“You are what you eat.” How many times have you heard your mother say that? As kids, we’re often told to eat our vegetables to grow big and strong, or drink our milk to build healthy teeth. But good nutrition doesn’t just make you healthy on the inside -- it can affect how you look on the outside as well.
Three key factors in your appearance are the health of your hair, your skin, and your nails. Is your hair bouncy and shiny? Are your nails strong? Does your skin glow? Because all three things share a common building block -- a protein called keratin -- it’s not surprising that if one looks bad, they all probably do.
To benefit your overall health, there are some foods you should eat, and some you should avoid. Check these examples of foods to eat and foods to avoid:
Excess sugary foods and processed carbs. Many of today's processed foods contain these ingredients which, in excess, have been linked to increased risk for weight gain, and age-related health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Skip the processed carbohydrates, like white flour and white rice, and limit the empty calories from sugar. Look for healthier carbohydrate sources, like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Bad fats vs. good fats. Your body needs a certain amount of fats to maintain proper body functions, store extra calories, and to help insulate the body. Fats also contribute to the health of your skin and hair by helping your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. But not all fats are created equal. Some fats, like the "good" unsaturated fats found in olive and canola oil, fish oil, safflower, corn, and soybean oil, are healthier for you than the "bad" fats found in saturated and trans fats.
Saturated fats. These are fats that are often found in animal-based foods like fatty meats, butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, and cream. Vegetable oils such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil also contain saturated fats. Saturated fats may promote inflammation in your body -- a key factor in aging and heart disease.
Trans fats (trans fatty acids). Trans fats may also contribute to inflammation in your body, which contributes to heart disease. These unhealthy fats should be kept to less than 1% of your daily diet, advises the American Heart Association. To lower your intake, avoid foods containing or prepared with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or solid fats made from liquid oils through a process called hydrogenation. Fried fast foods, vegetable shortening, margarine, baked goods, and microwave popcorn are common sources of trans fats for many Americans, so read food labels, and ask questions when dining out.
Instead, eating a diet that’s rich in these nutrients may help hair, skin, and nail health: