The glow diet
There’s no hiding chipped nail polish, just like no amount of moisturising can mask a bad diet. The nutrients we take on act as our body’s building blocks, helping us to tackle aggressors like pollution and bacteria, as well as regenerating cells – crucial for healthy skin, hair and nails. So we quizzed three experts on the top beauty-boosting foods to incorporate as part of a healthy diet.
The problem: Acne and breakouts
‘This is the most common issue I see,’ says nutritionist Fiona Lawson. ‘Between a quarter and half of women experience some form of breakout every month. Your skin is a window into what’s going on in your body, so if it’s suffering, chances are there’s something inside that needs addressing.’
The fix: Balance your blood sugar to get clear skin naturally. ‘This is one of the most powerful things you can do for your skin,’ says Lawson. ‘Peaks and troughs impact insulin, which when consistently high can lead to inflammation, with knock-on effects on testosterone, which drives acne.’ A simple way to balance blood sugar levels is to ensure you include a source of protein with every meal or snack, says Lawson, as protein slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. It’s also vital to good skin integrity, as it aids healing. ‘Pulses and legumes like lentils and chickpeas are a good first port of call. Nuts are also a source and contain essential fats, which help create strong, flexible cell membranes. Organic tofu is a good idea too.’ To further stave off a sugar spike, Lawson suggests opting for complex carbs to improve your skin condition, ‘like sweet potatoes and wholegrains,’ as these take longer to be absorbed.
And for seconds… ‘Address your gut and liver health,’ says Lawson. The liver detoxifies, and a strong gut stops microbial toxins escaping and causing inflammation. To help your liver, Lawson suggests eating cruciferous veg. ‘Things like broccoli or cabbage – or any dark green leafy veg, as they contain magnesium and B vitamins, which aid detoxification.’ For good gut health, go for fermented foods to help crowd out the bad bacteria (think kimchi, kefir, kombucha) and a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, because ‘they provide the fuel for the good bacteria’.
The problem: Hair loss or thinning hair
‘People often assume that hair loss is a result of inheriting bad genes or a stressful episode in their life, but the most common hair loss causes I see are nutritional deficiencies,’ says nutritionist Kyla Newcombe. Look at other signs of deficiency, too: breaking nails or a flaky scalp? It’s likely down to your diet.
The fix: Stock up on macronutrients to prevent hair loss. ‘The most important things are protein and healthy fats,’ says Newcombe. ‘Protein is the building block of the hair, so try to include eggs, nuts and seeds – they’re all vital for the structure.’ Good fats retain moisture in the hair, and provide moisture to the scalp. ‘If the scalp is dry then the hair follicles suffer, which in turn causes hair growth to suffer, too,’ says Newcombe. ‘To keep everything healthy and shiny, look for your omegas -3, -6, and -9. Omega-3 is found in chia seeds and flaxseeds; omega-6 in lots of different seeds and nuts, and then omega-9 is in avocados and olives.
And for seconds… While B vitamins (nuts and seeds, again) and selenium (found in abundance in Brazil nuts) are both important, the most commonly lacking nutrients are iron and zinc. Iron carries oxygen to hair’s roots, while zinc deficiency can deteriorate the protein structure that makes up the hair follicle. ‘Due to menstruating, women can lose a lot of iron each month, so it’s important to keep levels topped up with foods like beans and lentils. Aid absorption by eating them alongside foods high in vitamin C, like peppers or kiwi fruit.’ Find zinc in wholegrains and our old favourites, nuts and seeds.
The problem: splitting, dry nails
‘A lot of people struggle with this,’ says consultant dietitian Lucy Jones. ‘We’re often unable to maintain the length or shape of nail we’d like to.’ While gel nails are often the culprit, a number of dietary factors affect the strength of our nails.
The fix: Think zinc. ‘It’s all about cell formation. All the nutrients necessary for healthy nails play a role in cell structure and cell integrity,’ says Jones. ‘Zinc is the only nutrient with an approved European Food Safety Authority claim of contributing to the maintenance of normal nails.’ An antioxidant, zinc prevents cell damage and is required for the growth and division of cells. ‘It’s often bound to protein, so foods high in zinc include eggs, cheese, almonds, milk and pulses.’
And for seconds… ‘A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to excessive dryness, and cause nails to darken or curve upwards,’ says Jones. B12 is found in eggs and milk, or try fortified cereals or nutritional yeast. A supplement can be a good idea if you follow a vegan diet. ‘Fatty acids are also great lubricators, so consume healthy fats like olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts, seeds and avocados,’ Jones adds.
Read more: 5 resolutions for glowing skin