Have you ever wondered whether it’s possible to have glossy hair, strong nails and glowing skin, just by consuming the right nutrients? The beauty diet that we are outlining today points to the answer being yes!
A healthy balanced diet based on the consumption of nutrients such as B vitamins (riboflavin, biotin, niacin), iron, zinc, collagen, selenium and vitamin E, is the first step to take towards the achievement of beautiful hair, skin and nails.
In this article, we will review each of these nutrients as well as their function and the foods that you can find them in.
Riboflavin (also known as B2) is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in hair growth by activating vitamin B6 and niacin which are also involved in hair development. Moreover, riboflavin can help to burn fat. If a person consumes too much fat, they can be at risk of fat accumulation in the hair follicles which can cause folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles) and even infection. The role of riboflavin is to burn the accumulated fat in the hair follicles preventing hair loss.
Dietary sources rich in riboflavin include dairy, eggs, fish, meat, poultry and fortified cereals. Riboflavin is destroyed by the light and extreme heat. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid boiling these foods, and store them in opaque containers in a cool, dark place.
Deficiency of B2 can occur in those who avoid dairy products as well as in those who have malabsorption disorders and alcohol use disorders.
This vitamin is also used as a treatment for hair loss. An interesting research study conducted at the University of Copenhagen shows the effectiveness of niacin use for the treatment of alopecia: in the research study, 28 volunteers were recruited and 14 of them suffered from alopecia. The other 14 had normal hair growth. Researchers measured subcutaneous blood flow to evaluate whether this was a factor causing alopecia. Results showed that the 14 individuals suffering from alopecia had 2.6 times lower blood flow than the other individuals. After following a diet rich in niacin, an improvement in blood circulation was noticed among those suffering from alopecia. It was also noticed that niacin reduces scalp inflammation and rebuilds keratin (a fibrous structural protein found in hair and nails responsible for protecting epithelial cells from damage).
Niacin is typically found in avocado, asparagus, sunflower seeds, green peas, oily fish and nuts. Absence of niacin leads to a fatal disease known as pellagra.
Biotin is a vitamin (vitamin B7) that helps produce nail, skin and hair cells, as well as preventing hair loss. Several studies have shown that patients with a pathology of poor nail and hair growth showed evidence of clinical improvements after embracing a diet rich in biotin.
This vitamin is found in cooked eggs, meat, sunflower seeds, peanuts, mushrooms and sweet potatoes. It is better to avoid raw eggs, as they contain a protein, avidin, that prevents absorption of biotin.
Deficiency of biotin is manifested as alopecia, brittle nails and dermatitis. It occurs among individuals consuming raw eggs, pregnant and lactating women.
Iron is an essential micronutrient responsible for transporting oxygen in the body and producing energy. There are two forms of iron: heme iron which is well absorbed and is found in animal products like meat and fish, and non-heme iron which is less absorbed and is found in green leafy vegetables, legumes and pulses and sesame seeds. Iron is important to prevent hair loss. It feeds the hair follicles with oxygen that helps to make your hair strong. When iron levels fall, there is no nutrient supply to the follicle. As a result, the hair growth cycle is affected resulting in shedding. Deficiency of this mineral is very common among women who lose 1.6 mg of iron more than men, due to menstruation. It is very important for women to have a diet rich in this mineral to avoid iron deficiency anaemia as well as hair loss and damaged skin.
Zinc and selenium
Both of these are minerals that protect the skin, nails and hair. Zinc is known to protect the skin against sun damage. It also has an antimicrobial effect, which means that zinc can help treat bacterial skin conditions such as bacterial acne. Zinc is vital for cell growth, collagen formation and wound healing. It is also needed to build keratin and for the formation of collagen, which is a protein that forms the connective tissues such as skin, bones, ligaments and cartilage. Due to its beneficial properties for the skin, it is used for the treatment of acne and eczema. It is found in meat, milk, cheese, eggs, cereals and nuts. Selenium also protects the skin by reducing skin damage. It is abundant in Brazil nuts, cod, tuna and mushrooms.
As previously mentioned, collagen is a fibrillar protein that is responsible for skin elasticity and firmness as well as healthy function of joints. Studies have shown that it plays an essential role in modulation of skin aging. It is usually taken as a supplement to facilitate bone and cartilage regeneration and to prevent skin ageing. It is only found in animal products including bovine, porcine, aquatic and avian sources. However, there are some nutrients known as “plant collagen boosters” that stimulate collagen production. For example, vitamin C (found in citrus fruit, bell peppers, berries) and vitamin E (found in seeds, nuts, avocado, asparagus) increase collagen production in the body.
This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that protects the nail plates from free radical damage and prevents the “yellow nail syndrome” which includes slow growing and opaque yellow nails. It also protects the skin from solar radiation. Best sources of vitamin E are wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, beets, greens and avocado.
Overall, it is important to understand that consuming a healthy and balanced diet fortifies you on the inside and on the outside. Individuals that restrict their diets are at higher risk of micronutrient deficiencies and, as a result, an increased risk of damaged hair, nails and skin. For instance, vegans, individuals with anorexia, or autism that refuse to eat certain foods and individuals with allergies and intolerances, are at a higher risk of micronutrient deficiencies. Finally, also individuals with food insecurity are more likely to consume low nutrient foods.Here at Love Yourself, we offer a variety of diets including our balanced diet which contains nutrients that will nourish your skin, hair and nails, protecting them from the inside out.