Many believe that cosmetics is one of the most important factor for keeping up appearances but in reality diet is the major factor which is crucial for healthy skin, hair and nails.
Fragile nails with pigmentation, dull hair that break easily and oily skin with pale color is often evidence of a diet with deficiencies in nutrients that are vital to our body.
To reduce hair loss and maintain shiny hair with natural growth we need to consume foods that are rich in the following:
Vitamin D: It promotes proper development of tissue and cells.
Sources: Vegetables, such as spinach and red peppers, liver and eggs.
Biotin: It improves metabolizing fat in the scalp area.
Sources: Eggs, liver and cereals.
Iron: Iron deficiency causes increased hair loss.
Sources: Red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and some vegetarian sources such as legumes and spinach.
Copper: A must for proper oxygenation of the scalp.
Sources: Liver, seafood and seeds.
Zinc: Responsible for the production of keratin which is the main structural protein of hair.
Sources: Meat, liver, seafood, eggs and soy.
Our body excretes on a daily basis around 2.4 liters of fluid which should be replenished with adequate water intake (8-10 glasses) to reduce skin greasiness, remove toxins and to properly hydrate the skin. Increased water consumption, massage and exercise that increases blood circulation along with reduced intake of saturated fat (animal fat), salt and caffeine, can reduce the appearance of cellulite which is a problem many women face. Some other nutrients needed to revitalize skin are some antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C that can be found in citrus fruits, watermelon, apricots and some non-green vegetable. Antioxidants protect our genetic material (DNA) and neutralize harmful substances in the body called free radicals. Vitamin C also promotes creation of collagen and helps revitalizing the skin. Smokers should consume more Vitamin C than non-smokers. Another antioxidant is Vitamin E which is found in dark green vegetables, grains and some vegetable oils such as olive oil. Vitamin E also reduces any burns resulting from exposure to the sun.
The three major nutrients needed for healthy nails are protein, calcium and zinc. With protein (keratin) being the main structural material of nails it is important to include meat, poultry, seafood and legumes in our diet. Calcium helps strengthen nails and its lack causes thin and fragile nails. Sources of calcium are dairy products, dark green vegetables, sardines, etc. Zinc helps reduce nail pigmentation and can be found in meat, low-fat milk, brown rice, beans etc. Finally, inadequate iron intake causes nails to grow thin and fragile that easily break.
In conclusion, a proper diet for healthy skin, nails and hair should include dark green vegetables such as spinach, fruits and non-green vegetables that are usually rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin A and C. To strengthen nails foods rich in calcium, for example low fat milk, should be added to our diet. In general, the consumption of lean meat, poultry, seafood and legumes is vital as these foods are rich in protein which is the basic structural material of hair, skin and nails. Foods high in protein often contain iron and zinc, essential ingredients for the healthy development of the nails and hair. Finally, water is an important factor for proper hydration and detoxification of the skin and should be consumed in adequate amounts.
Yiannis Kerimis MSc RD