Top 10 foods for your skin, hair and nails
WORDS BY LINIA PATEL
The secret to glowing skin, shiny hair and nice nails isn’t all about lotions and potions and fancy salon treatments - it’s more about what you eat and how you live. Skin, hair and nails are a mirror of health; good health on the inside will be reflected by clear skin, glossy hair and strong nails.
Winter particularly can be a difficult time for your hair, skin and nails. Nails can go brittle and dry and the weather strips moisture from strands and pores making your hair rough and your skin itchy, dry and prone to blemishes.
Your skin is the largest organ in the human body. Its main function is to act as a barrier to protect the internal organs against pollution, dangerous microbes, toxins and the environment. Underneath the top layer (called the epidermis) the other layers of your skin are connected to a vast vascular network. Your hair follicles and roots are also fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. These direct connections with the bloodstream means that the skin and hair is usually the first-place nutrient deficiencies can be visibly seen. Additionally, both hair and nails are made from a protein called keratin. Therefore, any factor that affects the hair will usually also affect nails.
Here are the top 10 foods to feed your skin, hair and nails:
Sardines contain omega-3 fats which can help your skin retain moisture. Skin dryness is related to poor hydration which caused cells to contract. In order for skin cells to stay hydrated you need to do more than just more drink water. Poly-unsaturated fats (like omega-3 fats) have been shown to help the skin to maintain fluidity and flexibility. Other types of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and trout.
Venison is a source of protein, zinc and iron. As hair, skin and nails are made of protein, ensuring you have enough protein in your diet is crucial. A low protein diet can result in brittle and weak hair and nails. Extremely low protein diets result can result in hair loss. Other lean red meat sources include lean cuts of beef, lamb and pork.
3. HEMP OIL
Hemp oil contains an essential fat called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which has a moisturising effect on the hair and skin. Studies have shown that GLA use helps an itchy and flaking scalp and also improves eczema-related symptoms. There still needs to be further research to determine the ideal dosages to be used. Evening primrose oil, borage seed oil and blackcurrant seed oil are other good sources of GLA.
4. GREEK YOGHURT
Greek yoghurt contains protein, calcium, magnesium and zinc, all of which are important for healthy nails. The zinc is needed for cell growth and to prevent brittle, thinning hair.
Kiwis are a rich source of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a role in collagen production (the protein that makes skin look plump) and skin regeneration, which makes it the best anti- wrinkle solution. Its antioxidant properties are another reason why vitamin C may be good for smooth skin. In addition to kiwis, citrus fruits are also good sources of vitamin C.
6. BRAZIL NUTS
Brazil nuts contain monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and selenium which have been found to help maintain skin structure and protect the skin against sun damage as well as reduce the outbreak of spots. Other nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts are also rich in key skin and hair nutrients. Another good vitamin E source is avocados.
7. BROWN RICE
Brown rice is a wholegrain food that is rich in biotin. Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that prevents hair and nails from becoming brittle and weak. S Wholegrains also include, barley, granary and seeded bread, bulgar wheat and quinoa. Other biotin-rich foods are liver, egg yolk and yeast.
Eggs are rich in zinc and selenium, two nutrients that are essential for a healthy scalp. A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp. Fortified cereals and wholegrains are a good source of zinc, along with oysters, beef and eggs.
Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene (which makes vitamin A). Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance created by the sebaceous glands in our hair which provides a natural condition for a healthy scalp. Without sebum you are likely to have dry hair and an itchy scalp. Other orange/yellow coloured vegetables that are high in Vitamin A include pumpkin, sweet potato and yellow peppers.
Broccoli is rich in iron. Iron is an especially important mineral for hair and too little iron is a major cause of hair loss. Lack of iron increases your risk of anaemia. Anaemia affects blood and nutrient supply to the follicle, which then affects the hair growth cycle. Animal products such as red meat and chicken provide iron that is readily available to the body. Vegetarians can raise their iron stores by including lentils, spinach and other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and salad greens.
- Piccardi N, Manissier P. 2009. Nutrition and nutritional supplementation: impact on skin health and beauty. Dermatoendocrinol. 1(5):271-274.
- Scheinfeld N et al. 2007. Vitamins and minerals; their role in nail health and disease. J Drug Dermatol. 6 (8);782-7
- Patel et al. 2017. A review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin Appendage Disord. 166 – 169.
- Grinzi P 2011. Hair and nails. Aust Fam Physician;4097);476-84
- Tosti et al. 2009. Hair loss in women. Minerva Ginecol.61 ( 5):445-52
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