Are You Really What You Eat? An Expert Weighs in

Beauty, from the inside out.

By Lisa Kasanicky

Ah yes, the proverbial “you are what you eat.” We’ve heard it time and again. The essence of the theory, however, gets a little fuzzy when you start to think about it. Down a ton of veggies and look like a giant head of broccoli? Not so attractive. Fill up on Little Debbie snack cakes and look like a cute little freckled girl in a hat too small for her head? Adorable!

Brilliant marketing aside, you see my point. But what if making even the most minor tweaks to your daily diet could manifest in better skin, hair and overall natural beauty? Back away from the snack cake and read on, because according to nutritional experts, beauty really does come from within.

Vibrant Skin

You’ve seen her: the gal with the creamy clear skin who doesn’t wear a stitch of makeup. She’s doing something right and that likely has to do with what’s on her dinner plate. “What we eat directly affects our health from the cellular level to the outer layer of our skin,” says nutritionist Karen Janusz.

An AASDN-certified nutrition specialist for the Golden Door Spa at The Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz., Janusz advocates regular exercise and eating foods rich in natural antioxidants and vitamins for healthy looking skin. “Poor skin tone is a result of several factors including poor circulation, oxygen deprivation, dehydration and shrunken skin tissues from lack of fatty acids and muscle tone,” she explains. When dermal cells are undernourished and become overloaded with toxins, not only does skin appear lackluster and dull, but it ages faster.

What to eat: Wild salmon (essential fatty acids and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10), carrots (beta carotene and loads of Vitamin A), colorful berries and fruits such as blueberries and red peppers (high antioxidants and vitamins), olive oil (hydration) and green tea (anti-inflammatory).

Healthy Hair and Nails

Because our hair and nails are composed almost entirely of protein, a deficiency in protein intake can directly impact their appearance. The good news is that you can reverse the effects simply by pumping up your intake of lean protein, along with a few other key nutrients like calcium and B vitamins.

A lack of protein and essential minerals in your diet can manifest as dull, thinning hair, while nails can become dry, brittle and thin. Janusz says other telltale signs of undernourishment are hair color and texture changes and the appearance of opaque white bands on nails. “An iron deficiency can disturb the growth of the nails, causing dryness, brittleness, thinning, flattening and eventually the appearance of spoon-shaped nails,” she adds.

What to eat: Dark green vegetables like Swiss chard and broccoli (vitamins A and C and iron), poultry and eggs (lean protein), whole grains (zinc, iron and B vitamins), low or non-fat dairy products (calcium) and nuts (omega-3 fatty acids).

Overall Glow

To maintain a vibrant, healthy glow to your skin, hair and nails, Janusz gave us these final tips.

  • Hydrate: Shoot for eight to 10 glasses of pure water daily to flush toxins from the body and keep cells hydrated.
  • Get your Zzz’s: Studies show that our bodies need eight hours of sleep to allow REM cycles to complete and that less than seven hours reduces tissue repair and other benefits gained through sleep.
  • Eat your veggies: Color your day with eight to 10 servings of fresh vegetables and fruit. Orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of antioxidants, which fight the free-radical skin damage from the sun, pollution, smoke and other toxins.
  • Supplement when necessary: Ideally we should get our vitamins and minerals from food, but if you aren’t able to consume all the healthiest foods on a daily basis, Janusz recommends a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement along with fish oil, evening primrose oil, and C and B vitamin supplements.
  • Cut out the junk: Avoid fried foods, soft drinks, chocolate, junk food and animal fat.

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