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What to Eat to Nourish your Skin, Hair and Nails

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These are the nutrients you should be incorporating into your diet

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Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but a good diet certainly help, says Lara Isaac. Forget spending a fortune on fancy cosmetics and instead focus on these key nutrients when you next wonder what to eat…

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What to Eat to Nourish your Skin, Hair and Nails

ANTIOXIDANTS

Part of the ‘integumentary system’, our skin, hair and nails form a protective barrier that guards us from environmental threats and pathogens. As such, they are constantly exposed to harmful molecules known as ‘free radicals’ that contribute to wrinkly skin, thinning hair and brittle nails. While we can’t escape free radical exposure (sources include everything from UV radiation from the sun’s rays to environmental pollutants such as car fumes), we can top up our levels of antioxidants, which are key to counteracting damage caused by these free radicals.

Vitamins A, C and E all have powerful antioxidant properties, allowing them to protect our cells. Vitamin A also encourages synthesis of keratin, a protein that strengthens cells in skin, hair and nails; deficiency of this nutrient is fairly common and may be identified by rough, bumpy skin on the backs of upper arms. In addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits, vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen, the anti-ageing protein that famously gives skin its plumpness and hair its shine.

Food sources:

Vitamin A – liver, eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, butternut squash and carrots

Vitamin C – peppers, radishes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, berries and citrus fruits

Vitamin E – avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and spinach

IRON

Needed for oxygenation of blood and tissues, inadequate intake of iron can affect blood flow to the scalp – resulting in dry, undernourished hair, or even hair loss. Our skin and nails are similarly reliant on healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells and those who are deficient may notice paler than normal skin or brittle, spoon-shaped nails. Increase your intake of organic chicken liver, beef, lentils, tofu, chickpeas and kidney beans (but refrain from self-prescribing supplements, as this can lead to iron toxicity).

ZINC

Zinc plays a vital role in strengthening the skin’s protective layer and supporting healing. Studies have found a correlation between low zinc levels and problematic skin conditions such as acne and dermatitis. It’s just as important for our hair and nails too, allowing for healthy tissue repair to enhance growth and shine. Zinc is depleted by stress and alcohol, so if you’re burning the candle at both ends you might well not be getting enough. Find it in seafood, organic eggs, tofu, tahini, yoghurt and pumpkin seeds.

AND WHAT NOT TO DO …

Increasing your intake of foods rich in antioxidants, iron and zinc is a brilliant step but for these nutrients to fully optimise our health, we need to master the foundations. Stopping smoking, keeping hydrated, prioritising sleep and being mindful when it comes to sugar and alcohol are essential as all of these habits wreak havoc on our appearance, destroying collagen and fuelling those free radicals. As always, a balanced approach is best. If you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to speak to your GP or a Nutritional Therapist to ensure there isn’t a more serious condition (such as hypothyroidism or malabsorption) reducing your natural glow.

Find Lara: lagombylara.com

Featured image: Calum Lewis, Unsplash

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