Written by Lisa Baker, Nutritionist at Nutra Organics
Contrary to what the beauty industry often bangs on about, good skin isn’t confined to fancy pants face creams, ridiculous treatments (bird poo geisha facial, anyone?), or even botox. Sure, some good quality and toxin free topical products or treatments can definitely help, but glowing, healthy and clear skin truly begins from within.
Skin, being the largest organ of the body, can be an excellent reflection of overall health and vitality. Hair and nails can also be a great indicator of your nutritional status, because when the body becomes stressed for nutrients, things like hair and nails are often the first to be affected, as the body prioritises more “vital” organs and tissues to nourish. To be looking your best on the outside, you have to be taking care of yourself from the inside! Beauty is definitely much more than skin deep.
It is really hard coming up with a list of the foods that are best for beauty, because there are so many! But some foods definitely pack more of a punch than others, so here is a list of 17 of our favourites, and why including them in your diet can help you achieve your beauty goals. So here they are! (And if you’re in the mood for a bit of a word hunt – try to count the number of times we mention “antioxidant/s” and “Vitamin C”… it will be a few!)
Red peppers are amazing! They are really easy to work with and can liven up any dull-looking meal. They are sweet and fibrous and contain 400% of your daily vitamin C requirements per 100g. Four. Hundred. Per cent! Vitamin C should be one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about nutrition for beauty. It is your skin’s best friend as it is essential for tissue repair, collagen synthesis and can act as an antioxidant. Capsicum is high fibre, low energy, and also contains nutrients such as Vitamin A, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, Potassium and Manganese – but it’s the epic levels of vitamin C that get capsicum it’s spot on this list.
So this is a whole group of foods, but there were too many amazing ones to put them on the list as individuals. Berries, in general, are super nutritionally dense, fibre-filled, energy light, and full of polyphenol antioxidants. Some of our favourites include Acai, Goji, Raspberries, Strawberries and Blueberries. Berries are the perfect snack, as they provide slow-releasing energy, taste amazing and a big handful won’t weigh you down. Berries are a particularly good source of vitamin C (strawberries win the vitamin C contest for berries by providing about 100% of your recommended daily intake per 100g). Goji berries are an amazing source of vitamin A, so amazing in fact, that you need to be really careful with how many you have – 1 tbsp of dried goji berries (28g) gives you about 300% of your RDI of vitamin A. Vitamin A assists with healthy skin production, acts as an antioxidant, is great for eye health and stimulates fibroblast activity (fibroblasts are the cells that build collagen fibres) – but too much vitamin A can cause toxicity.
Our C Berry Blast is an amazing, organic wholefood powder source of berries, and is an incredible source of both vitamin C and antioxidants! Although it's designed for kids tastebuds and to support their immunity, your skin will love you for it too.
Tomatoes are another low energy, high nutrient food. They are a great source of vitamin C, biotin and vitamin K. Biotin (also known as vitamin b7) is really good for helping the growth of hair and nails, and vitamin K is needed for wound healing. Another amazing component of tomatoes is a phytochemical called lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant and is able to help protect the skin from UV rays and damage.
The humble carrot doesn’t get enough attention these days! Carrots are a great source if vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), vitamin K, potassium, biotin, vitamin B6, fibre and antioxidants. We already know about the magical effects of vitamin A on the skin, but vitamin A is also needed for eye health. One of the other antioxidant compounds of carrots is a chemical called lutein, which is thought to protect the eye from blue light waves (which, thanks to technology, we get way more exposure to than we should). So take care of those windows to your soul with carrots!
5. Bone Broth
Bone broth provides a tonne of nutrients. It provides a dietary source of Hyaluronic Acid, which is something our body produces itself (in relatively small quantities) but it’s great to be able to supplement the diet with a bit more. Hyaluronic Acid has this amazing ability to bind 1000x its own weight in water. It sits within deeper layers of the skin keeping the skin hydrated and looking plump (which is why it is often used as an injectable too!). Bone broth also contains some collagen… but collagen deserves its own spot on this list so more on that soon!
Our dehydrated Bone Broth powders are a fantastic place to start if you are new to broths! Rather than boiling bones for 24 hours and stinking out your house, simply add hot water to our broth powders for instant nourishment and all the same benefits.
Time to thank your mum for always including a side of broccoli with dinner – because this food is an amazing one to have as a regular on your plate! It’s highly nutritious, containing a large amount of vitamin C, folate (B9), vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, manganese and potassium. It’s high fibre and has quite a high protein content for a vegetable. Broccoli also contains a range of antioxidants, so is also anti-inflammatory. Broccoli’s most studied antioxidant is a chemical called sulphoraphane – which has a huge number of health benefits, but has also been shown to improve oxygenation of the skin, promote hair and nail growth and assist the body with its natural detoxification processes.
7. Oily Fish
Oily fish (particularly think salmon, sardines and mackerel) are amazing for skin because of their high omega-3 content, which is protective and anti-inflammatory for skin. They also contain many other beneficial nutrients such as potassium, vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin E, and vitamin D. Oily fish help in the maintenance of our skin’s barrier function and keep skin calm and hydrated. A general rule for eating fish is to stick to smaller fish that are lower on the food chain. As you get higher up on the food chain, toxic heavy metals (particularly mercury) are present in higher concentrations, so are best avoided!
8. Red Wine
Red wine has to be included in this list because the French know beauty, and no one ever gets tired of hearing that a bit of wine is actually good for you (you’re welcome!). A moderate intake of red wine has been repeatedly shown to be associated with a range of health benefits compared to people who abstain completely. Red wine has high levels of a phytochemical called resveratrol (and other beneficial antioxidants such as catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins) which are anti-inflammatory and help to protect the body from oxidative damage and slow the signs of aging. The words of warning that need to go with this “beauty food” is that there is a fine line between a healthy amount and an excessive amount – more is definitely not better! Another thing to look for is that some wine contains high levels of sulphites (used as a preservative) and sulphites are pro-inflammatory, often aggravating facial flushing, eczema, dermatitis and other skin conditions – so not such a great beauty food in those situations!
This delicious miracle of nature is another great food for skin! It’s high in monounsaturated fats (which are really healthy and great for skin barrier function), and avocados are also a source of the fat-soluble vitamins E, K and A. Eat the avocado, put the avocado on your face… whatever you do with it, your skin will love it!
10. Vinegar and fermented foods/drinks
Vinegar, as well as lots of other fermented products (think kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha etc), are super healthy and are really beneficial for skin. They are able to help with a healthy gut microbiome (which affects EVERYTHING – your bodies detoxification process, the way we absorb and utilise nutrients, our immunity… just everything!). Acetic acid (which is formed from the fermentation process) is great for managing blood sugar levels and fighting infection making at an amazing ally for keeping skin clear and vibrant.
Seeds are generally super nutritious! After all, they have to grow from a teeny tiny spec into a full-on plant which looks like a big job! Seeds tend to contain healthy fats (including our beloved omegas), and heaps of vitamins and minerals. Some of our favourites include Chia, Linseeds, Pepitas, and Hemp. Hemp is extra special because it is one of the rare plant sources that are a complete protein that provides all of your essential amino acids. Protein is definitely important for any beauty routine – as fibres that make up the structure of our skin are protein-based, and consuming adequate protein also helps to maintain and build more lean muscle.
Collagen is an amazing food to supplement the diet with. Collagen fibres make up a huge part of the skin matrix and as we age, these fibres break down at a rate faster than we can repair/rebuild them. By including collagen in your diet, you are providing your body with exactly what it needs to build its own collagen – makes sense! Studies have demonstrated that supplementing a healthy diet with collagen can reduce wrinkles and improve hydration and elasticity, and our Collagen Beauty has been clinically proven to do all of this, plus support healthy hair and nails. So we think it’s an absolute hero for skin and can’t recommend it enough!
Spinach is a great food for beauty for many reasons. Its rich in folate (essential for healthy cell growth), high in fibre (great for healthy bowels and waste elimination as well as keeping blood sugars stable), and high in iron! Iron is my main focus for this one because it’s essential for oxygen transport in the blood, and healthy oxygen transport in blood means oxygen being delivered to tissues such as skin, hair nails (and everything else, but these are our focus for today), and healthy growth and metabolism can occur. So a good iron intake is great for our beauty routines! Something important to note when we are dealing with plant sources of iron – it’s much less absorbable than the “haem-iron” that is found in meat. To get the most out of your plant sources of iron, combine it with lemon juice or something with a high citric acid content to turn the non-absorbable ferric iron (Fe3+) into the absorbable ferrous iron (Fe2+).
14. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are your best bet for including natural selenium in your diet! Selenium is an essential trace mineral (so you need to include it in your diet, but just in small quantities). It’s particularly great for hair and nail growth, can act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Selenium is also an essential component of selenoproteins – studies haven’t exactly confirmed what these proteins do in our bodies but deficiencies in selenium and/or problems with selenoproteins are associated with a variety of diseases. Taking selenium supplements can be a bit of a gamble, because although not enough selenium is a problem, too much can be toxic. So to find that sweet spot where selenium is present in high enough quantities to get hair and nails growing thick, strong and shiny without poisoning yourself, just eat a couple of brazil nuts each day. Too easy! Brazil nuts also contain magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and a great dose of vitamin E, so they definitely deserve to be on this list!
15. Herbs & Spices
There are a number of amazing herbs and spices out there that don’t just serve to make our food taste better – but also provide powerful antioxidants, fight infection and are anti-inflammatory. Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and garlic are a few of our all-time favourites. They are so easy to include in your meals, and they bring the flavour and health benefits of your dish to the next level!
16. Dark Chocolate
Cacao, and dark chocolate (as in over 70% cocoa – not the milky sugary stuff) is really nutritious and is great for your general health as well as great for glowing skin. Dark chocolate is a good source of iron, magnesium, copper and manganese, and also contain some Zinc, phosphorus and selenium but its main superpower is the huge amount of antioxidants it contains. It’s full of polyphenols, flavanols and catechins (all different types of antioxidants) and studies have found that cocoa and dark chocolate are even more effective at neutralising free radicals than many superfruits and berries (including blueberries and acai). Cacao’s amazing antioxidant profile helps to protect your skin from the sun and prevent UV damage, as well as improving circulation, which encourages new skin growth, repair, hydration and gives your skin a healthy glow.
So Brazil nuts have already had a special mention, but let’s not forget about the other nuts! In general, nuts are a great source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals which will help to soothe, protect and restore skin. They make convenient snacks so are such an easy way to boost your nutritional intake for the day. A few of our favourites are Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios and Walnuts. Our one word of caution, however, is to watch the portion sizes when it comes to nuts. They are energy-dense, so a little goes a long way. It’s really easy to overdo the energy intake if you have a whole bowl next to you to pick at all day.
A few not-so-beauty-friendly foods:
1. Spicy food
This is just a word of caution for people who react a bit to spicy food. Not everyone has to start giving up their curries, BUT if you are someone who has skin that flushes quite easily, spicy food can aggravate this and lead to broken capillaries and even rosacea over time. So just be careful!
Sorry team, we had to put this one on the naughty list. As we already know, alcohol dehydrates us and causes inflammation when consumed in excessive amounts (and unfortunately, anything more than 2 glasses of wine is “excessive” when it comes to health). If consumed regularly, the dehydration and inflammation can lead to accelerated ageing, broken capillaries and dull lacklustre skin. Another fact about alcohol is that, because it’s a vasodilator (keeps blood vessels open) and a blood thinner, even little bumps can cause bruising!
Sulphites are added into LOTS of food as a preservative including processed foods, cured meats, wines, dried fruits, and many more so read labels carefully! They can cause lots of different reactions, like aggravating asthma, autoimmune issues, rashes and occasionally full-scale allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.
4. High sugar
A diet high in refined sugar causes blood sugars to spike, which can lead to inflammation and lots of skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and premature ageing.
5. Trans Fats
Trans fats aren’t found in nature, they are a result of overheating unsaturated fats, or food companies deliberately putting unsaturated fats through a process called “hydrogenation” which is used to make unsaturated fats become solid and/or stop them from going rancid. This unnatural form of fat causes inflammation in the body and is associated with lots of negative health effects.
6. High Soy
Not everyone needs to avoid soy – but it’s on this list for those that it does apply to. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which in some people can cause hormonal disruptions and lead to breakouts. If you find you are someone who suffers from hormonal breakouts, and who likes soy products, it could be worth your while to remove soy from your diet temporarily and see if it helps.
Again, not everyone needs to swear off dairy, but if you’re suffering from acne, skin flushing, rosacea or general inflammation, dairy might be a contributing factor! Dairy can be pro-inflammatory and cause an increase in mucus production.
And there you have it! As you can see, there are so many different nutrients that are needed in your diet to support beautiful skin, hair and nails. As always, a balanced diet high in a wide variety of colourful, natural, organic foods is always best, and we hope this list will help inspire you to include more healthy foods in your diet!