Spoiler Alert: eating well is good for your health. But what about those beauty "secrets" many women endlessly search for? "You are what you eat" could not be more true when it comes to our hair, skin, and nails.  Our bodies are very complex systems, organized to be self-sustaining when given the foods to get the job done. With a few small changes to your grocery list, you can have the healthy and beautiful skin, hair, and nails you've always wanted.

Skin Therapy
There are hundreds of skin care products on the market, each offering the secret to perfect skin. But it can be hard to determine if these beauty products, claiming to do anything short of curing cancer, actually deliver.  Contrary to popular advertising, the real secret to great skin actually begins with eating nutritious foods.  In this way, the path to better skin literally begins from the inside out.

Healthy, strong skin requires protein. Protein contains the amino acids the body needs to produce collagen, the substance that makes skin strong and supple.  The less collagen our bodies produce, the more prone we are to developing wrinkles.  To avoid this, be sure to incorporate lean protein foods into each meal.

Foods That Contain Lean Proteins: fish, poultry, beans, and tofu

Antioxidants, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C can also help prevent sun damage and reduce wrinkles. Like protein, vitamin C is an essential ingredient in helping the body form collagen.  Similarly, foods high in vitamin A can help heal skin tissue and protect against sun damage.  Omega-3 fatty acids help protect skin against pollutants and toxins. A deficiency in these essential fatty acids may cause skin to become dry, inflamed or even prone to acne!

Foods that Contain
Vitamin C: bell peppers, broccoli, oranges, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Vitamin E: leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds
Vitamin A: broccoli, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe
Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, mackerel, olive oil, walnuts

Strong, Healthy Hair and Nails
The key to shiny, thick hair also lies in what we eat.  Hair and nails are both made up of the molecule keratin.  To produce keratin, your body needs two things: protein and biotin!  Biotin, a B complex vitamin, aids in the development of keratin. Biotin helps strengthen weak nails and prevent split ends.  Zinc also helps the body build the proteins that keep your hair and nails healthy and strong.  In addition to the skin benefits mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids help prevent scalp dryness and promote shiner hair.

Foods that Contain:
Keratin: Salmon, eggs, bananas, cauliflower, beans
Zinc: fortified cereals, oysters, soybeans, and green beans

So, the next time you catch yourself reaching for the latest beauty cream, be sure to take a peek at your plate first! Focus on incorporating lean protein foods, such as chicken and beans into your weekly routine.  A stop at your local produce stand should always be a priority to promote collagen growth and protect your skin against harmful summer rays.  Lastly, don't forget about your fats!  Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids help to keep our skin moisturized and acne free.

Annie Courto is a full-time Registered Dietitian with  OnPoint Nutrition, providing weight loss and nutrition counseling.


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