You Are What You Eat! How Diet Can Affect Skin, Hair & More...

The age-old saying "you are what you eat" not only applies to our overall health and wellness, but to how our skin and hair look and feel, too.

As the largest organ in the body, our skin can benefit from the nutrition we get from foods, the same way that diet can have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs. In fact, new research suggests that eating foods rich in protein and certain vitamins can provide valuable anti-aging effects. [1]

Our hair, categorized by our body as ‘non-essential tissue’, is the last to receive nutrients in the hierarchy of health. Although hair cells are the second fastest-growing cells in the body, their energy and nutrient needs are never given priority.  If we eat a poor diet, our bodies will first nourish our essential cells (like our vital organs), and little is left to feed our hair. This is why our diet and energy balance are paramount if we desire healthy, luscious locks.

So, now we’ve established that our diet can play a huge role in the health of our hair and skin, let’s look into the science behind why.

DIET AND OUR SKIN

The more we learn about nutrition and its effect on our body, it’s increasingly clear that what you eat can significantly impact the health and aging rate of your skin. Some foods and drinks can also worsen skin conditions, causing allergic reactions and breakouts, while others have been linked to an increase in wrinkling and dehydration in the dermal layers.

Good Food, Good Skin

One of the best ways to ensure you are feeding your body with the right nutrients to maintain a glowing complexion is to understand which food groups are essential for skin health. Here are the main skin-nourishing food groups you should be including in your diet for youthful, healthy and well-nourished skin.

1. Lean Protein for Cell Building

Our skin, our nails, and our hair are made up mostly of protein. These proteins – keratin, collagen, and elastin – are known to ward off wrinkles, strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, and encourage elasticity and hydration. Most of us get our protein from meat, fish, eggs, nuts and dairy foods, but very few of us are eating enough. When we are deficient in protein, our skin can be the first body part to show it.

The recommended amount of protein the average person needs will depend on age, lifestyle, activity levels, and gender, but a safe starting point is to aim for 0.8-1g of protein, per kg of body weight, per day. For example, for a 70kg person, that is 56-70g of protein per day. One chicken breast delivers around 30g of protein, whereas an egg is around 12g.

2. Seafood for Essential Fats

Contrary to some dieting beliefs, fat is a good thing. Our bodies need fat for energy, but it’s important to understand which fats are good, and which are bad. Essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are among the ‘good’ variety, and they appear in abundance in fish and seafood. If you suffer from dry, flaky skin, it could mean you are deficient in Omega oils. They are called ‘essential’ fats because your body cannot make them – you have to get them from your diet.

Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 produce hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins, which then aid immunity, inflammation, and cell health. For healthy skin, we need a balance of them both, yet studies show that Americans are not meeting the recommended levels of fatty acid intake required for healthy skin. [2]

3. Iron for Vitality and Brightness

A noticeable deficiency in iron will result in feeling tired and lethargic, and this can play havoc on your skin. If you are low in iron, your skin appears pale or grey, feels itchy, and is even more susceptible to wrinkles and fine lines.

Iron in our diets comes mainly from red meats like beef, and from whole grains, but absorption rates in the body can vary. By drinking fresh fruit juice to boost vitamin C levels, we can increase our iron absorption rate of iron – so pair your steak dinner with a glass of OJ for best results!

4. Whole Grains for B Vitamins and Antioxidants

B Vitamins can be considered the main skin vitamin, as a deficiency in B Vitamins can present as an itchy, dry or irritated dermal layer. Antioxidants are also key for ensuring the skin’s protective barrier is strong enough to withstand oxidative stress from pollution and free-radicals.

Whole grains like oats, muesli, and nuts are great sources of B vitamins and should make-up a staple part of your skin-saving diet. Try eating oatmeal for breakfast to get your vitamin B boost early in the day.

5. Fruits & Veg for Beta Carotene and Vitamin A

Beta-Carotene converts into Vitamin A in the body and is essential for healthy skin. Large doses of beta-carotene improve skin resilience to damage such as sunburn and breakouts, and Vitamin A can treat acne and eczema effectively.

Carrots, watermelon, bell peppers, and tomatoes are incredible sources of beta-carotene and can be added to the diet easily in salads, smoothies, and juices.

 Foods That Can Worsen Skin Conditions

Our diet can undoubtedly benefit our skin health, but eating the wrong things can exacerbate existing skin conditions for those who suffer. Millions of Americans experience diagnosed skin conditions, including eczema, rosacea, acne, and psoriasis, and many common foods can aggravate the symptoms.

Eczema

Eczema is commonly characterized by dry, red, itchy patches on the skin. Foods that have been known to worsen symptoms include eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, and fish, while some sufferers have reported that chocolate, coffee, alcohol, tomatoes, and sugar can trigger a flare-up.

Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin condition that causes facial redness and swelling, and symptoms can be exacerbated by spicy foods and alcohol. Eating an excess of dairy has also been known to exacerbate symptoms.

Acne

Contrary to common belief, acne breakouts are not caused by a hormone imbalance alone, but also by the glycaemic index of our food choices. What does this mean? Well, high-sugar, high-GI foods like white bread, potatoes, candy, and white pasta can worsen symptoms. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a low-glycaemic-load diet may improve acne symptoms. [3]

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a serious medical condition affecting the immune system and causes patches of raised, red skin covered in silvery-white scales. It can be triggered by excess alcohol consumption, eating fatty foods, and not consuming enough Vitamin B.

 

DIET AND OUR HAIR

It’s no surprise that great looking hair is seen as a general sign of good health, and having long, strong, luscious locks are a desired trait. As mentioned above, our body sees hair as a ‘non-essential’ tissue. This means that when the body is under threat of malnutrition, it reprioritizes the delivery of nutrients to vital organs first, and hair follicles are not seen as important.

Studies have shown that correct nutrition is fundamental for healthy hair growth, and nutrient deficiencies can be the main cause of hair loss.

Malnutrition and excess alcohol, along with other disease and illnesses, can cause the hair to change color, be weakened, and even lost. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help your hair stay strong, and stop you from losing your locks. The main food groups to include for optimum scalp and hair condition are Essential Fatty Acids and Protein.

There is also an array of vitamins that your body needs in order to grow healthy, new hair. These include: 

Vitamin B – B5 gives hair flexibility and shine, while B6 prevents hair loss and dandruff. These can be found in eggs, cereals, and liver. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent hair loss and can be found in chicken, milk, and cheese.

Folic Acid – A dip in Folic Acid levels can contribute to a decreased follicle division, meaning that your hair cells will eventually become dormant or dead. Folic Acid is essential for the maintenance of healthy hair growth.

Biotin - Biotin is part of the B vitamin complex but is one of the most important nutrients for preserving hair strength, texture, and function. Biotin is found in meat, soy, eggs, and other protein sources, but supplementing is popular as our bodies need a high dose for optimum hair health. Here at Cel, we have formulated our own Advanced Hair Supplement which contains a patented Super-Biotin formula, as well as a range of other essential vitamins and minerals for hair growth and strength.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C’s main function is to help the body produce collagen; the connective tissue found within hair follicles. Vitamin C is also a strong antioxidant and can help protect both the cells found within the scalp and nearby blood vessels.

Final Thoughts

So, it’s true what they say. What you put inside your body, really does show on the outside. Getting our diet right is essential if we desire healthy skin and hair, and the balance between essential vitamins, lots of protein, and ample water intake are key. If you suffer from hair thinning or loss, skin breakouts, or lackluster locks, try improving your diet, and see how much it can improve your appearance and confidence!

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