You are what you eat -- even when it comes to your hair and skin. While you might be more concerned with how your eating affects your waistline, don't neglect your hair and skin when choosing the foods you eat. Incorporating certain nutritious options into your diet can help you grow and maintain lustrous hair and supple skin.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, play a vital role in healthy skin function. Omega-3s help protect your skin from sun damage as well as the effects of aging, including wrinkling and loss of elasticity. Essential fatty acids also affect wound healing and reduce chronic inflammation. Foods rich in essential fatty acids include salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, fish oil, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds.
Zinc and Iron
If you find your hair or skin flaking or dry, a lack of zinc might be to blame. Both iron and zinc help hair follicles grow, and a deficiency in either mineral might result in hair loss or thin, dull hair. Zinc also reportedly has a positive effect on acne and psoriasis, according to the International Zinc Association. Lean red meat is rich in both zinc and iron; other sources of zinc include oysters, nuts and poultry. Healthy food sources of iron include turkey, egg yolk, whole grains and dried beans.
Vitamins C and A
You take vitamin C to stave off the common cold, but this vitamin also has perks for your skin. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that vitamin C might help prevent and treat ultraviolent-induced photodamage and signs of aging as it regulates the synthesis of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a role in wound healing and preventing dry skin. Both vitamins C and A produce sebum, a scalp oil that naturally moisturizes your hair; vitamin A also helps protect dry and dull hair. Find both vitamins in dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard. Look for vitamin C in citrus and kiwi, and vitamin A in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, asparagus and pumpkin.
Protein and Biotin
Each hair shaft gets its strength from carefully arranged protein fibers, and you need quality protein in your diet for healthy hair. Without enough protein, your locks won’t grow quickly, nor will the strands be strong. U.S. News & World Report recommends eating a small dose of protein at each meal and snack to keep hair follicles strong. Protein also promotes cell growth and repair, which is beneficial for your skin. Healthy lean protein options include poultry, beef, fish, beans and nuts. Don’t overlook eggs, which are a source of protein as well as biotin, a B vitamin that keeps your scalp healthy and your strands from being brittle. Biotin is also in peanuts, almonds, salmon and avocados.