Beauty from within: eat well, look good

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Beauty from within: what you eat really does influence how you look…

If you’ve been feeling like your eyes have lost their sparkle, your skin doesn’t have that natural rosy glow, your hair is missing its youthful shine and your nails are brittle and weak – it’s time to change your diet!

Sure, there is no magic food that will keep us looking forever young, but diet (and lifestyle) does affect how your hair, skin and nails look and feel.

Protein: the building blocks

Protein is the largest component of skin, hair and nails. These proteins – keratin, collagen and elastin – ward off wrinkles and provide strength and elasticity.

Include a small dose of protein (poultry, lean beef, fish, beans, nuts) at each meal and snack to keep hair follicles strong and nails healthy.

Seafood: essential fat

The body needs fat. Not the greasy pastry and pie type, but the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats.

If you have a dry, itchy scalp or skin, you may not be eating enough of these. They are called “essential” fats because the body can’t make them; you have to eat them.

Omega-3 & 6 fats moisturise your skin from the inside out, making it smoother and suppressing inflammation, immune responses and blood clotting.

They are also important for skin cell membranes, helping to retain moisture and keeping your skin looking plumper and younger. These foods include walnuts, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, mackerel, tuna, salmon,flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds.

Iron: vitality and lustre

Tired and lacking in energy? This may be a symptom of low iron.

Hair, nails and skin can also suffer if you’re lacking in iron. Skin may be very pale, become itchy, or there could be cracking at the side of the mouth.

Nails can become brittle and develop vertical stripes, or even become spoon-shaped. You could shed more hair and it will be noticeably more dry, brittle and dull.

To alleviate these problems, simply try including some lean red meat in your diet.

Nuts: Almonds

The essential amino acid arginine found in almonds is converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps blood vessel relax, allowing oxygen and nutrients to travel to your cells and promoting good circulation to your skin.

Almonds also contain the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the scalp’s natural oils and produces an anti-inflammatory effect on skin.

A small 30g handful of almonds each day is all you need.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential to make collagen, the structural cement of the body. Under the skin, collagen is the fibrous tissue that plumps it up giving support and shape. As skin ages it loses collagen.

Large doses of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene help protect the skin from sunburn and improve its resilience to things that could irritate it.

Eating plenty of kiwifruit, oranges, lemons and grapefruit may not have the same instant “plumping out” affect as a collagen implant but with its vitamin C and hundreds of anti-aging antioxidants it is natural beauty therapy at its best.

Orange, yellow, red and green: beta-carotene and vitamin A

It’s the beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A,which gives carrots, pumpkin, mango and spinach their healthy skin image. If you have dry hair and skin, take a look at how much coloured fruit and vegetables and other vitamin A-rich foods you’re eating.

Large doses of beta-carotene improve its resilience and to a certain degree helps protect skin from sunburn, especially when eaten with other carotenoids like lycopene (found in tomatoes and watermelon).

Sara KljajicWhat do you think – what foods make you look and feel great? Tell us below or on our Facebook page!

Sara Kljajic is a nutritionist and regular Post Script contributor.