Nutritionist Lola Berry says there are many foods that nourish the skin, hair and nails, and including them in your diet is a sure-fire way of giving your beauty regime a boost.
I'm always looking for new ways to make my nails stronger, my hair longer and silky smooth, and my skin as glowing and healthy as possible. Our skin can tell us what is going on within our bodies as vitamin deficiencies or illnesses are reflected through its appearance. Personally, when I'm super stressed out, I can't grow my nails because I bite them – and it's at these times I know my body needs more stress-supporting nutrients like omega-3s and magnesium. Thankfully, your body not only shows you when it's not happy, it also responds quickly to the foods that make you thrive.
These guys are one of the best food sources of zinc, which is key for skin health and rebuilding your body’s cells and connective tissues. Zinc is important in many ways; it keeps the immune system strong (not to mention supporting cell division, DNA synthesis and the activity of about 100 different enzymes), it helps heal wounds, and it supports the body’s development and growth.
When I feel like I’m carrying extra fluid from flying, hormones or eating the wrong stuff, I’ll drink celery juice and the fluid just drops off. Talking beauty, celery is a brilliant youth food in that it is a great source of antioxidant vitamins A and C, which protect skin from signs of ageing caused by free radicals. Celery also contains vitamin E, which nourishes and moisturises skin.
In beauty terms, oats are one of the highest food sources of silica, which plays a key role in supporting the skin. As we age, collagen and elastin break down, and the skin loses its ability to retain moisture, leaving us with dull, sagging, wrinkly skin. By helping skin to retain moisture, silica can help slow this degeneration; in fact, silica is one of the main components of collagen.
These are full of the good stuff – monounsaturated fats and protein. Protein is essential for cell growth (so if you want strong locks, nice nails and fresh skin, you’ll be needing it), but I really notice my skin glows when I have the right fats in my diet, and the monounsaturated fats in these nuts are what you’re after. Macadamia oil is great used topically to keep skin nice and taut and to prevent premature ageing. The oil is rich in palmitoleic, linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids, which give it powerful anti-inflammatory properties and help to speed up scar healing.
With raspberries it’s all about antioxidants, specifically the antioxidant than makes them red – it’s called lycopene and is a bit like edible sunblock in that it helps to protect skin from sun and free-radical damage. Lycopene's UV-blocking capabilities naturally make it a valuable weapon in the battle against ageing skin (though of course I still recommend a great organic sunscreen as well!).
Extra-virgin olive oil
Your skin, nails and hair love this stuff. Extra-virgin olive oil is naturally rich in squalane, a key ingredient in many store-bought skincare products. Squalane absorbs easily into skin, keeping it hydrated and restoring lost moisture. I keep one bottle of this in my kitchen and one in my bathroom. The kitchen one is for cooking and dressing salads, but the bathroom one is all about skin health. If I’m having a bath, I’ll add a teaspoonful of oil to the bath water. I also like to massage a tablespoonful through my hair to keep it strong and healthy and prevent split ends.
I love Brazil nuts, and am rapt that they have made this list. They are a brilliant source of the mineral selenium (just three nuts a day will give you your recommended daily intake). Selenium supports tissue elasticity and protects against sun damage. It also aids production of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione, which repairs cell damage and slows down the skin’s ageing process.
Leading Australian nutritionist Lola Berry is the best-selling author of seven cookbooks, including Foods to Make You Glow (Plum/Murdoch Books), from which this extract is reproduced with kind permission.