7 Best Foods For Skin, Hair And Nails
For many people, having healthy hair, skin and nails involves putting time, effort and money into an extensive beauty routine, treatments or trying different supplements, but did you know your diet can play a big role?
Although there are many other contributing factors such as stress, genetics, smoking, sleep and sun exposure, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet can also make a big difference.
Most important nutrients for healthy hair, skin and nails
Hair, skin and nails are all made of similar cells — the proteins keratin, collagen and elastin — and require similar nutrients to grow healthily. Certain nutrients are particularly important for encouraging glowing, hydrated skin and strong, healthy hair and nails, such as healthy fats, protein, iron, zinc and antioxidant vitamins.
The bonus? These nutrients are not only essential for healthy hair, skin and nails, but also for supporting your overall health and wellbeing.
Read on to learn why these nutrients are important and which foods are the best sources to make part of your daily nutrition!
Skin, hair and nails are made mostly of proteins like keratin, collagen and elastin, which provide strength and elasticity and support healthy growth.
Most of us eat plenty of protein-rich foods regularly throughout the day such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy so this is not usually a nutrient people have to put much thought into!
Omega-3 (ALA, DHA, EPA, DPA) and Omega-6 (linoleic acid) fats are otherwise known as unsaturated or “healthy” fats. These essential fatty acids form an integral part of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. Not including enough essential fats in your diet can result in a dry, flaky and itchy scalp and skin.
A 2012 study from the Research Centre on Human Skin found that mono-unsaturated fats (found in nuts, avocado and olive oil) reduce premature ageing of skin, possibly due to its antioxidant effect which prevents damage over time. Here are some easy ways to include more essential fats in your diet:
- Enjoy avocado or nut butters as a topping
- Eat oily fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel a couple of times a week
- Sprinkle chopped nuts or seeds on salads or porridge
- Drizzle salads with olive oil
Iron is an essential nutrient that’s particularly important for women. Iron carries oxygen around in our blood and helps with energy production while supporting the immune system.
Tiredness and shortness of breath are often the first symptoms of iron deficiency. Other signs can include pale or itchy skin, cracking at the sides of the mouth, brittle nails, dry hair, or increased hair loss.
To keep your iron levels up, include lean red meat in your diet 2-3 times a week or opt for leafy greens, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds on a daily basis if you’re following a plant-based diet.
Zinc is essential for healing wounds and encouraging strong, healthy hair growth as it keeps the oil glands around the follicles working properly and is needed for the production of certain proteins.
A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss, the development of skin lesions, impaired immunity and slow wound healing. Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, beans, nuts, dairy and whole grains.
B vitamins are important for many bodily functions, such as converting food into energy and maintaining healthy cells. For most people it’s easy to get enough B vitamins by eating a nutritious diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Eating inadequate amounts of B vitamins can lead to dry and itchy skin, rashes, low energy or mood and digestive issues.
Vitamin C, E & beta-carotene
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen which plumps up skin, giving it shape, elasticity and support. Although rare, a lack of vitamin C (aka scurvy) can show up as bruising, bleeding gums and poor wound healing.
Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene are antioxidants which help to reduce free radicals and slow down skin damage and improve the skin’s resilience.
Keep your vitamin levels high by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables! Some foods that are high in vitamin C include peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, oranges and tomatoes.
Best foods for skin, hair and nails
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh whole foods is great for your overall health and your hair, skin and nails. The following foods are excellent sources of the nutrients essential for healthy hair, skin and nails and will support your general health, too. It’s a win-win!
Oily fish is loaded with vitamin D, protein and omega-3 fats that promote hair growth by keeping your scalp healthy. A serving of salmon, tuna or mackerel 2-3 times a week will meet the recommended 250–500 milligrams (mg) of marine-sourced omega-3s (EPA, DHA) per day.
Nuts and seeds
Including nuts and seeds in your diet is a great way to support the health of your hair, skin and nails. Nuts are a good source of protein, healthy fats and vitamins E & B. Walnuts and flaxseeds are great sources of omega-3 and 6 fats as well. Grab a handful as a snack, add them to breakfasts or salads, or enjoy a natural nut butter as a topping!
Avocado is a fantastic source of vitamin E, vitamin B and omega-3 fats and also contains fibre and vitamin C. Spread avocado on your toast or crackers, add it to a smoothie for creaminess, or chop and add it to your favourite salad.
Not only are avocados great for hair and skin, but a 2013 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found those who eat avocados regularly have a better overall diet quality, lower BMI and lower risk of lifestyle diseases than people who avoid them.
Oats are such a nutritious whole grain that is high in several skin and hair-loving nutrients such as B vitamins, manganese, iron and zinc. Oats are also a great source of fibre and are low GI, meaning they keep you full for longer and provide sustained energy. A bowl of porridge or bircher muesli are both delicious breakfast options, or you can blend oats into a smoothie!
Berries and citrus
Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, and adding berries, citrus fruits or kiwifruit to your shopping list is a great way to up your intake! These fruits are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are important for healthy hair, skin and nails.
Greens like kale, spinach and broccoli are all good sources of zinc, iron and vitamins C, A, K, B - just to name a few! Eating plenty of dark greens is a fantastic way to increase your nutrient intake (especially if you’re following a plant-based diet) and will provide your body with a number of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Sweet potatoes and other orange or red vegetables, including tomatoes, carrots and red capsicum (red peppers) are a great, tasty way to get enough beta-carotene. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and is one of the key antioxidants that help prevent dry hair and skin and damage from UV rays.
This one sounds simple and it really is. Good hydration is not only essential for concentration, energy levels, circulation, gut health and overall wellbeing, but it’s also great for hydrating your hair, skin and nails!
Be sure to drink at least 1.5-2L (51-68 fl oz) of water per day, more if it’s hot weather or you're sweating a lot. If you find it hard to drink enough water, try herbal teas or add slices of lemon, cucumber or berries to your water for extra flavour.
Good nutrition can keep hair and skin healthy and strong
Many of us try to nourish our hair, skin and nails with special products and supplements, but focusing on eating a highly nutritious, balanced diet can go a long way. Your hair, skin and nails will benefit from good nutrition and healthy habits, and eating well is great for your overall health and wellbeing too. Good nutrition will help you feel your best inside and out!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.