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How eating right helps me keep my hair and skin healthy

Unfortunately, the weather conditions this time of year wreak havoc on the things we try to maintain all year long. From biting winds, dropping temperatures, hot showers and dry air from indoor heat, you guessed it, winter is upon us, and the living isn’t easy for our hair and skin. This year I decided to get a jump-start on preventing winter damage by doing one of the simplest things of all: eating. That’s right, everyone, simply by eating the right foods you can keep your hair, skin and nails healthy all season long!

More: 6 simple ways to get more veggies in your diet

I know you are dying to know what these awesome foods are, so I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 that help keep our hair and skin healthy.

For healthy hair

1. Lentils

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved different kinds of lentil soup. Little did I know these tiny beans are actually excellent for hair health! Perhaps that’s why even through all the dye jobs and stress I’ve put my hair through, it has stayed vibrant and luscious. How do I fit them into my diet? There are loads of soups that call for the use of lentils, but my two favorites are this classic lentil stew with ham and greens, as well as this delicious vegetarian lentil soup. Both are perfect for either lunch or dinner on a cold winter day.

I’m sure your next question is how and why do lentils help your hair? Lentils help your hair grow because they are very high in amino acids, compounds that can combine to produce protein, which is necessary for hair growth. That’s also why they’re such a great option for vegetarians! If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your body has trouble making keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. Without enough keratin, hair grows much more slowly, and when it does grow, the strands will be weaker. Everyone knows that can lead to thinning and even hair loss.

2. Lean Poultry

I don’t want that vegetarian soup to fool you — while I do love veggies and beans, I am definitely a carnivore. Other than seafood, my favorite way to get protein in my diet is by eating some deliciously seasoned grilled chicken or roasted turkey. Don’t get me wrong. Of course you can still get vital nutrients from other meats such as beef or pork, but the reason I’ve suggested poultry — and why is it one of my favorites — is because it contains less saturated fat. I know when a lot of us think about poultry, the first thing that comes to mind is grilled chicken, and though that’s good every once in a while, eating it daily can get pretty boring. However, grilled chicken isn’t the only way to squeeze lean poultry into your diet! If you want, try this tasty crispy chicken cutlets with butter-chive pasta for dinner one night! If you’re feeling more adventurous, this Hawaiian turkey burger with pineapple-papaya sauce is great for a Sunday lunch!

So, how does it help? Much like lentils, lean poultry has all the essential amino acids and protein that help our bodies produce keratin. As we know, keratin is very important to healthy hair. Without it, your hair can become brittle, which leads to breakage and split ends.

3. Oysters

Mmmm, my favorite! My love of oysters first began back when I was 19 and took my first ever trip down to New Orleans. I know not everyone likes seafood, but in my opinion if you want to start broadening your food horizons into the shellfish realm, oysters are the best place to start! (Also, if you like other shellfish such as shrimp or clams but have never tried oysters, chances are you’ll like them.) If the Big Easy taught me one thing, it’s that oysters are not only delicious but there are so many ways to prepare and enjoy them. They have been one of my go-to meals over the years — I eat them at least twice a week. So, what are some ways to enjoy oysters? One of my favorite dishes is oysters Rockefeller. You can find loads of other recipes all over the web. A good place to start would have to be Southern Living, where they have seven classic oyster recipes.

Why are oysters good for your hair? They contain high levels of zinc, which has been linked to helping hair growth as well as a deficiency in the element leading to hair loss. Low levels of zinc can cause dandruff, slow growth and hair loss — even in your eyelashes. Zinc helps keep the follicles that build your hair working properly. If you eat plenty of zinc-rich foods such as oysters, clams and crab, it’s a sure way to keep your tresses gorgeous. (Other good sources for those of you who do not like seafood are most nuts and seeds, yogurt and cheese.)

4. Sweet Potatoes

As a child, I never liked sweet potatoes. Any time my dad would make sweet-potato fries, I would turn up my nose and tell him they didn’t look like “real fries,” therefore I was not going to eat them. As I got older and realized McDonald’s fries were barely real fries, I broadened my palate and now can no longer resist saying a wholehearted, “Yes!” when my dad offers me anything made from a sweet potato. Whether you’re just jonesing for some good old comfort food or are looking for a delectable side dish for a holiday dinner, sweet potatoes are probably one of your first choices. I mean you can serve them bakedin soup or as fries. They’re delicious in every form — and nutritious. Sweet potatoes are filled with an antioxidant called beta carotene, which your body turns into Vitamin A, which in turn stops your hair from becoming dry and keeps it healthy and vibrant!

5. Bell peppers

Of all my childhood memories, one of my fondest is of helping my grandfather pick vegetables from his garden each harvest season. My favorites were always peppers. Even though I knew these veggies didn’t taste like much, I always enjoyed their crunch as well as just the hint of sweetness they have. One of my favorite ways to enjoy bell peppers is by sautéing a hefty helping and enjoying them as a side dish.

Bell peppers made this list because they are incredibly high in Vitamin C, an important antioxidant that promotes cell and tissue repair and enhances the immune system. Vitamin C supports circulation, which is very important for hair growth and keeping your its vibrant. If you have enough Vitamin C, you will have strong, healthy hair that doesn’t split — as well as rockin’ color.

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For supple skin

1. Blueberries

These are one of my favorite healthy snacks by far. Whether you make frozen yogurt, put them in a salad or just eat them raw, these tasty little berries are awesome.

You’re probably wondering how blueberries can possibly help your skin? The low-key berries are packed with antioxidants, which aid in preventing signs of aging. Many of the vitamins in them can reduce acne because they may help regulate or neutralize the oil levels in your skin. Pretty cool, right?

2. Raspberries

Another great memory I have from my childhood is visiting the stables to learn about horses and take riding lessons. But that’s not the only thing that was at the stables. While on a trail ride one day when I was 8 years old, I came across loads of raspberry bushes! This just gave me cause to pick and eat tons of these tart little fruits, and my love of raspberries was born! Little did I know I was actually helping my skin be healthy.

You see, raspberries actually help protect your skin from sun damage due to the oils they contain. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that keep your skin from becoming puffy and red.

3. Cantaloupe

My dad and I have always loved cantaloupes. These melons are about the only sweet thing I enjoy eating. I guess you can say they’re kind of like my version of candy — only healthier! My favorite way to enjoy cantaloupe is to simply cut it into chunks, throw on some salt, grab a fork and chow down! But you can enjoy it many ways, like in a smoothie!

Cantaloupe is also very good for your skin, because it contains Vitamin A, which helps all bodily tissues grow and stay properly hydrated. If you have dry skin, you are probably lacking Vitamin A in your diet.

4. Carrots

One of my favorite cartoon characters growing up was Bugs Bunny, so naturally that’s how my mum would get me to eat these tasty veggies — and they became a fast favorite! I find them to be very good dipped in Truvia or peanut butter! You can also step it up a notch and serve them as a side dish for your next dinner.

Not only are carrots good for your skin due to their high Vitamin A content but for tons of other reasons. They’re full of beta-carotene, too, so due to carrot’s double whammy of Vitamin A and beta-carotene, they can help with some skin disorders, such as chronic eczema.

5. Avocado

What can adding avocados to your diet do for your skin? Avocado contains biotin, a complex-B vitamin necessary for skin health. Without complex-B vitamins — or more specifically biotin — your skin can become scaly and rashy. Avocados are also full of poly and monounsaturated fatty acids. Both are good for your skin: Monounsaturated fatty acids keep the top layer of your skin moist, so it will be soft and healthy looking; and polyunsaturated fats can protect skin from things such as inflammation. Avocados are packed with antioxidants, which help protect and fight against harmful free radicals that can damage your skin.

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What are some foods you eat to support your hair, skin and nails? Have any favorites on the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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