Shiny hair and strong nails. They’re qualities many of us strive for, but hair masks and nail serums can only do so much.
Enter the main factors fundamental to healthy hair and nails -- overall health and diet.
And some foods in particular can have a dramatic positive effect in helping us glow from the inside out.
"One thing that is important is protein because it is the building block for all cells,” Simone Austin, accredited practising dietitian and DAA spokeswoman told The Huffington Post Australia.
“Lean protein sources like meat, chicken, fish and eggs,” Austin said.
Other great sources of protein include legumes, tofu, dairy, soy, nuts and seeds.
The body needs zinc for building new connective tissue, so eating foods rich in zinc can help maintain healthy locks and nails.
“Zinc is a mineral that promotes cell growth and repair -- obviously your hair and nails need that,” Austin said.
Zinc is in lean meats, seafood, oysters, nuts (particularly cashews) and your whole grains as well.
“Another important thing for healthy hair and nails is essential fatty acids, so good fats -- monounsaturated fats like avocado and olive oil, and fish for omega-3s,” Austin said.
Essential fatty acids can also be found in eggs, flaxseed and walnuts.
“Yogurt is really good because of the probiotics,” Austin said.
“Probiotics are good for your whole immune system and general health. Yogurt is a good source of protein as well.”
So while eating yogurt may not directly affect your hair and nails, the probiotic content can assist in immune system function and, as a result, have a positive effect on them.
“If your whole immune system is functioning well, that helps you glow from the inside -- and your hair and nails tend to be reflective of that,” Austin said.
“Your green leafy vegetables contain iron which is important,” Austin said.
Aside from iron, leafy greens also contain vitamin A, C, E and antioxidants which can all have a positive effect on hair and nails.
Look for greens like spinach, watercress, kale, broccoli, bok choy, collards and cabbage.
“These are all probably your main ones for healthy hair and nails, but also make sure you’ve got no vitamin deficiencies,” Austin said.
"If you have an iron deficiency, if it’s quite bad it can affect your hair and nails. Same with zinc -- if you have a severe deficiency. So you would need a blood test to see if it was that and then treat it," Austin said.
While a diet rich in vegetables, lean protein and zinc is important to healthy hair and nails, there are two other crucial factors.
“Diet is part of it, of course, but it's also getting enough sleep and relaxing,” Austin said.
In fact, stress has been shown to result in thinning and loss of hair, as well as brittle, peeling nails.
If that's not a reason to take a long bath while snacking on yogurt and nuts, we don't know what is.
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