I talk a lot about the foods we need to eat for strength, energy, muscle-building and fat loss. These are important topics, because nothing you do in the gym will get you the results you want without the proper nutrition. But today I’d like to talk to you about the foods that the fuel true beauty.
This is the last post in a series this month that has focused on loving your body – loving it for what it is, what it accomplishes and what it can be. I’ve written a lot this month about how the media and Hollywood work against women’s self-esteem and pride in their own bodies, by setting standards that no one really meets. They fill magazines and movie screens with women who are unhealthily thin, temporarily fat-free or airbrushed into perfection. This puts many women on a cycle of comparison, starvation dieting and punishing hours in the gym.
Fake Beauty versus Real Beauty
It’s not just about being in shape, either. The media and the cosmetics industry bombard women with more airbrushed models and celebrities to make us scrutinize our hair, our features and our skin so they can sell expensive products and the magazines that advertise them. Real women who are gorgeous in everyone else’s eyes spend a fortune on make-up, lotions and hair care products to correct the tiny “flaws” that only they see.
If it sounds like I’m on a campaign against the media, I’m really not. I love a good movie as much as anyone and I have several magazines that I enjoy reading. What I don’t like is the way those things can be aimed at women consumers and yet used to make them feel awful about the way they look.
Nutrition’s Role in Creating Real Beauty
While some of the products being sold for our skin, nails and hair are good ones, most are overpriced products that don’t deliver half of what good nutrition can. In fact, even the really good moisturizers, shampoos and other products won’t erase the signs of poor nutrition, which are often mistaken for signs of aging or bad genetics.
Just as our muscles and bones are built by nutrient-dense foods, so is glowing skin, healthy, shiny hair and strong beautiful nails. Most women could clean out their makeup bags, bathroom cabinets and their purses and whittle the products they use to a bare minimum if they ate more of the whole foods that support real beauty and got rid of the unhealthy foods that work against it.
Not only is eating for beauty a healthier way to improve your looks, it’s cheaper and a lot more fun than being a slave to a changing roster of products.
Get Rid of the Beauty-Killers
The average woman’s diet is loaded with foods that actually create problems, which she then spends a ton of money to fix with make-up, cleansers, hair masks and spa treatments. Naturally, they don’t do as much as she was hoping because she still has a poor diet. Nothing you put on your body is as effective as what you put in your body and this is true of both the negative and the positive.
Foods loaded with unhealthy fats, especially fast food, processed foods and fried foods, bog down your digestive system and hamper your immune system as well. This makes it hard for your liver and kidneys to rid your body of toxins and support cell renewal. Those same foods are also loaded with sodium, which makes you retain water and makes your skin puffy and slack. These same foods are also high in sugar and refined flours, which just exacerbate the problem. While some caffeine is fine, too much caffeine and sugar make it hard to get enough sleep. The reason we tend to look awful when we don’t sleep enough is that our bodies don’t just repair muscle while we sleep; they repair and regenerate all cells during sleep, including the cells in our skin, hair and nails.
Aside from the direct effect of eating these junk foods, there is also an important indirect effect: when we fill up on unhealthy items, we have less room for the healthy stuff we need to repair the damage. Get rid of all the fast food, processed foods, refined sugar and refined flours and you will notice a dramatic and almost immediate improvement in how you look. At the same time, add these healthy foods that actually feed real beauty.
Eating for Beautiful Skin
You’ve probably heard the adage that your skin is a reflection of your overall health. I think this certainly must be true, since our skin is the first thing to change for the worse when our diet is poor and to change for the better when we change our diet to a healthy one.
One of the best groups of foods you can eat for your skin is those that are high in Vitamin C. You’ve probably noticed that Vitamin C is the new hot ingredient in lotions, anti-aging serums and eye creams. I’m no dermatologist, so I don’t know if putting Vitamin C on your skin is effective, but I do know that feeding it to your skin will do wonders.
Our bodies use Vitamin C as a key component when building every single cell we have. Those include the cells for your skin, your hair and your nails. Without enough Vitamin
C, your body will devote what it does have to repairing or building new cells in our major organs, our blood and our brains. Your skin, hair and nails get whatever is left over.
Some of the best sources of Vitamin C are broccoli, dark leafy greens, berries, kiwi, and citrus fruits.
Another group of foods you should eat for your skin are those rich in polyphenol antioxidants. These foods fight the free radicals that cause premature aging. Look for fruits and vegetables that are deep red and purple, such as beets, pomegranates, red grapes, plums, cherries, red peppers, rainbow chard and raspberries. These foods are all high in one of the key antioxidants, resveratrol, which is known to slow the signs of aging.
Another group of foods that can really boost your skin’s appearance are walnuts and seeds. They’re loaded with omega-3 fats, which improve elasticity and copper, which speeds the production of collagen. Healthy fats also improve blood circulation, which will ensure a healthy glow. Some of the best sources are walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Eating for Beautiful Hair
Omega-3 fats are also important for strong, thick, shiny hair. Omega-3 fats are one of the fats your hair uses to make sebum, which moisturizes your hair and scalp. It’s also one of the components that make up the cell membranes in your scalp. Aside from walnuts and seeds, some of the best sources are salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and avocadoes.
Another nutrient you want to get plenty of is zinc. Zinc supports hair growth and strength, while a deficiency in zinc often shows itself in hair loss, even your eyelashes. One of the best sources of this mineral is oysters, but if you don’t care for them, you can get a good dose of zinc from nuts, eggs and beef.
You also want to be sure to get plenty of iron. Iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of hair loss in women and you don’t have to be over forty to start seeing it. Some of the best sources are spinach and other dark, leafy greens, lentils and eggs.
Beta-carotene is also an important nutrient for beautiful hair. Our bodies convert it into Vitamin A, which is needed by every one of our cells, but is also used to manufacture the oil that moisturizes your scalp and makes hair look lustrous. Some of the best sources of beta-carotene are carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mangoes and pumpkin.
Eating for Beautiful Nails
Two of the most important things you can do for your nails are to get plenty of protein and plenty of water. Your nails require the protein for growth and the water for hydration. But there are some micronutrients that are known to improve your nails.
One of the key micronutrients is biotin. Biotin has been shown in studies to make nails harder and stronger. Some of the best sources of biotin are eggs, tomatoes, Swiss chard and almonds.
Another important nutrient for nail health is iron. A lack of iron can cause white spots on your nails and also make nails more brittle or more apt to peel. Again, eat lots of spinach, lentils, eggs and dark, leafy greens.
Eating a diet that supports healthy skin, hair and nails is so much more enjoyable than loading up on products that are meant to mask the problems created by an unhealthy diet. I’d much rather enjoy a piece of fruit, a roasted sweet potato or a spinach omelet than spend an hour in the bathroom dumping a lot of products in my hair and on my skin.
It’s less expensive, a lot more effective and definitely a lot tastier!