Ever wondered what you should be eating if you want glowing skin & healthy hair? Dr Michelle Braude, The Food Effect Doctor, explains.
When you think of good hair and skin, the likes of Cheryl Cole – throwing her glossy mane across your TV chanting “because I’m worth it” – probably springs to mind. But in actual fact, getting healthy skin and hair goes a lot deeper than what we put on it. That’s because our hair and skin are our biological mirrors of our inner well being. In simple terms, what we put into our body affects our skin and hair’s appearance, growth and strength.
Let’s get the scientific part clarified first before I share the foods for clear skin and healthy hair you should be eating and avoiding for beautiful glowing skin and vibrant healthy hair.
I’m sure you’ve heard about how antioxidants are good for us, and free-radicals are bad for us. But what exactly are they?
Antioxidants are substances that bond to and eliminate harmful free-radicals present in the body. Free-radicals travel through the body “stealing” electrons from healthy cells, such as skin cells, causing damage, which can exacerbate acne. Antioxidants circumvent this damage, thereby warding off inflammation and breakouts – as well as acting as an all-round protective force against more serious medical conditions too.
Where do we find them? In the foods we eat.
So now that we’ve clarified that the secret to healthier hair and glowing skin is not in your makeup bag but rather in your diet, here are the key foods you need to be eating, to make sure you glow from the inside out!
Blueberries are full of a powerful antioxidant that takes your skin to a whole new level – fighting free radicals, warding off UV damage, protecting you from premature ageing and maintaining collagen and moisture levels. Try adding half a cup to your breakfast bowl, yogurt, cereal, porridge or smoothie every day.
Salmon is one of the best food sources for omega-3 fatty acids, which serve as building blocks for healthy skin cells – thereby helping to keep your skin supple and smooth. It also helps to prevent inflammation and provides our skin with healthy oils that reduce dryness, acne, psoriasis and redness. Salmon also contains selenium, a mineral that protects the skin from sun exposure and helps promote skin elastin – leading to better elasticity and preventing ageing. The great news is that not only is salmon delicious, it’s also incredibly versatile. Try it grilled, baked, in your pasta, with a salad, in sushi, or just with a side of broccoli, green beans or asparagus. You should aim to eat a serving of oily fish at least once a week.
Walnuts and flaxseeds
If you don’t eat fish, walnuts and flaxseeds are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as copper – a mineral that boosts collagen production.
Snack on a handful of walnuts each day to improve your complexion’s texture, or add some into your salad, pasta, or desserts for a delicious healthy boost!
Switch your lettuce for spinach, in salads and sandwiches, or sauté for a quick, healthy side dish to reap the benefits of this leafy green vegetable that is super rich in nutrients, antioxidants, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C, and E. Adding a handful to smoothies is also a great – and delicious – way to sneak in some green goodness.
Tomatoes are the best source of the anti-aging antioxidant lycopene, a superfood pigment that gives them their rosy red color, as well as protecting against sunburn and sun-induced skin aging. Surprisingly, lycopene in tomatoes is more easily absorbed by your body when it is cooked, so make sure to stock up on canned chopped tomatoes, tomato juice, and ketchup (yes, you heard right!).
Move over apples! Thanks to their high vitamin C content, which is crucial for the production of collagen, an orange a day may help keep the doctor – and your fine lines – away. Kiwis are also loaded with the same goodness and you know what they say… good things really do come in small packages – so enjoy them as part of a varied fruit intake!
Contrary to popular belief, chocolate does not cause acne. In fact, cocoa hydrates skin, making it firmer and more supple, and also protects skin from sun damage – thanks to its high antioxidant content. But before you make a mad dash for the Dairy Milk, keep in mind that to gain any health benefit, you need to eat chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa content or above. Eat up to four squares of good-quality dark chocolate every day for a dose of skin luminising compounds. As part of a healthy diet, this should not compromise your weight either!
Take your water to the next level by keeping some lemons on hand. Lemons are rich in powerful antioxidants that stimulate liver enzymes to help flush toxins from your body – meaning they are less likely to show up on your skin – and have also been shown to boost collagen. Squeeze a few slices, then drop them into your water to drink throughout the day. Easy peasy … lemon squeezy!
Natural yogurt – especially Greek – is full of probiotics that help reduce skin inflammation, and is also a great source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy cell turnover, reduces acne and prevents wrinkles. One cup of low-fat yogurt has even more calcium than a cup of milk, which is also great for strong healthy skin, hair, nails, and teeth, as well as protein which helps skin become firmer and less resistant to lines.
Eat a single serving of yoghurt a day to reap the benefits, and if plain isn’t really your thing, fear not – you can mix it with fruit, agave syrup, or some low-sugar granola.
Avocados contain a multitude of benefits, including anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins E, C, K and B6, and fibre. Its antioxidants help fight free radical damage, while the fatty acids really help nourish, hydrate, and plump the skin by protecting the health of the cell membrane.
You can mash avocado on toast, enjoy it with eggs and smoked salmon, and add them to everything from smoothies to salads to sushi.
Sweet potatoes are packed with an anti-aging antioxidant that gives glowing skin. They’re delicious baked, mashed, roasted or made into wedges (and you might not want to tell your guests, but they can even be used in deserts, such as brownies, too!). Carrots are filled with the same antioxidant, beta-carotene, and you can enjoy them juiced or raw, in snack bags and salads.
Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants which regulate skin’s blood flow – giving it its much-coveted rosiness. Forget expensive make-up; some pomegranate seeds added to your breakfast bowl, yoghurt, or salads, should do the trick.
Thanks to its high concentration of antioxidants, green tea has been proven to reduce redness and help keep your skin looking younger and healthier. Studies have also demonstrated that green tea helps fight inflammation, as well as boasting the ability to lower the levels of a blemish producing hormone. Need any more reasons to get sipping?
Lentils & Kidney Beans
Both are an amazing source of protein and iron, which will help thicken up your hair – especially if you are deficient in iron. Red kidney beans are also high in zinc, which helps reduce blemishes. Add them into soups and stews to make a healthy hearty meal.
This nutty favourite is high in the B vitamins, especially Niacin and Biotin – the wonder staple of all good hair – and skin – products. The quicker your skin cell turnover happens, the better, as you are constantly rewarded with bright, springy, plump layers of freshness. This process slows as we age so we need to do whatever we can to boost the regeneration – and luckily for us all, that includes eating peanut butter! Enjoy it on toast, in porridge, added into smoothies – or even just eaten off a spoon straight out the jar. I promise I won’t tell!
So now you know what you should be eating for gorgeous glowing hair and skin, but there are also a few things you need to avoid.
Foods that are the mostly highly processed (think crisps, processed hot dogs, cookies, and fast foods), are considered the most damaging, as they are high in salt and bad fats, which promote aging, and are also largely devoid of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for drinking alcohol in moderation (which, believe it or not, has health benefits), but when consumed in excess, it can slow metabolism, promote wrinkles and decrease heart health – leading to weakened longevity. Stick with one or two glasses no more than 5 nights a week – max.
Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fat laden packaged foods (yes, that includes pastries, baked goods and sweets), as all of these foods cause inflammation, wrinkles and poor heart health. This also means you should steer clear of sugary juices or fizzy drinks, I’m afraid! A handful of nuts and dried fruit makes a far healthier alternative, and one that your skin will thank you for.
While it might be nice to enjoy a big steak on occasion, eating large quantities of red meat on a regular basis can seriously affect your skin and body’s aging process, as it is highly inflammatory. Save red meat for special occasions, swapping it instead for leaner cuts of poultry, such as chicken and turkey breast, during the week.
Bottom line: Eating the right foods and avoiding the not-so-right ones, can help slow the aging process, and give you glowing, glossy locks whilst you’re at it.
Now you know what to eat… get munching, because you’re worth it!
Dr. Michelle Braude, known as The Food Effect Dr, is founder of The Food Effect, www.thefoodeffect.co.uk
Her book, The Food Effect Diet can be found on Amazon.