The glowing skin and healthy hair we covet highly depend on what we put into our bodies. We turned to the experts for some diet tips on how to eat for healthy skin and hair.
Inner health, outer glow "Your skin is an outer reflection of your inner health," says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. As a registered dietician, she suggests peeking into other people's grocery carts as you shop. "We look just like the food we buy. Carts filled with white bread, doughnuts, soft drinks and potato chips are most likely pushed by people with pasty completions and lifeless hair," she says.
In contrast, the person pushing a cart loaded with fresh spinach and strawberries, fat-free milk, whole-wheat bread, fresh salmon and beans most likely has a rosy glow and healthy, shiny hair. "What you eat affects how you look, both today and down the road," she explains.
Beauty diet tips
Some of the worst things we can eat when it comes to appearance include fatty foods (especially when the fats are from meat), full-fat dairy, processed foods, refined grains, excessive added sugar, alcohol and salty foods. Bye-bye beer and extra cheese pizza! The good news is that the foods needed for a healthy glow also revitalize your whole body, so making diet changes to benefit your skin and hair will have an even larger positive effect.* Somer suggests following these guidelines on what we should be eating every day:
• At least nine colorful fruits and vegetables
• Five or more servings of 100 percent whole grains
• Three servings of calcium-rich foods
• Two servings of iron/zinc-rich foods, such as extra-lean red meat, chicken breast, seafood or legumes
• At least eight glasses of water
The brighter, the better
When shopping for products at the grocery store, remember that in general the brighter the color, the more antioxidants in them, says Dr. Angela Vecellio of Palm Beach Medical. "Take bell peppers for example. They come in four colors: green, red, orange and yellow. The yellow bell pepper has 30 percent more antioxidants than the green bell pepper. Other sources of antioxidants are berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and cranberries)."
The most important beauty foods
Insufficiency in nutrients may cause changes in skin, hair and nails, as well as in blood circulation, which supplies nutrients and removes waste products, Somer explains. Here are the most important things we need and what happens when we don't get enough:
• Antioxidants: These are needed to neutralize free-radical damage (which may cause pre-mature aging of cells).* Free radicals can be caused by frequent sun exposure and smog . Since your body cannot synthesize many antioxidants by itself, load up on colorful fruits and vegetables every day.
• Zinc: This trace mineral contributes to skin health by being involved in collagen formation.*
• B-vitamins: Adequate intakes of B vitamins are important for healthy skin.*
• Vitamin A: This fat-soluble vitamin may be essential for maintaining epithelial tissues, and skin is the largest epithelial tissue you have.*
Why vegetables are so crucial
According to popular registered dietitians and personal trainers, The Nutrition Twins, veggies are naturally rich in water, so they create moisture within your skin, plumping the cells and filling the crevices.* "Think of them as your body's natural lotion, plus a whole lot more."
Here's what else they've got:
• Vitamin C: Is involved in collagen formation, which is needed to keep skin youthful and elastic.* Think: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli and potatoes.
• Beta-carotene: Is essential for healthy skin. It helps neutralized free radicals, which can be caused by sun damage. Go for: carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and other orange and green-colored produce.
• Antioxidants: Fight against premature aging of cells.* Eat up: most veggies.
• Omega-3s: Is essential for normal skin function.* Great source: cabbage.
• Water and potassium: Keeps skin hydrated and restores fluid balance.* Indulge in: most veggies.
The beauty benefits of biotin
Biotin is a vitamin that helps your hair, skin and nails, says celebrity hairstylist Julia Papworth.* "Increasing your biotin intake can help your nails, and your hair."* So, how do you ensure that you get your daily dose? One way is to take Nature's Bounty Optimal Solutions Hair, Skin and Nails supplement. Not only does it contain biotin, but it also provides you with other vital nutrients, such as Vitamins A, C and E, to ensure you're beautiful from the inside out.
Easy ways to get skin-healthy and hair-healthy foods into your diet*
It's not always easy to eat right. Health often takes a backseat to busy schedules, family commitments and social obligations. But Somer has some suggestions for how even the busiest women can incorporate skin- and hair-healthy foods into their day:
• Aim for two colorful fruits or vegetables at every meal and at least one at every snack.
• Switch to 100 percent whole-grain bread.
• Pack a cup of spinach into sandwiches.
• Grate carrots into spaghetti sauce.
• Snack on watermelon instead of chips.
• Pop frozen blueberries in your mouth instead of ice cream at night.
• Make a rule that 75 percent of your plate will be filled with unprocessed, real foods.