7 Best Foods For Hair, Skin And Nails
Looking for ways to strengthen and nourish your hair, skin and nails?
Eating well with a wide variety of nutritious foods is key to being healthy inside and out, and specific macronutrients, vitamins and minerals can provide essential nutrients for healthy hair, skin and nails. The good news? You can get all of these from eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, without any need for supplements.
Find out about the foods that you can eat to boost your hair, skin and nails.
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 — so they all require the same nutrients to grow healthily. Certain nutrients such as healthy fats, iron, zinc and antioxidant vitamins are also essential to glowing, well-hydrated skin and strong and healthy-looking hair and nails. Once you understand why these nutrients help, it will make it easier to ensure you are eating a healthy diet including foods packed with these nutrients every day.
The bonus? These nutrients are not only essential for healthy hair, skin and nails, but also for supporting your overall health and wellbeing.
Skin, hair and nails are made mostly of proteins. Keratin, collagen and elastin are proteins that keep skin looking healthy and provide strength and elasticity. Most of us eat plenty of protein from meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy foods so it is not always necessary to take a protein or collagen supplement. Instead, get the best results by eating skin-boosting protein-rich foods regularly throughout your day as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
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 enough of these essential fats 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. To get enough of these essential fats in your diet, try to dress your salads and cook with olive oil, spread avocado on your toast and eat oily fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel a couple of times a week.
Iron is an essential nutrient that is particularly important for women. Iron carries oxygen around in our blood, and tiredness is often the first sign of iron deficiency. Other symptoms of iron deficiency can include pale or itchy skin, cracking at the sides of the mouth, nails can become brittle and develop vertical stripes or even become spoon shapes, and hair may shed more than normal and become dry, brittle and dull. To keep your iron levels up, include lean red meat 2-3 times a week or vegetarian sources such as leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds on a daily basis.
Zinc is essential for wound healing and strong hair. A lack of zinc can lead to the development of skin lesions, impair the immune system and slow down the healing of wounds. Zinc is also important for hair growth and strength and it helps keep the oil glands around the follicles working properly so the hair looks healthy too. In fact, one of the clinical signs of zinc deficiency is hair loss. Oysters, beans, nuts, dairy and whole grains are all good foods to eat regularly to ensure adequate zinc for healthy skin and hair.
Eating inadequate amounts of B-vitamins can lead to dry and itchy skin. Specifically, not enough B2 (riboflavin) can lead to cracks in the corner of the mouth or oily skin with dry, flaky patches. A lack of B3 (niacin) can lead your skin to become inflamed, look flushed and sunburnt and a lack of vitamin B6 to rashes and dermatitis. Ensure you are getting enough B-vitamins by regularly including whole grains, nuts, seeds and a wide variety of vegetables in your diet.
Vitamin C, E & beta-carotene
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen which plumps up skin, giving it shape and support. Although rare, a lack of vitamin C (otherwise known as scurvy) can show up as bruising, bleeding gums and poor wound healing.
Vitamin C is useful in more ways than one, too. Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene are antioxidants which help to reduce free radicals and slow down damage to the skin. These antioxidants can help protect the skin from UV damage and improve the skin's resilience to irritants. Eat fruit and vegetables daily to ward off vitamin C deficiency and help keep your skin's natural defences to the elements strong. Some foods high in vitamin C include peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, oranges and tomatoes.
Best foods for hair, skin and nails
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fresh food, and minimal processed food, is the way to go for healthy hair skin and nails — and overall health. The following foods are excellent sources of the nutrients essential for healthy hair, skin and nails, but double up to help support your general health, too. It’s a win-win!
Salmon is loaded with vitamin D, protein and omega-3 fats that promote hair growth by keeping your scalp healthy. A serve 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 almonds, cashews, walnuts (and more) as well as seeds in your diet is a great way to help your hair, skin and nails. Nuts are a good source of protein, vitamin E & B vitamins. Nuts, particularly walnuts and seeds like linseed are great sources of omega-6 fats as well. Grab a handful as a snack or spread a natural nut butter on your toast in the morning.
Avocado is a fantastic source of vitamin E, vitamin B and omega-3 fats. Avocados also contain fibre and vitamin C. Use avocado instead of butter on your toast, or chop and add to your favourite salad. Not only are avocados great for hair and skin, but a 2013 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in Nutrition Journal, found those who eat avocado regularly have a better overall diet quality, lower BMI and lower risk of lifestyle diseases than people who avoid it.
Oats are one of the best whole grain sources. They contain protein and biotin — a B vitamin that helps support keratin development. Oats have the added benefits of being low GI so they keep you fuller for longer, as well as being high in a fibre called beta-glucan that helps reduce cholesterol absorption. Keep breakfast simple with a bowl of porridge or bircher muesli to reap the rewards.
Vitamin C is essential to make collagen which prevents hair breakage, keeps joints healthy and skin elastic, and repairs skin damage caused by UV exposure and environmental toxins. Berries, and other fruits including kiwifruit and citrus, are also loaded with potent antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are important for healthy hair, skin and nails.
Greens like kale and spinach are another good source of vitamin C and also great sources of phytonutrients, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Spinach also helps with the skin’s elasticity and is a good source of iron, particularly if following a vegetarian diet —just top it with a squeeze of lemon juice to help the absorption.
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 keep your skin protected from UV damage. A lack of vitamin A can result in dry hair and skin so be sure to eat lots of orange and red veggies for healthy skin and hair.
This one sounds simple and it really is. Good hydration is not only essential for concentration, energy levels, gut health and overall wellbeing, but it’s also good for your skin too! For well-hydrated skin, hair and nails, drink plenty of water. Be sure to drink at least 1.5-2L (51-68 fl oz) of fluid per day, more if it’s hot weather or you're sweating a lot. Making a cup of tea can help too — black, green and white tea contains flavonoids which can help with skin hydration and protect against UV damage.
Good nutrition can keep hair and skin healthy and strong
There are many supplements that claim to boost the health of your hair, skin and nails, but they aren't actually necessary — you can get all the essential nutrients you need from a balanced, wholesome diet.
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.