Ready to nosh your way to better hair and skin? You can. Research is now showing that it’s possible to influence your looks simply by choosing specific foods. Hair growth (and fallout), skin collagen production, hormone balance and more are all tied to what you choose to eat.
First thing to know, don’t skimp on rich, healthy ingredients this season, even if you are trying to slim down. ‘Our body has no idea what a calorie is,’ says Ciara Foy, a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist. ‘That’s important to understand with respect to eating whole foods because they contain tons of nutrients, phytochemicals and enzymes that work synergistically to keep us healthy.’
Here are our must-eats to help you get your glow on.
Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids have incredible beauty benefits, including glowing skin and shiny strands. About three percent of the hair shaft is made up of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re found in cell membranes on your scalp and in the natural oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated. While salmon is usually the superstar choice, Foy says mackerel, sardines and anchovies are even better. ‘They’re great because they’re at the bottom of the food chain, so they’re not living for very long, which means toxins like mercury do not accumulate in them.’
Red Bell Peppers
Did you know that red peppers contain far more skin-boosting vitamin C than oranges? ‘Vitamin C is a pre-cursor to collagen production and is also an antioxidant,’ says Dr. Julia Carroll, a dermatologist with Compass Dermatology in Toronto. ‘When light hits your skin, it creates free radicals. These bounce around inside your skin and lead to DNA damage, which turns into aging.’ The antioxidants attach themselves to free radicals and neutralize them so that they can’t do damage. Loading up on red peppers will help keep your skin younger-looking.
Not only does spinach give you strength, but it’s also a major anti-ager. According to celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox Foods, it’s rich in beta carotene, which converts into the powerful anti-aging vitamin A. This nutrient is crucial for allowing proper moisture retention to the epidermis, helping to prevent wrinkles and remove dead skin. For premium absorption, pair spinach with a food that’s high in vitamin C. Try a squeeze of lemon in a homemade dressing drizzled over a spinach salad.
The water from coconuts is a great natural hydration aid and contains potassium, an electrolyte that helps move nutrients into our cells. Coconut oil, which is high in healthy fats, vitamins E and K and minerals, is one of the best natural nutrients for your hair, boosting growth and shine by moisturizing the scalp. It’s also highly effective in reducing protein loss when used as a pre-wash conditioning treatment ‘ protein loss can leave strands weak and prone to damage. You can also try swapping vegetable oil for coconut oil when cooking ‘ it has a high smoke point, which means it’s great for high-heat cooking.
We all got the message about the benefits of eating whole avocados; now it’s the oil that’s getting all the attention. Avocados contain good amounts of vitamins A, D and E and omega-9 fatty acids ‘ one of the building blocks of healthy skin ‘ which is highly concentrated in the oil. All of these nutrients help to even out skin tone over time when added to your diet regularly. Avocado oil has a high smoke point, so it’s versatile enough to use when sautéing or roasting veggies or as a drizzle on a cold summer soup.
Whether you enjoy them sunny side up for breakfast or boiled and sliced cold over a green salad, eggs are serious healthy-hair helpers. One of their key ingredients is sulfur, an essential nutrient that helps with everything from vitamin B absorption to liver function (your body’s detox organ). Sulfur is also necessary for the production of collagen and keratin, which help create and maintain shiny locks, strong nails and glowing skin.
Truly one of nature’s best medicines, garlic also helps prevent breakouts and maintain clear skin. To make the most of its naturally antibiotic compounds, it’s best to crush or chop garlic and leave it on the cutting board for a few minutes before cooking.
These nuts have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help the body retain moisture, giving your mane a healthy-looking shine. The protein content of the walnuts helps boost hair follicles, making hair fuller and stronger.
Tomatoes are skincare superheroes, protecting you from sun damage thanks to their high antioxidant content. A recent study presented at The Royal Society of Medicine in London found that women who were given five tablespoons of standard tomato paste with 10 grams of olive oil every day for 12 weeks showed significant improvement in their skin’s ability to protect itself against UV damage.
These little wonders are packed with zinc, as well as vitamins A and K and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are essential to building a healthy hair shaft. They’re also rich in fatty acids and vitamin C, which are important for producing sebum ‘ your skin’s natural oil ‘ to protect and repair skin.
All greens are great for our health, but collard greens are one of the most underappreciated. They are extremely high in vitamin C, a major antioxidant that fights toxins (just one cup of collards provides 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C). If you’re trying to eat more raw meals this summer, try this take on the traditional taco: Mix ground walnuts with taco spice and a few dashes of tamari, top with salsa and roll in raw collard leaves.
Hemp seeds are made up of 30 percent pure protein and a full range of amino acids and essential fatty acids needed to maintain your skin’s structure. You can sprinkle a spoonful on cereal, or use hemp seed oil in dips or add it to your morning smoothie. According to a study noted in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, symptoms of skin dryness and itching significantly improved after using hemp seed oil for 20 weeks when consuming one to two tablespoons a day.
This sweet treat is high in vitamin C and the enzyme bromelain, which is known to be an effective skin softener. Drinking pineapple juice and munching on the fruit help the body synthesize collagen, which supports skin structure, while vitamin C and amino acids aid in cell and tissue repair, giving you a youthful appearance. Add it to your morning smoothie for a refreshing treat.
These saltwater delicacies do wonders for hair, nails and skin. ‘They’re a great source of dietary zinc, which is really important for the growth and function of skin cells,‘ says Dr. Carroll. ‘If you go out and order half a dozen oysters, that will give you 500 percent of your daily requirement.’
For the love of your locks, you need to eat more oats. ‘They have high amounts of zinc, biotin, magnesium and potassium,’ says Foy. ‘A deficiency in these key nutrients can lead to more brittle hair and more breakage.’ For the perfect summer breakfast, Foy suggests making soaked oats in a Mason jar: Fill a small jar halfway with oats, top with your favourite milk (dairy, almond or soy) and spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg), and let soak overnight in the fridge. In the morning, you can add berries, nuts and seeds for added nutritional value.