Dr. Laila Hassan is an Aesthetic Physician. She’s also a laser therapist and an anti‐aging expert for the last ten years.
T here’s no magic food that will keep us looking forever young, but diet (and lifestyle and attitude) does affect how your skin looks and ages. Food contains lots of beauty nutrients. Take into account these food steps to strong, healthy skin, hair and nails. Let’s see the top kinds you should be including in your diet:
Proteins are the building blocks. Skin, hair and nails are mostly protein. These proteins – keratin, collagen and elastin – ward off wrinkles and provide strength and elasticity. Most of us eat plenty of protein from meat, chicken, fish, legumes, eggs and dairy foods. But huge steaks and protein shakes don’t build bigger muscles or better skin. If we eat more protein than we need, our body converts it to fat and stores it – usually where we don’t want it.
Seafood has essential fats. The body needs fat. Not the greasy pastry and pie type, but the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats. If you have a dry, itchy scalp or skin, you may not be eating enough of these. They are called ‘essential’ fats because the body can’t make them; you have to eat them.Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats produce hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which then change into other substances that affect immunity and inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fats suppress inflammation, immune responses and blood clotting. Omega-6 fats are also essential for healthy skin, but too much can cause inflammation and allergic responses. For healthy skin, we need a balance of both types of fat.
Iron is essential for vitality and luster. Tired and lacking in energy? This may be a symptom of low Iron. Hair, nails and skin can also suffer if you’re lacking in iron. The skin may be very pale, become itchy, or there could be cracking at the side of the mouth. Nails can become brittle and develop vertical stripes, or even become spoon-shaped. You could shed more hair and it will be noticeably more dry, brittle and dull. Beat Tip: Meat is the best source of iron: the redder the meat, the more iron it contains. If you don’t eat meat, you can get iron from legumes and whole grains but it’s less readily absorbed, so add vitamin C (from fruit juice, fruits and capsicum) to meals to enhance absorption.
Oats and muesli will boost your intake of essential fats, B vitamins and the potent antioxidant, vitamin E. Whole grains have all three parts of the grain – the bran, endosperm and germ. Refined, white-flour-based foods miss out on the bran and germ, which is where all these goodies are. Best Tip: mix whole-grain oats, almonds and dried fruit. Soak overnight in low-fat milk and enjoy with extra fruit and yogurt.
Vitamin C is essential to make collagen, the structural cement of the body. Under the skin, collagen is the fibrous tissue that plumps it up giving support and shape. As skin ages it loses collagen. Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene are potent antioxidants that mop up the harmful by-products of oxidation and slow down damage to the skin. Large doses of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene help protect the skin from sunburn and improve its resilience to things that could irritate it. Eating plenty of kiwifruits, oranges, lemons and grapefruit may not have the same instant ‘plumping out’ effect as a collagen implant.
For well-hydrated skin, hair and nails, drink plenty of water. The fluids and flavonoids aid blood circulation and the delivery of nutrients, so give yourself a daily flavonoid dose with a few cups of black, green or white tea and, depending on your mood, a glass of red wine, a cup of hot cocoa or a few squares of dark chocolate.