritage breed chickens.

Antioxidant beta-carotene and Vitamin A

Vitamin A has benefits for both the skin and hair and can be obtained in the diet through beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body and can be found in many vegetables, such as sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are grown at Finest Kind Farm at Tye River in Nelson, where you can also pick up some Jersey beef, chicken and eggs if you call beforehand to let them know you’d like to come and buy some seasonal produce. The benefits of vitamin A include helping skin to grow and helping to produce oils that are good for maintaining a healthy, dandruff-free scalp.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has long been heralded as one of the key vitamins for ensuring a healthy immune system, but it has benefits for the skin and hair, too. It is great for maintaining healthy circulation, which ensures good blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles, as well as assisting in the production of collagen, which is good for healthy-looking skin. It is found in all sorts of fruits and vegetables, such as the berries that can be found at Fortune’s Cove Farm in Nelson.

The range of good quality produce to be found in Virginia ensures that there is no need to look any further for foods that will maintain healthy skin and strong, beautiful hair. From free-range eggs to delicious, juicy berries, Virginia’s got all you need for a diverse and nutritious diet.


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Feasting on the Health benefits of Heritage Produce

By Jennifer Kingston
Jennifer Kingston grew up loving home cooked food and after studying sport nutrition at college, she decided to combine her three loves; good food, healthy lifestyles and writing.
Read community advisory member Leni Sorensen’s blog on cooking, eating, and celebrating food.

Open Roads Blogs about VFHP

Becky Allen at “Open Roads” blog captures the vision and mission of the Virginia Food Heritage Project in this interview with Tanya Denckla Cobb.  Read it here.

Feasting on the Health Benefits of Heritage Produce

By Jennifer Kingston

Learning about the foods that were once commonly grown and eaten in Central Virginia doesn’t just provide an opportunity to ensure that this part of our cultural heritage is conserved for generations to come, but it allows us to improve the quality of our diet. When our diets were based on unprocessed grains, vegetables, meat, dairy produce and fruit – before the advent of convenience foods – we were undoubtedly healthier; rates of obesity, heart disease and cancer were certainly lower. Here we consider some of the healthful properties of heritage food from Central Virginia.

Greengage plums

The cultivation of these orchard fruits has been in decline since the eighteenth century and instead damson plums tend to be favored. These are typically smaller than the red and purple plums we are more accustomed to and their distinctive green or yellow color gives them away. When ripe they are bursting with sweet juices and are considered to be amongst the best plums available, making them an ideal snack or item to incorporate into a dessert. Greengages are a great source of fiber, essential for good digestive health, but the soluble fiber they contain can also help to bring down cholesterol levels. Not just this, but they are rich in vitamin C, needed to support the maintenance and repair of all body tissues, as well as immune function. Additionally, Greengages provide vitamin A, which plays a role in eye health, allowing us to see in low light. Finally, they supply flavanoids, which are known to protect the heart, along with potassium which helps to lower blood pressure. The health giving properties of Greengages are so regarded that extracts of the fruit are available to supplement the diet in a similar way that the extracts of the vine cissus quadrangularis are available to buy.

Traditional apple varieties

If you have ever eaten a Buckingham or Albemarle Pippin, their flavor and texture are hard to beat, but more traditional varieties of apple also pack a greater nutritional punch. Research shows that the content of fiber, certain vitamins, minerals and plant components important to health tend to be higher in older varieties of fruit. Those people who have a higher intake of plant nutrients don’t just tend to have healthier hearts, but they also appear to be less likely to develop certain forms of cancer, dementia and digestive problems, as well as being less susceptible to infections.

Black walnuts

Although traditionally added to desserts, black walnuts are a healthful addition to cereal, natural yogurt and salads or can be eaten simply as a small handful between meals. For anyone who limits their intake of animal products, the addition of black walnuts to the diet makes a useful contribution to protein, iron for the prevention of anemia and omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to a reduced occurrence of heart disease and dementia and may support healthy joints. Nuts such as these are also one of the best sources of magnesium, which is needed for bone strength and normal nerve and muscle function.


They might not be used so much in cooking now, but go back a number of decades and the addition of Turkey Craw beans, Black Eye beans and Butter beans to soups, stews and other savory dishes was common place. These beans aren’t just a cheap form of low fat protein, but they are packed with B vitamins, which help the body to release energy from food, produce new tissue and the maintenance of healthy blood cells. Beans also make a useful contribution to daily iron and calcium intakes when other sources of these aren’t included so frequently in the diet. As with fruits, they are a good source of soluble fiber. Adding them to salads, serving them as a side dish or turning them into a vegetarian pâté can be other ways to add them more regularly into the diet, though there are a lot of baking recipes available that also use them as an ingredient.