Welcome to the Beautiful Health Series Part 1: The Basics. After taking a course on diet and nutrition and doing some research on my own, the following is what I’ve learned about how what you eat can affect, not only your health, but also your skin, hair, and nails. Eating well can produce soft and glowing skin, healthy hair, and strong, growing nails. To get started, here is a brief background on how eating affects your inner beauty.
There are three macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. Getting enough of each of these three macronutrients is essential because they provide energy and aid in muscle health and immune function; they are all necessary.
Carbs are the most common form of energy for the body and are used up the fastest. They can be found in grains, potatoes, dairy, and anything with sugar. Carbs are the basic source of energy and are also useful for the central nervous system, kidneys, brain, muscles, heart, and intestines. Carbs can be broken down into two types: simple and complex.
Simple carbs are various forms of sugar (table sugar, glucose, and sucrose). They are often found in store-bought foods as additives, sweeteners or preservatives. They can also be found in fruits, some vegetables, dairy products, honey, and maple syrup. Simple carbs are quickly digested, so you get a lot of energy when you eat them but they are more likely than complex carbs to be converted to fat if you don’t use them up.
Complex carbs are made up of a string of simple carbs so the body takes longer to break them down. Complex carbs provide energy more slowly and are less likely to be converted into fat. They can be found in beans, corn, potatoes, bread, pasta, and grain products like cereal or quinoa.
Proteins consist of amino acids that are difficult for your body to break down, which means longer lasting energy than when you consume carbs or fats. While there are 20 types of amino acids, it turns out women only need four types, which can be found in dairy, some vegetables, red meat, beans, legumes, nuts, fish, and poultry. It is a good idea to eat a variety of these foods. If you rarely exercise, your body will convert amino acids into fats to store for later, which causes weight gain.
Proteins also help to encourage hormone production, muscle growth, tissue repair, and immune function.
Fats contain the most calories (more than 2X other macronutrients) and can be really healthy for your due to the energy it provides. If you eat large amounts of fat, your body will store it and you will gain weight. Fats can be categorized into two types, healthy and unhealthy.
- Trans Fats
- Saturated Fats
Trans fats and Saturated fats can be found in dairy, meat, and poultry. The USDA suggests that you consume as few unhealthy fats as possible, about 10% or less of your daily dietary consumption.
- Monounsaturated fat
- Polyunsaturated fat
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-6 fatty acids
Healthy fats are found in fish, vegetables, and vegetable oils. You can eat up to 30% of your daily calorie intake from these types of fats. Certain healthy fats can positively affect your cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease and help stabilize blood sugar.
The USDA’s MyPlate suggests that women 19-30 eat the following each day:
- 2 cups of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or 1 cup of dried fruit
- A minimum of 3 oz of whole grains
- 2 ½ cups of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 5 cups of raw leafy greens
- 3 cups of milk, yogurt, or soymilk (soy beverage), 4 ½ oz of natural cheese, or 6 ounces of processed cheese
- 5 ½ oz of meat, poultry or fish, 1 3/8 cups cooked beans, 5 ½ eggs, 5 ½ tablespoons of peanut butter, or 2 ¾ oz of nuts or seeds
But who even follows these rules, let alone, can remember them? Here are some basic pointers when you don’t feel like measuring out everything you eat because, really, who has the time?
- Drink, an average of 8 glasses of water or more per day
- Eat nutrient-rich foods rather than counting calories
- Eat more in the morning and less before you go to bed for better digestion
- Keep alcohol and sugary drinks to a minimum
- Eat your vegetables, leafy greens, and fruits
Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are another large part of your daily diet. Consuming too much or too little will make you sick. Below are some health benefits you can get from a few vitamins and minerals.
A – Essential for your eyes, tissue growth and repair, and your immune system. Vitamin A rich foods include kale, spinach, persimmons, bell peppers, and eggs.
B1 – Essential for processing carbs and amino acids to turn them into energy. It can be found in foods such as wheat germ, pork, whole grains, beans, and peas.
B3 – Affects your metabolism, energy, the processing of carbs and fats, DNA repair and blood circulation. It can be found in meat, fish, grains, beans, peas, and nuts.
B5 – Essential for utilizing vitamins, converting nutrients into energy and producing essential enzymes and hormones in the body. It can be found in meat, legumes, whole grain cereals, avocado and sweet potato.
B6 – Useful in processing carbs and fats, red blood cell formation, cardiovascular health and the formation of antibodies and neurotransmitters. It can be found in fish, poultry, red meat, grains, potatoes, and spinach.
B12 – Helps convert fats and proteins into energy, helps with nervous system functions, the formation of blood cells and cardiovascular health. It is found in lean beef, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and clams.
Folic Acid – Helps with the processing of proteins, red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis and cell division and growth. It is found in green, leafy vegetables, dried beans, oranges, pasta, and rice.
D – Essential to bone health and mineral balance, which affects happiness. People who don’t get enough can develop something similar to S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) since vitamin D deficiency can cause depression and anxiety. Vitamin D is also essential for bone/tooth formation and immune functions. You can get Vitamin D from sunlight, dairy, eggs, salmon, sardines, and supplements.
Vitamin K – Helps with wound healing, bone development, and blood clotting. It is found in greens, leafy vegetables, olive oil, and soybeans.
Calcium – Essential to bone health, teeth formation and strength, and the regulation of your heartbeat, muscle action, nerve function and blood clotting. It is found in dairy products, red beans, spinach, broccoli, rhubarb, kale and other vegetables. Some doctors recommend taking a calcium supplement if you do not eat and drink dairy.
Chromium – Helps to turn glucose into an energy source, increases the effectiveness of insulin and metabolizes fat. It can be found in peas, whole grains, beans, and broccoli.
Copper – Essential for the formation of red blood cells, bone health, iron metabolism, the normal function of the nervous system and antioxidant activity. It can be found in shellfish, nuts, seeds, cocoa and whole grains.
Iodine – Regulates the thyroid function, which can help to control your weight. It is found in iodized salt, cow’s milk, cod, shrimp, and potatoes.
Iron – Essential for the production of red blood cells, which supply and transport oxygen, DNA synthesis, and antioxidant activity. It is found in red meat, poultry, fish, liver, beans, milk, and potatoes.
Magnesium – Helps with enzyme activation, nerve and muscle function, bone structure support, and energy production. It can be found in nuts, beans, bran, spinach, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and bananas.
Manganese – Aids in wound healing, growth and development, metabolism of carb, amino acids, and cholesterol, and anti-oxidant activity. It can be found in nuts, whole grains, tea, coffee, bran, legumes, and pineapple.
Phosphorus – Useful for energy production, bone structure, energy storage, and the production of fat. It can be found in dairy, meat, fish, eggs, beans, and whole grains.
Potassium – Affects fluid balance, heart activity, normal body function, muscle contractions, and the nervous system. It can be found in potatoes, soybeans, bananas, tomato juice, and apricots. It is also useful for reducing muscle aches.
Sodium – Helps to regulate and maintain blood pressure, the transmission of nerve pulses, and helps with nerve function and heart activity. It can be found in anything with salts like canned soups, table salt, or bacon.
As I’ve mentioned before, you should include a large number of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake can make your skin glow by replacing antioxidants. On the other hand, minimizing the amount of sugar and alcohol you consume can help clear your skin.
Enough fiber and macronutrients are also important since healthy fats play a huge part in the health of your hair, teeth, nails, skin, and eyes. Fats provide hydration to the hair and skin, plump your lips and skin, and they protect your organs. Over time, fats also help to protect your skin from signs of aging, help with PMS symptoms, and can increase the rate at which your metabolism burns fat.
Reduce your intake of simple carbs since, in large amounts, they can increase your blood sugar causing red spots, acne, and inflammation. Although the USDA recommends that you get 35-65% of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates, choose whole grains, foods with less sugar and other complex carbs.
We know that vitamins and minerals are essential for your inner health, but they can also improve your outer beauty. For example, someone who gets a lot of antioxidants and minerals may have shinier hair, stronger teeth, stronger bones, more energy, clearer and fresher looking skin. Older people may eventually begin to look younger as antioxidants can increase elasticity and fight free radicals that cause aging. Below are some vitamins and minerals that have a positive effect on your beauty.
B2 – B2 is important for processing carbs, proteins, and fats. It is essential for cell respiration/maintenance and anti-oxidant activity, which aids in keeping your skin healthy. It can be found in over the counter multivitamins or spinach, dairy products, legumes, beef, almonds, salmon, and eggs.
Biotin /B7 – Affects hair and nail strength/growth and the processing of fats and amino acids. It also helps maintain blood sugar levels and helps the body produce fatty acids. It can be found in eggs, meat, bran, cheese, and avocado.
C – Contains immune boosting properties and helps with wound healing, antioxidant activity, collagen maintenance (which affects the elasticity of your skin) and improves the health of your blood vessels and gums. It can be found in citrus, tomatoes, peppers, melons, berries, and broccoli.
E – Works to fight free radicals and can be found in wheat germ, nuts, whole grains, vegetable and nut oils, and dark green vegetables.
Fluoride – Small amounts of fluoride positively affect the teeth and bones (strengthening and preventing decay), but large amounts can stain the teeth. If your area does not already add fluoride to the water, it can be found in toothpaste, seafood, tea, and grape juice.
Molybdenum – Processes biological reactions and drugs that have sulfur, toxins, and amino acids, helping to keep your skin clear if you take supplements or medications. It can be found in beans, lentils, peas, grain, and nuts.
Selenium – Boosts anti-oxidant activity, which fights free radicals (keeping your skin healthy) and helps to regulate the thyroid hormone, which can help to control your weight. It can be found in cereals (corn and wheat), Brazil nuts, walnuts, pork, poultry, eggs, shrimp, and halibut.
Zinc – Affects immune system, healing, development, hair growth, taste/smell sensitivity, DNA synthesis, and the production of more than 100 enzymes in the body. It is best absorbed through eating oysters, beef, turkey, cashews, lean meats, low-fat dairy.
It is almost always better to get your vitamins and minerals from foods rather than supplements, not only because you also get fiber, fats, and other essential nutrients, but also because your body can digest and use it more easily. Most of us only absorb a very small amount of a vitamin pill, so we may still be getting less than the recommended dose.
Now that you know the basics, check out the next article in the series.
How has this post helped you? Are you on your way to changing your diet? Leave a comment.