When you think of good hair and skin, the likes of a groomed and manicured celebrity throwing her glossy mane across your TV chanting, “because I’m worth it” probably springs to mind. However, a filtered lens is not all it takes – in fact, it goes a lot deeper than that as our hair and skin are our biological mirrors. In simple terms, what we put into our body affects our skin and hair’s appearance, growth and strength. Let’s get the scientific part clarified first before we share the foods that help to promote clean and clear skin and healthy hair and ease the signs of ageing.
Why are the benefits of antioxidants?
We've all heard about how antioxidants are good for us and free-radicals are bad, but what exactly are they?
Antioxidants are substances that bond to and eliminate harmful free-radicals present in the body. Free-radicals travel through the body 'stealing' electrons from healthy cells such as the skin, causing damage like pimples and acne. Antioxidants circumvent this damage, thereby warding off inflammation and breakouts as well as acting as an all-round protective force against more serious medical conditions too (1).
Now that we’ve clarified that one of the secrets to healthier hair and glowing skin is not in your makeup bag but rather in your diet, here are some key foods you need in your daily diet to make sure your skin is glowing from the inside out.
The best healthy diet for glowing skin and hair
Blueberries are packed with a powerful antioxidant that takes your skin to a whole new level, fighting free-radicals, warding off UV damage, protecting you from premature aging and maintaining collagen and moisture levels. Try adding half a cup to your preferred breakfast if you don't have an intolerance like in a fruit bowl, yogurt, cereal, porridge or smoothie.
Salmon is one of the best food sources for omega-3 fatty acids, which serve as building blocks for healthy skin cells, helping to keep your skin supple and smooth. It also helps to prevent inflammation and provides the skin with healthy oils that help to reduce dry skin, acne, psoriasis and redness (2).
Salmon also contains selenium, a mineral that protects the skin from sun exposure and helps promote skin elastin, leading to better elasticity and prevents aging. The great news is that not only is salmon delicious, it’s also incredibly versatile. Try it grilled, baked, in your pasta, with a salad, in sushi, or simply with a side of broccoli, green beans or asparagus. You should aim to eat a serving of oily fish at least once a week.
3. Walnuts and flaxseeds
If you don’t eat fish, walnuts and flaxseeds are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Snack on a handful of walnuts to improve your complexion's texture or add some to your salad, pasta or desserts for a delicious healthy boost.
Switch your lettuce for spinach in salads and sandwiches, or sauté for a quick, healthy side dish to reap the benefits of this leafy green vegetable that is super rich in nutrients, antioxidants, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E. Adding a handful to smoothies is also a great and delicious way to sneak in some green goodness.
Tomatoes are a great source of the anti-aging antioxidant lycopene, a superfood pigment that gives them their rosy red colour, as well as protecting against sunburn and sun-induced skin aging. Surprisingly, lycopene in tomatoes is more easily absorbed by your body when it is cooked, so make sure to stock up on canned chopped tomatoes and tomato juice (3).
Move over, apples! Thanks to their high vitamin C content, which is important in the production of collagen, an orange a day may help keep the doctor and your fine lines away. Foods for beautiful skin and hair also include kiwis as they're loaded with the same goodness so enjoy them as part of a varied fruit intake.
7. Dark chocolate
Cocoa hydrates skin, making it firmer and more supple and also protects skin from sun damage thanks to its high antioxidant content. Before you make a mad dash for the Dairy Milk, keep in mind that to gain any health benefit, you need to eat chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content or above. You can eat up to four squares of good-quality dark chocolate for a dose of skin aluminising compounds, however, don't make it a habit as studies have shown that consuming a lot may lead to breakouts. Eating a limited amount of dark chocolate should not compromise your weight and be a part of a healthy diet for acne free skin.
Take your water to the next level by keeping some lemons on hand. Lemons are rich in powerful antioxidants that stimulate liver enzymes to help flush toxins from your body. This means they're less likely to show up on your skin and have also been shown to boost collagen. Squeeze a few slices then drop them into your water to drink throughout the day preferably through a straw to protect your teeth from over acidity – easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Natural yogurt especially Greek, is full of probiotics that help reduce skin inflammation and is also a great source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy cell turnover, reduces acne and helps to prevent wrinkles. One cup of low-fat yogurt has even more calcium than a cup of milk which is great for strong and healthy skin, hair, nails and teeth. It's also full of protein which helps skin become firmer and less resistant to lines. You can mix it with fruit, agave syrup or some low-sugar granola.
Avocados contain a multitude of benefits, including anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins E, C, K and B6 and fibre. Its antioxidants help fight free-radical damage, while the fatty acids really help nourish, hydrate and plump the skin by protecting the health of the cell membrane.
You can mash avocado on toast, enjoy it with eggs and smoked salmon or add them to everything from smoothies to salads to sushi.
11. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed with an anti-aging antioxidant that gives you glowing skin. They’re delicious baked, mashed, roasted or made into wedges and even in desserts. You can also choose carrots which are filled with the same antioxidant, beta-carotene, and enjoy them juiced or raw, in snack bags and salads.
Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants which regulate the skin's blood flow, giving it its much-coveted rosiness. Forget expensive makeup, some pomegranate seeds added to your breakfast bowl, yogurt or salads may just do the trick.
13. Green tea
Thanks to its high concentration of antioxidants, green tea has been proven to reduce redness and help keep your skin looking younger and healthier. Studies have also demonstrated that green tea helps fight inflammation, as well as boasting the ability to lower the levels of a blemish producing hormone (4). Need any more reasons to get sipping?
14. Lentils and kidney beans
Lentils and kidney beans are both an amazing source of protein and iron, which can help thicken your hair especially if you are deficient in iron. Red kidney beans are also high in zinc which helps reduce blemishes. Add them into soups and stews to make a healthy, hearty meal.
15. Peanut butter
This nutty favourite is high in B vitamins, especially Niacin and Biotin – the wonder staple of all good hair and skin products. The quicker your skin cell turnover happens the better, as you are constantly rewarded with bright, springy, plump layers of freshness. This process slows as we age so we need to do whatever we can to boost the regeneration and luckily for us all, that includes eating peanut butter! Make sure to opt for the unsweetened, organic kind or even make your own, then enjoy it on toast, in porridge, added into smoothies or even just eaten off a spoon straight out of the jar.
Foods to avoid for clear skin
• Processed foods
Foods that are the mostly highly processed like crisps, processed hot dogs, cookies and fast food meals, are considered the most damaging, as they are high in salt and bad fats, which promote aging and are also largely devoid of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine, but when consumed in excess, alcohol can slow metabolism, promote wrinkles and decrease heart health. This can lead to weakened longevity, so spread them out and count your units.
Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fat laden packaged foods like pastries, baked goods and sweets as they cause inflammation, wrinkles and poor heart health. This also means you should steer clear of sugary juices and fizzy drinks. A handful of nuts and dried fruit makes a far healthier alternative, and one that your skin will thank you for.
• Red Meat
While it's ok to enjoy a steak once in a while, eating large quantities of red meat on a regular basis can seriously affect your skin and body's agiing process, as it's highly inflammatory. Save red meat for special occasions, swapping it instead for leaner cuts of poultry like chicken and turkey breast during the week.
The bottom line is yes, aging is inevitable, but eating the right foods and avoiding the not-so-right ones can help slow the process and give you glowing, glossy locks while you’re at it. Now that you know what to eat, get munching, because you’re worth it.
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