As the old adage goes, true beauty comes from within – and a good place to start is the contents of your fridge. Glossy hair, glowing skin and healthy nails are all things you can glean from cuisine. Humble watercress recently rivalled expensive potions when, after just four weeks of adding a bag a day to their diet, 10 out of 11 women experienced visible improvements to their skin, according to a Watercress Alliance study. “It’s a storehouse of many natural phytonutrients like isothiocyanates, which help in preventing diseases and have skin nourishing qualities,” says Dubai-based nutritionist Rashi Chowdary (www.rashichowdhary.com). “One cup chopped alone gives you 24 per cent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C and 22 per cent of Vitamin A, which slows down the ageing process and reverses skin damage caused by sun exposure and pollution. A little more than two cups a day has shown to reduce wrinkles by almost 40 per cent.”
It’s not rocket science. Pack your diet with vitamin- and mineral-rich goodness and you’ll reap the beauty benefits. Over two thirds (70 per cent) of people opt for a natural approach to their daily beauty routine, a survey commissioned by Tropicana revealed. “There’s a growing body of evidence that shows the look and feel of our skin may be influenced by what we eat,” says Amanda Ursell, Tropicana nutritionist. “Specific nutrients found in your diet have a major part to play in ensuring clear skin, bright eyes and glossy hair.”
Sadly, there’s no quick-fix approach. One sip of a super-green smoothie won’t immediately transform you into a supermodel – it can take at least three weeks of steady healthy eating before you notice any subtle improvements in the mirror. So stock up on these beautifying delicacies for gorge-eous results.
Kick-start your day with a cup of green tea to rev up your metabolism and get your skin glowing. “Drinking green tea has many beauty benefits,” says Simple nutritionist, Fiona Hunter. “A natural antioxidant, green tea comes from the same plant as other teas but it is not fermented, so it retains more nutrients and has been shown to have twice as much antioxidant power as vitamin E. It can help when it comes to skincare, protecting it from external environmental influences and therefore helping fight signs of premature ageing.”
Eggs are the breakfast food to indulge in for gorgeous, glossy locks. They work wonders for hair, inside and out. They are rich in biotin, which is essential for cell growth, and vitamin B12 for strengthening locks and maintaining a healthy scalp. Finish with a glass of fresh orange juice. It’s packed with vitamin C, which is crucial for producing collagen – the protein that helps keep skin looking fresh.
Whip up a skin-friendly super salad for lunch. “You can literally feed your way to a face-lift by regularly eating green vegetables,” says Rashi. “Juicing them is a good idea too. Greens like spinach, kale and swiss chard are loaded with beta-carotene, which is an excellent skin antioxidant. It acts as a scavenger for free radicals, which are caused due to natural processes in your body, stress and exposure to pollution or smoking. These free radicals accelerate the rate at which your skin ages. Antioxidants work at a deep level by eliminating these free radicals, giving your skin a fresh young look. Try green fruits like avocado, which are nature’s sunscreen, loaded with Vitamin A, D, E and K, they also have heart-healthy fats, which hydrate and protect your skin.”
Ingredients rich in lutein can work especially well if you’re a sun-seeker, says Amanda. “Lutein belongs to the carotenoid family of antioxidants and has been linked to reducing sun-induced skin damage and improving the elasticity of the skin.” Spinach (12mg in 100g) and red peppers (7mg in 100g) are both good sources. Add some chunks of sweet potato for an extra fix of Vitamin E.
Forget ice cream and try a spoonful of coconut oil for dessert. Jennifer Aniston has been spotted toting the ingredient in her shopping basket. The plant oil promotes supple, deeply hydrated skin and it’s versatile too. “We get a lot of enquiries about whether our Virgin Organic Coconut Oil is for eating or for beauty – and the answer is both,” says Dr Organic spokesperson Michael Lightowlers. Buy this beautifying snack at places like Organic Foods and Café for Dh32.75. Faridah Ahmad Fadzil from the natural brand Tanamera agrees that it’s an excellent moisturiser. “The small molecular structure makes it easily absorbed by your skin to reduce dryness and flaking, and does wonders for your skin, lips and legs,” she says. Rashi adds, “The multipurpose properties are more than skin deep. Yes you can use it in your hair or as a concoction on your face, but it works amazingly well when eaten. It helps with fat loss, stimulates thyroid function and brings down bad cholesterol levels.
“The high levels of Vitamin E heal and repair damaged skin. The fatty acids found in MCTs – medium-chain triglycerides – are so easily absorbed that they can strengthen connective tissue and help with exfoliation.”
You can’t beat oily fish for enviable skin and hair. The fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel and sardines can help give you a post-facial-like glow, keeping your skin plump and moisturised. Turkey is also a healthy dinner alternative. Fiona says, “A 100g serving contains nearly 75 per cent of an adult’s recommended daily intake of protein. It’s also low in fat and rich in zinc and selenium – an antioxidant that benefits the skin and immune system.” For sides, try carrots: “Rich in alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which convert to vitamin A, this is essential for the manufacture of new skin cells,” Fiona advises. Chocoholics don’t have to deny themselves completely for dessert. Just stick to the dark stuff, rather than white or milk chocolate. Good quality dark chocolate, with high cocoa content, contains a group of phytochemicals called flavonols that can help protect the skin against free-radical damage, known to cause wrinkles and anti-ageing.
Nibbling on nuts will help conquer hunger pangs between meals and top-up your beauty regime too. Almonds are rich in Vitamin E and chewing a few a day can help improve skin texture. Hazelnuts are another good source. Fruit also makes a great beautifying snack. Tangerines are a good source of lutein, while blueberries, strawberries and kiwis are packed with vitamin C to aid collagen production and keep capillaries healthy. And munching on a few dried apricots, which are high in iron, will help improve skin tone.