When we talk about a healthy and balanced diet, it is not necessarily always about weight management - nutrition plays an equally important role in maintaining healthy skin and hair. A proper diet not only rejuvenates our skin and hair but also helps to maintain these results long term, unlike the heavily priced commercialised products which are effective only in the short-term.
Here are some essential nutrients that can significantly improve skin health.
1. Vitamin A: It is an important nutrient for skin as it helps in collagen and keratin production that keep the skin healthy. Supplementation of vitamin A is generally not required as it is readily available through food sources such as pumpkin, sweet potato, eggs, carrots and leafy greens.
Tip - avoid boiling these foods to get the maximum vitamin A content.
2. Vitamin B complex: Vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins - B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12- which maintain the skin’s cellular health, manage sebum production and bring about optimal utilisation of essential fatty acids. The best sources of vitamin B are meat, eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds.
3. Vitamin C - Vitamin C supports collagen production and helps in wound healing. It is a powerful antioxidant that fights against free radical damage responsible for premature ageing. Our body’s vitamin C requirements can be easily fulfilled through a balanced diet. Therefore, it doesn’t need to be supplemented. Vitamin C is present in berries, orange, amla, guava, lemon, broccoli, cauliflower and bell peppers.
4. Zinc: It is an essential mineral for maintaining optimal skin health and transportation of vitamin A. It also helps in wound healing, sebum regulation and enzymatic activity - which impacts the skin’s ability to shed old skin cells. Dietary sources of zinc include sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, whole grains, mushrooms, yoghurt and oysters. Zinc supplements can potentially benefit people suffering from acne, eczema or any other skin inflammatory issue.
5. Essential Fatty Acids: The skin needs essential fatty acids to create an effective barrier to restrict bacteria and other microbes, thereby keeping it healthy, strong and hydrated. Essential fatty acids are found in nuts and seeds, avocados and oily fishes.
Hair health and causes of hair loss:
A person usually loses between 50 to 100 hairs a day on average. New hair generally replaces the lost hair, but that is not likely to happen in all cases. Hair loss can be permanent or temporary depending on multiple factors such as:
- An inadequate diet lacking in nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, selenium and biotin.
- Hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuing the use of birth control pills and menopause.
- Medical conditions like thyroid, poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), autoimmune diseases that attack hair follicles, scalp infections like ringworm,or scarring of the hair.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy, blood pressure, arthritis, depression or heart medications.
- Excessive hairstyling puts pressure on the hair follicles and excessive use of hair styling products.
Nutrition for good hair:
- B Vitamins: These are responsible for strengthening the hair follicles and increasing blood circulation to the skin. Food sources of vitamin B are quinoa, oats, brown rice, berries, green leafy vegetables, chicken and salmon.
- Biotin: Biotin plays a key role in stimulating new cells and re-growing the lost hair. Biotin is available in foods like nuts, eggs and whole grains.
- Zinc: Zinc plays a crucial role in the growth and repair of hair tissues and maintains the proper functioning of oil glands surrounding the hair follicles. Foods that contain zinc include oysters, red meat, shellfish and legumes, yoghurt and dark chocolate.
- Selenium: Selenium promotes hair growth by killing harmful free radicals and dandruff-causing fungus. Dietary sources of selenium are brazil nuts, whole grains, fish, eggs and chicken.
- Iron: Iron helps to boost the blood circulation and carries oxygen to the hair roots. It helps the hair to grow faster and stronger. Its deficiency can lead to hair loss. A few good sources of iron are beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, oysters, dark green leafy vegetables and grass-fed meat.
- Protein and omega 3s - Protein-rich foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, meat and fish. Including fish in your diet provides both the nutrients - protein and omega-3 - which help in growing and strengthening the hair.
Conclusion: Just like the other body organs, like the heart, brain, and muscles, need adequate nutrition for maintaining long-term health, even our skin and hair need the right form of nourishment to perform their respective functions. Skin and hair condition is affected by various factors like diet, age, and environment. While we can’t control factors such as ageing or climate, we can certainly manage a well-balanced diet to support healthy skin and hair.