Hair and makeup artist-to-the-stars Eva Scrivo reveals the beauty superfoods that will make your hair shine and your skin glow
We truly are what we eat. After witnessing a fast and dramatic improvement in my father’s health after he was diagnosed with diabetes, as a direct result of a better diet, it became clear to me how food choices impact every element of our lives: our health, energy level, weight, immune system, mood, and appearance. Instead of just choosing foods that we crave or that are most convenient, we should be basing dietary decisions on what our bodies need.
Changing your eating habits is as simple as making smart substitutions and developing a healthier palate. It does not mean a drastic diet. To me, “dieting” has a negative and even depressing connotation (after all, the first three letters spell “die”). Dieting is more about deprivation and an unsustainable lifestyle aimed at quickly losing weight. It also distorts our relationship with food, which becomes the “enemy” rather than a positive life force that nurtures, protects and heals the body.
A more enduring approach is to create a way of eating that you can live with – for the rest of your life. Therefore, it’s important to know how to make smart food choices that work for you instead of against you, are simple to implement, and will make you look and feel better. The goal of a good diet is not to get model-thin and may not even be to lose weight at all. It is simply to eat foods that nourish your body in a positive way.
Certain vitamins and minerals are particularly beneficial for the hair and skin. It’s best to incorporate them into your diet in the form of whole foods. I also recommend daily supplements. Taking a multivitamin, for example, helps ensure that you are getting everything your body needs. However, it should be regarded as a supplement, rather than a substitute for nutritious foods.
Foods for healthy hair
Foods that contain vitamin B are essential for healthy hair growth. Biotin (B7) is found in eggs, milk, brewer’s yeast, peanuts, and almonds. Pantothenic acid (B5) is found in whole grains, legumes, and royal jelly. B12 is mostly contained in animal-based proteins, such as meat, fish, and dairy products, and can also be consumed by eating nutritional yeast. Folic acid (B9) is critical for cell division and maintenance. Its naturally occurring form is folate. Folate gets its name from the Latin word “folium,” which means leaf. Accordingly, it is found in green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, and swiss chard. Legumes and sunflower seeds are also good sources of folate. A deficiency in any of these B vitamins can be a contributing factor to hair loss.
Foods for Healthy Skin
Two types of nutrients primarily contribute to healthy skin: antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E, as well as beta-carotene (which is converted into vitamin A in the body) counteract free radical damage, strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect the skin from environmental damage that results in loss of collagen. Vitamin C also helps repair and regenerate tissue and build collagen. Sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit, goji berries, blueberries, as well as papaya and tomatoes. Vitamin E, which also helps to repair damaged tissue, is found in green, leafy vegetables, olive oil, broccoli, avocados, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
Minerals like selenium and zinc also have antioxidant properties. Selenium is found in such foods as Brazil nuts, button and shitake mushrooms, garlic, beef, and tuna. (Brazil nuts are particularly high in selenium, so one a day is plenty.) Zinc is another antioxidant mineral that promotes collagen synthesis. It also regulates oil production and boasts anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal acne. Zinc is found in oysters, beef, turkey, and such dairy products as milk, cheese and yogurt.
Essential fatty acids lubricate the skin (including the scalp, resulting in more lustrous, shiny hair) and reduce inflammation. Eating fish is the easier way to consume omega-3. If you do not eat fish, you can get omega-3 from fish oil, walnuts, soybeans, legumes, dark leafy greens, or hemp supplements. The best way to eat flaxseeds is to grind them yourself (in a coffee bean grinder reserved just for this purpose) and sprinkle them on top of yogurt, cereal, or salad, or blend them in a smoothie. In addition to their omega-3 content, they are a great source of fiber. Omega-6 is gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that is beneficial for dry skin and is found in plant-based oils such as borage oil, black currant seed oil, and evening primrose oil (all can be obtained in the form of supplements).
So take a look at the delicious, nutritious beauty foods below, which will benefit your skin, hair and overall health. Filled with essential nutrients such as omega-3, omega-6, omega 9, biotin, selenium, zinc, folate, beta-carotene, protein, minerals, and vitamins A, B, C and E, they can be found in most food markets and health food stores.
Beauty Superfoods Shopping List
Meat, Poultry, and Eggs: Pasture/grass-fed beef and lamb; free-range or organic chicken and turkey, chicken and duck eggs (duck eggs are especially high in nutrients).
Fish (caught in the wild, not farm-raised): Salmon, herring, rainbow trout, halibut, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, tuna, cod, crab, lobster, shrimp, and oysters.
Vegetables: Tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, escarole, carrots, beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and seaweed.
Fruits: All berries, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, papaya, melon, mangos, goji berries, and avocados.
Nuts and Seeds: Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds; sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
Other foods: Green tea, dark chocolate, and red wine are all high in antioxidants; wheat germ, legumes, tofu, whole grains, milk products like cheese and yogurt, olive oil, gingerroot, and garlic.
Eva Scrivo is the author of Eva Scrivo on Beauty: The Tools, Techniques, and Insider Knowledge Every Woman Needs To Be Her Most Beautiful, Confident Self. A celebrated hair and makeup artist, radio talk show host, and television personality, she owns a successful salon in New York City. Visit her at evascrivo.com
Copyright © 2011 by Eva Scrivo from EVA SCRIVO ON BEAUTY published by Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.