We know that healthy eating benefits the health of our body on the inside, but did you know it can it can also benefit the health of what we see on the outside; our hair, skin and nails?
Let’s start with healthy hair
- Strong, shiny healthy hair needs many nutrients, one of these is biotin or vitamin H, H for hair! Foods rich in biotin include egg yolk (so no more egg white omelettes please!), liver (that means delicious pate), salmon, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and bananas. A deficiency may result in brittle hair and hair loss.
- Omega 3 fats contain essential fatty acids that promote healthy hair. These fatty acids are found in the cells that line the scalp, keeping the scalp and hair hydrated. You can boost your intake of omega 3 fats, by eating oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel and to a lesser but still worthwhile extent, walnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds and kangaroo meat.
- Eat orange coloured vegetables. Our hair needs the vitamin A in these. Think sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin and red capsicum. The Vitamin A is used to make a natural conditioner for our hair and scalp, called sebum. A lack of sebum results in an itchy scalp and dry hair.
- Zinc is part of hundreds of enzymes in the body enabling reactions to occur. One of these is regulating building of proteins, including those for healthy hair and scalp. To avoid zinc deficiency, eat your carbs, include healthy wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholegrain breakfast cereals, along with a handful of nuts and seeds a day. Other good sources of zinc are oysters, beef and eggs.
There are many more important nutrients for our hair in addition to the ones mentioned. emphasizing the importance of variety in our diet from fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, seafood, lean meats and healthy oils.
Let’s move on to healthy looking skin
You will be pleased to know that while you are eating to benefit the health of your hair you are also benefiting your skin. Many of the same nutrients are needed.
- Fatty acids, including omega 3 fats, in oily fish, keep the skin moist and supple. Omega 3 fats are involved in skin conditioning so include them in your weekly shop. (1, 2)
- Include healthy fats in your diet. Drizzle liberally your vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and join the trend and eat smashed avocado on toast, (you may not be able to afford to buy a house, but you will have good skin!) as some research has shown fats in our diet help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, keeping our skin feeling more elastic. Fats provide the building blocks for the epidermal and dermal tissue. (2) Adding fats to our diet also helps the absorption of fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A, D and K all important for both skin and healthy hair.
- Another important vitamin for our skin is vitamin C. It uses its antioxidant properties to protect our skin from oxidative stress, such as that caused by UV light. If we eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and two pieces of fruit per day, we will easily hit our vitamin C target (3, 4);. In fact, one orange contains 50mg of vitamin C and that hits the average adult daily recommended minimum of 45mg/day (3, 4). Saturation point of vitamin C absorption is 1000mg, so we can certainly eat more than one orange to benefit our health.
Let’s finish with strong nails
It seems hair, skin and nails all have a lot of nutritional needs in common.
- Eggs anyone? Eggs pack a nutritional punch for hair, skin and nails. The little packages of goodness provide protein and biotin, particularly important for the strength of hair and nails. Add an egg on your wholegrain toast at breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
- Dairy foods are famous for the calcium they contain. It may be that brittle; weak and dry nails are needing a dose of dairy. If you aren’t a diary lover then fortified soy beverages, broccoli and sesame seeds can provide some calcium.
- Iron found in red meat, eggs, fish, leafy greens and legumes are important for the health of nails. To improve your absorption of iron and look after your skin at the same time, eat vitamin C containing foods with your iron foods. Try chopping some fresh red or green peppers on top of your leafy greens or lean meat, have broccoli lightly steamed or stir fried to retain the vitamin C in your beef stir fry.
What you eat can have a big impact on your hair, skin and nails. You can eat your way to beauty from the inside out!
- Kiefer D, Pantuso T. Omega-3 fatty acids: An update emphasizing clinical use. Agro Food Ind Hi Tech. 2012;23(4):10-13.
- Nagata, Chisato & Nakamura, Kozue & Wada, Keiko & Oba, Shino & Hayashi, Makoto & Takeda, Noriyuki & Yasuda, Keigo. (2010). Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. The British journal of nutrition. 103. 1493-8. 10.1017/S0007114509993461.
- Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013;4(2):143-146. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.110593