As a society, we spend a gazillion dollars on products to beautify our skin, hair and nails. But ponder this: much of our outer radiance comes from within.
To a large extent, if you’re healthy on the inside, you’ll look it on the outside, believes Dr. Alan Logan, a naturopathic physician in Connecticut, who lectures in mind-body medicine at Harvard University. His recent book, Your Skin, Younger (Cumberland House) explains how better diet and nutrition, smarter food preparation, and lowered stress levels can improve your skin.
Luckily, we don’t have to remember a whole new set of health rules, since the same foods that are good for our organs are good for our hair and nails.
“Many of the dietary components advocated for cosmetic purposes are the very same foods and beverages — for example whole grains, fish and seafood, low-fat dairy, legumes, health cooking oils, deep green vegetables and coloured fruits, seeds, nuts, green tea, red wine, cocoa — that are now fairly well known as protective against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer,” says Dr. Logan.
He recommends the Mediterranean diet, which has many of these components, and is low in sugar, excess fat, and extra calories.
“Overall it contains a number of nutrients that are of critical importance to hair, skin and nails.”
It’s more than just eating the right foods. Dr. Logan’s book introduces readers to the concept of Advanced Glycation End-products, or AGEs, which are to be avoided. They are found in foods that are cooked on high heat in the absence of moisture, and they cause inflammation and oxidative stress.
“Turning off the oven, using a steamer, and poaching, boiling, simmering or stewing your foods can go a long way in the effort to maintain a youthful and glowing appearance.”
Certain minerals are recognized to specifically promote the health of your hair, including zinc and selenium (both found in lean meat, nuts and seafood). Biotin (in egg yolk) and silicon (in brown rice and root vegetables) have emerged as being of special significance to the nails, both capable of preventing brittle nail syndrome when taken internally.
Almost 10,000 chemicals are used in skin-care products today, says Dr. Logan. It might be a good idea to “detox” and look for organic hair products without synthetic fragrances, parabens, and sulfates.