Nutrition For Skin and Hair
Beauty is more than skin deep, but it’s a great place to start
You are what you eat. We’ve all heard the phrase, but how much meaning does it really have? The foods we eat influence nearly every aspect of our health. Proper nutrition not only influences how we feel on the inside, but it can also show in our outer appearance. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods can help promote healthy skin and hair. There are even some foods that are especially rich in the nutrients that keep our locks and complexion healthy and thriving.
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, which is an antioxidant that not only prevents skin damage from sunlight, but it also may help our skin heal from wounds and cuts. Vitamin A also protects against dull, dry hair and works to encourage our bodies to produce more sebum, which is an oil that helps keep our hair from getting too dry. Other foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, pumpkin, mangoes, cantaloupe, red bell peppers and spinach.
Eggs have protein, vitamins E and A, zinc and selenium, which all promote healthy skin. Protein helps form the structure of our skin and hair, while selenium, zinc and vitamins E and A can help prevent skin damage from sunlight (but not as well as sunscreen, of course!). Zinc, also found in oysters, beef, crab and lobster, helps our skin heal after a wound or injury. Eggs have biotin as well, which helps promote hair growth and stronger fingernails. Not getting enough biotin can lead to hair loss. Salmon, pork, beef, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes and almonds also have biotin.
Fatty fish benefits both your hair and nails, mainly due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin stay firm, flexible and moist, and they help block skin cancer growth. Too little fat overall in your diet can lead to dry and wrinkled skin. Omega- 3s also help with hair growth and promote shiny, full locks. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines, are especially rich in omega-3s. Other foods high in omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, canola oil, flaxseed oil and soybean oil. Fish is a good source of protein as well, which can help prevent hair loss. If we don’t eat enough protein, hair growth stops.
Leafy greens not only have vitamins A and E and omega-3s, but they also have vitamin C, iron and folate. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against skin cancer, promotes wound healing and helps the proteins in our skin keep its shape. Other good sources of vitamin C include red bell peppers, oranges, kiwis, green bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries and Brussels sprouts. Leafy greens also promote healthy hair. Vitamin A, iron, vitamin C and folate found in leafy greens band together to prevent hair breakage by keeping our locks moisturized.
Keeping our hair and skin healthy all boils down to how we take care of our bodies overall. While some foods are more abundant in nutrients that benefit our skin and hair, our health really depends on the bigger picture. A healthy, balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, leads to a healthier body, including our skin and nails. Proper hydration is also essential for a healthy mane and complexion. Without enough water, skin cells do not function at their best, so be sure to drink up! While some foods may benefit our outer appearance more than others, every food has its place in our diets. Eating a variety of healthful foods is key to getting all the nutrients our bodies need.
Abigail McAlister is an asssistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at amcalister@agcenter. lsu.edu.