Beauty comes from within and the secret to good skin and hair does not lie in your medicine kits- it lies within a well balanced and healthy diet. Turns out, you are what you eat, isn’t it?
Our food contains a lot of beneficial components that people have used for thousands of years, from making a home-made face pack to oiling our hair every weekend. There’s no one-shot solution to keeping your skin youthful forever, but diet and lifestyle factors like sleeping on time, reducing consumption of packaged and processed foods, or reducing stress, affect how your skin and hair look as you age.
(For a quick list of key-takeaways, check towards the end).
With that said, here are 7 nutrients along with their food sources which you can easily incorporate in your diet to achieve glowing skin and healthy hair!
1. Biotin and other B Vitamins
Biotin or Vitamin B7 is important to prevent hair loss due to hair being too brittle. If you don’t get enough biotin, you might experience thinning of hair, scaly skin, and brittle nails. Biotin rich foods like egg yolks, whole grains, lentils, and nuts and seeds contain good amounts of biotin to help support hair growth. Research says biotin can reduce hair loss when taken in combination with zinc but going overboard biotin supplements won’t give you thick lustrous hair overnight. Other B-vitamins like vitamin B6, B12, and folate (B9) help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to all of the cells in the body, including the ones in the skin, scalp, and hair follicles.
Hair, skin and nails are made of mostly proteins known as keratin, collagen, and elastin. A diet sufficient in good amounts of lean protein sources like eggs chicken, fish, pulses, legumes, nuts & seeds and milk and milk products like curd, paneer and buttermilk can help strengthen your skin barrier along with the strength of your hair strands and thus improving the overall texture of your skin and hair.
3. Omega — 3 fatty acids
Cell membranes of our scalp and skin comprise of omega-3 fatty acids. It helps in the natural oil production of the scalp and helps the scalp and hair to stay hydrated. Including omega-3 fats sources like oily fishes such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, avocado and nuts & seeds like chia walnuts seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds in our diet will help reduce dry scalp and promotes shinier looking hair. Omega 3 fatty acids also help to suppress inflammation or allergic responses on the skin and calms down dry, itchy, and flaky dry skin.
Hair follicles and skin are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply that provides oxygen and other nutrients. Iron is an important mineral that provides the oxygen-carrying capacity to our blood and thus too little iron stores or serum ferritin levels in our body may be a cause for anemia leading to hair loss, pale skin, and brittle nails. Food sources such as chicken and fish provide iron with a high bio-availability and the iron is easily absorbed by the body. Vegetarians can raise their iron stores by including lentils, spinach, broccoli, and salad greens. Consumption of iron-rich foods along with vitamin C rich foods increases the absorption rate of iron in our body.
5. Antioxidants- Vitamins A, C & E
Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum or natural oil by our hair which provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. Lack of sebum production results in an itchy scalp and dry hair. Regular consumption of vitamin A-rich foods like carrots, pumpkins, bell peppers, papaya, mango, spinach, broccoli, etc. also help to improve skin texture due to their antioxidant properties.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and also helps in the production of collagen which strengthens the capillaries that supply the hair shafts as well as the renewal of skin cells. The best sources are blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi, oranges, papaya, lemon, amla, strawberries, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that is important to prevent sun-related damage to our skin or hair and soothe irritation on our skin. Nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, sunflower oil, mustard oil, canola oil, soya bean oil, etc. are excellent sources of vitamin E.
Zinc is an essential mineral cell function, immunity, and wound healing. Research shows zinc is effective in healing skin lesions, like in the treatment of acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis. It also helps to prevent hair loss and dull hair. One can meet most of our zinc requirements from foods such as meat, fish, and nuts and seeds, beans, mushrooms, and spinach.
Adequate water intake helps to improve the hydration status of the skin and hair and anywhere from 2–3 liters of water per day is recommended. If drinking plain water is not your thing, then you can try lemon water, mint water, infused water, herbal tea, coconut water, vegetable juice or add high water content foods like watermelon, cucumber, cabbage, muskmelon, etc in your diet. Reducing one’s intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages as well smoking would be a smart choice as these are not only harmful to our health but also dehydrating.
The Deal with Sunscreen:
Always keeping your skin protected and never allowing it to be exposed to the sun might help preserve youthfulness but may result in more pressing concerns such as weaker bones. Yes, it is true that sunlight is harmful to the skin but our body does need some sunlight in order to produce vitamin D which helps in the absorption of calcium in our body, essential for healthy bones and teeth. Application of sunscreen all over the body blocks the sunlight and also prevents the body from producing vitamin D. Its best to sit under the sun for about 20–25 minutes (without a sunscreen) when the sunlight is not too intense. You can also choose to apply sunscreen just on your face and leave your hands and legs bare before stepping out in the sun!
- Many diet and lifestyle factors affect how our skin & hair looks as we age.
- Including food sources that are rich in biotin, protein, antioxidants, omega 3 fats, iron, and zinc along with drinking adequate amounts of water will help to improve the overall texture and quality of our skin & hair.
- Sunscreen blocks the sunlight which is important for the production of vitamin D in our body. It is best to sit under the sun for about 20–25 minutes (without a sunscreen) when the sunlight is not too intense or instead of applying sunscreen all over the body, one can apply sunscreen just on the face and leave the hands & legs bare.
1) Le Floc'h, C., Cheniti, A., Connétable, S., Piccardi, N., Vincenzi, C. and Tosti, A., 2020. Effect Of A Nutritional Supplement On Hair Loss In Women.