By Louisa Foo, in consultation with Charles Lew, Principal Dietitian.

The Goodness of A Balanced Diet

We all know the relationship between food and wellness. A balanced diet does more than keep you trim and prevent chronic conditions. It can also work wonders on the appearance of your skin, hair and nails. The even better news is that you do not even have to make special trips to the market for these ‘beautifying’ foods. They are (or should already be) part of your healthy shopping list.

Related: How To Eat Right To Feel Right

A Healthy Diet For Healthy Skin

Attain healthy skin with a healthy diet.

According to Charles Lew, Principal Dietitian, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, what you eat is reflected in the health of your skin, hair, nails and even teeth. In fact, these tissues, just like any living thing, need feeding. Your skin, for instance, is the biggest organ in the body. Its role is to protect you from the elements, regulate body temperature and transfer information to enable your sense of touch. Your nails and hair — made of keratin — also need adequate nutrition to prevent them from getting brittle or dry.

Nutrition for Hair and Nails

A balanced diet includes healthy fats that promote healthy hair growth.

The health of your hair and nails too can be affected if there are nutritional deficiencies. Mr Lew noted that in cases of alcoholism, anorexia nervosa, renal disease and gastric bypass, zinc deficiency is common, causing hair to become thin, white and brittle. Research also indicates that fatty acids can enrich the hair shaft and help maintain a good balance of natural oils in the scalp, keeping hair hydrated. And because hair is 97 per cent protein, an adequate amount of lean quality protein (from soy, meat and seafood) ensures your body has the building blocks to grow healthy hair.

Protect Your Teeth

Teas contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for the body.

What you eat and drink even benefits your teeth. Mr Lew pointed to a growing body of evidence on the beneficial role of green tea in oral health. “Green tea protects against bacteria-induced dental caries and bad breath because the phytochemicals in green tea have antibacterial properties.” Antioxidants in green tea can also reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by cigarette smoking, he added.

Related: Tooth Anatomy and Decay

Go Natural with Fruits and Vegetables

Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet to stay healthy.

A natural, healthy diet is often best. There is no need to take a supplement if your diet is nutritionally balanced. In fact, Mr Lew warned, “Excessive consumption of nutritional supplements can negatively affect health.” Instead, eat two servings each of fruits and vegetables daily to ensure a good dose of health-giving and beauty-imparting vitamin C and phytochemicals.

Opt for fruits such as citrus, papaya, pomegranate, and kiwi and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, chye sim and kai lan. To boost vitamin E intake, Mr Lew recommends a handful of oven-baked nuts a day. As for the minerals to boost healthy hair and nails, just ensure you eat the recommended three servings a day of meats, seafood, fish or legumes

One of the biggest concerns for many is skin damage and ageing due to sun exposure.

“Other than using sunscreen, you can improve your diet to boost the natural ultra-violet defences of your skin. Studies have demonstrated that increased consumption of vitamin C and E, as well as phytochemicals such as carotenoids and polyphenol, can help to reduce the adverse effects of sun exposure,” he pointed out.

Vitamin C is essential in helping the body produce collagen — an essential building block of skin that keeps it supple, while vitamin E keeps skin moist and guards against sun damage.

Phytochemicals, a group of compounds that give fruit and vegetables their vivid colour, also enhance the ability of the skin to fight free radicals that cause wrinkles, discolouration and loss of elasticity.

This article is first published in ONEHEALTH magazine, issue 6, 2015.

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