Your best bet for having smooth, supple skin, lustrous hair and strong nails does not come in a bottle from the beauty counter. It can be found in your kitchen and involves the food you put in your body. The foods you consume on a regular basis can offer the building blocks needed for strong skin, hair and nails.
Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of hair, skin and nails. Without enough protein, your hair may begin to fall out and your nails can turn brittle. Foods containing the amino acid cysteine are especially important because cysteine is important in the production of Keratin. Keratin makes up the outer layer of skin and is important in hair and nail growth. While all proteins are important, foods rich in cysteine include red pepper, pork, broccoli, soy beans, sunflower seeds, eggs, fish and wheat germ. Shoot for a palm sized serving of protein with all meals.
Omega-3 fatty Acids: The typical American diet is plague by a major imbalance in the consumption of Omega 3 vs Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3s are considered anti-inflammatory while Omega 6’s can be inflammatory for the body. Increasing your consumption of Omega 3s has been shown to reduce acne, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Omega 3s are also important for the health of your skins cells membranes which acts as a barrier to harmful substances and helps you cells to hold moisture. Foods high in Omega 3s include salmon, pasture raised beef, pasture raised chickens, walnuts, tuna, chia, hemp seeds and flax seeds.
Vitamin A: Food rich in vitamin A can be important for skin health. Vitamin A promotes cellular turnover in the skin, leading to radiant looking skin. Signs of a vitamin A deficiency include rough, scaly skin and one of its first signs is hyperkeratosis pillaris, the rough, raised bumps that appear on the back of the arm. Vitamin A can be found in egg yolks, cod liver oil, shrimp, salmon, liver and cream or butter from pasture raised cows. Beta Carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, winter squash and kale. Not everyone is an efficient convertor of Beta carotene to vitamin A so animal sources may be best.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is necessary for the body to produce collagen, the fibrous tissue that gives skin its structure and shape. Collagen is also an important component of nails and hair. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that can promote wound healing. Sources of vitamin C include kiwi fruit, citrus, pineapple, strawberries, papaya and raspberries. Vitamin C is heat sensitive, so try to eat these foods raw or lightly cooked.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an important anti-inflammatory that is secreted in an oily substance that coats the outer layer of the skin, offering protection from free radicals. Its anti-oxidant properties are also important for hair because they increase the blood flow to the scalp, stimulating hair growth. Vitamin E rich foods like avocado, olive oil, sunflower seeds, cooked spinach, almonds, peanuts and wheat germ are the best way to add Vitamin E in your diet. High doses of vitamin E can cause bruising or possibly heart disease. The recommended dose of Vitamin E is 30IU.
Zinc: Zinc deficiency often manifests itself in white spots on the nail, hair loss or psoriasis and dermatitis. Zinc helps your skin repair itself and the hair follicle to remain strong by helping them make proteins and cell membranes. Zinc is also anti-inflammatory, key to keratin production and important for wound healing. Zinc can be found in oysters, shrimp, mussels, eggs and legumes.
Biotin: Biotin is a B- complex vitamin that plays a key role in fat and sugar metabolism. It is used to help build healthy fat in the skin and skin without sufficient fat will become flakey and irritated. Biotin is important in the keratin infrastructure, the basic protein that makes up hair and nails. Cradle cap in babies is thought to be a sign of biotin deficiency. Foods rich in biotin include peanuts, salmon, almonds, walnuts, carrots, sweet potatoes, eggs and oats. Eating raw egg whites may interfere with biotin absorption.