Eat Your Way to Beauty

The building blocks to a super glam you

by Alex Sheffield | Sun, October 09, 2016

No matter how hard you try in the makeup or fashion department, there’s only one sure way to look beautiful: from the inside out. Great food rejuvenates and repairs the body, proving that a healthy diet really does benefit our beauty regime. Our shampoo, lotions and potions can only do so much – the rest has to come from within.


The good news: eating your way to beauty doesn’t have to be boring or bland. What's that? Eat delicious things to look great? Go on then, if we must.


Good Hair Day

Some people naturally grow longer locks while others shed more hair; that’s nature’s way of making us unique. Hair growth cycles vary from person to person, but the average is around 5-6 inches per year (approximately 0.5 millimeter per day). However, stress, diet and lifestyle choices have an impact on this, so if your crop has lost its mojo, it’s time to nurture it back to life. 



The hair itself is made primarily from keratin, a protein found in skin and also nails. Although keratin isn’t found directly in food, eating certain items can help increase production of the protein. Try incorporating protein-rich foods into your diet, such as: chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy products, fish, nuts and legumes. Adults should eat 2-3 servings of these foods each day to make a difference. 


If your hair is brittle, you could be lacking biotin, a water-soluble B vitamin, which could also result in hair loss. Boost your intake with: whole grains, yeast, egg yolk and liver. Meanwhile, Omega-3 fish oil helps the growth of hair follicles (the sac in the scalp where hair is produced).


Iron- and Vitamin C-rich foods are vital to promoting strong blood flow and antioxidant levels. A lack of iron could result in hair loss, while low levels of Vitamin C reduces collagen production, affecting hair texture, thickness and growth. Red meat, chicken, fish lentils, spinach, broccoli, kale and other leafy greens are perfect to up your iron intake, while blueberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, citrus fruits and papaya are packed with Vitamin C. 


TCM tip: “Foods which can strengthen our kidney or lung function naturally strengthen our hair,” says Dr Anna Liu, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Doctor at ParkwayHealth (Hongqiao). Try eating black sesame, walnuts, black and white beans, peanuts, pine nuts, Chinese wolf berry and chestnuts.


Nailed It 

Split, weak, discolored or brittle nails can be a real downer. Nail varnish might temporarily mask these issues, but it won’t solve the problem; in fact, constant use will make the problem worse.


Nails are made from the same protein as our hair – keratin – but if you are having issues, you might also have a deficiency in other vitamins or minerals. Eating the aforementioned foods that strengthen hair is a great start, but also increase your vitamin and mineral intake by stocking up on fruit and veggies. Dried apricots are good for Vitamin A, kiwi or citrus fruits for Vitamin C and bananas for B6.


Kimberly Ashton, Wellness Coach and Food Educator at Sprout Lifestyle, also recommends eating calcium-rich foods such as sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. 


TCM tip: Nails can be soft, thin or deformed if the liver blood is insufficient. “TCM believes that nails are the extensions of the tendons,” explains Dr Liu. “The nails, like the tendons, depend on liver blood to nourish.” Dr Liu recommends pumpkin, carrots, tomato and yogurt to help build healthy nails. Dr Catherine Du, TCM and Acupuncture specialist at Body & Soul (Pudong), also suggests spinach, beetroot, dates, pig’s liver and Chinese wolf berry.


Pearly Whites 

Keep your mouth clean by brushing teeth regularly, and try foods that will naturally cleanse the mouth after eating (apples are great for this). Black tea and coffee can stain, so opt for chamomile, rose, green or mint tea as an alternative, says Dr Du.


Strawberries work wonders for naturally cleaning teeth due to their acid content. Try mashing up a large strawberry with a little baking soda for a natural paste; leave it on your teeth for five minutes before cleaning with your regular toothpaste. Calcium-rich foods like milk and yogurt also strengthen and whiten teeth by promoting healthy enamel. 



Fresh breath starts from deep within. As Ashton explains, “If you have an over-acidic digestive tract with undigested food, then you get bad breath.” Though vegetables can be a superfood, some people have difficulty digesting them raw because they contain so much fiber. Steaming is a good way to reduce these effects while still locking in nutrients.


Other great foods to keep your digestive system healthy are: zucchini (high water content and fiber in the skin), bananas (packed with electrolytes and potassium, and great if you have diarrhea) and papaya (helps to break down proteins and dissolve fats). 


TCM tip: “Teeth are the extension of the bones” and require our kidneys to be fit and strong, says Dr Liu. For this, try eating the same recommended “dark foods” listed under healthy hair. Dr Du also highlights how important the spleen is for “digesting food, extracting and processing the good essence into healthy blood and qi.” Keep your spleen happy with foods like yam, turnip, water chestnuts, barley, wheat and brown rice.


Good to Know

Foods to avoid include:

Mercury-rich fish: Mercury found in sushi, swordfish and some varieties of tuna may disrupt protein development.

Sugar: Candies and processed food will increase your blood sugar level, causing the body to produce more insulin. This triggers androgen, a male hormone thought to shrink the hair follicle in men and women.

White bread, pastas and cakes: Like sugar, hydrogenated fats can cause thinning hair and brittle nails. They settle in the arteries, affecting blood flow and circulation – definitely not good for the qi.  

Feeling inspired and fancy making some homemade beauty products? Environmentally friendly, these recipes are perfect for pocket and your face.