When it comes to the blame game for hair and skin problems, climate is a top favourite. Dull hair? It’s the dry, hot winds that are damaging it. Sallow complexion? It’s the heat and humidity. Rarely do people confess they are not eating right, are stressed and are also probably overdoing hair and skin treatments. While the last two problems can be optional vices, what’s almost unarguable is that most people are eating food that’s not meant to nourish skin and hair. Fast food for breakfast? Check. Processed foods for lunch? Check. Fizzy beverages through the day? Check. Too much coffee through the day to stay alert? Check.
“Chemicals in processed foods, trans-fat and chemical compounds in fried foods speed up the process of ageing,” says Yasmine Haddad, senior dietician, Live’ly, a health and nutrition lounge in Dubai. Fast foods are also full of sugar, which are empty in nutrients and full of calories. High-salt diets, also a popular choice with many people, lead to excess sodium accumulation around hair follicles, hindering absorption of essential nutrients needed for healthy hair, says Haddad.
For lush locks and a glowing skin, it is absolutely essential to eat nutritious foods. These include vegetables, fruits, vegetable oils, nuts and protein, “It’s about a healthy lifestyle,” says Haddad. “You have to sleep well, eat well, exercise and avoid stress. Stress is very bad for hair,” she says. Of course, hard water, as in the UAE, also has a bad effect on hair, but if your diet is poor, it can increase hair problems. (Haddad uses a shower filter that removes large amounts of calcium and magnesium in hard water.)
A diet rich in protein is essential for healthy hair as hair is primarily composed of keratin, a type of protein. Salmon, beans, fish, meat and fortified dairy products, cereals and Vitamin D supplements are essential for healthy skin and hair.
For supple and healthy skin, foods rich in Vitamin A and D, such as avocado and sunflower oil help repair body tissue, prevent dryness and postpone ageing.
Vitamin C, which helps maintain levels of collagen, a protein constituent of skin that is essential for healing skin as well as keeping it firm, should also be an important nutrient in your diet.
Exposure to the sun for Vitamin D is essential for bones, cells and tissues, as is folic acid, the deficiency of which leads to a condition called seborrheic dermatitis. It may be also linked to vitiligo (loss of skin pigment). A regular oil massage with olive oil promotes scalp strength.
Introducing potassium-rich foods in your diet, such as parsley, prunes, green leafy vegetables, will help flush out excess sodium and reduce risk of the potassium deficiency and hair loss, she says.
The bottomline however is that you need to make a conscious effort to eat well. “People want the easy way out,” she says. “but there’s no miracle cure; no amount of taking pills will help. You have to change your lifestyle and eat healthy.”
Though, she warns that hair loss can also be a sign of other problems with your body. “There could be hormonal issues or a problem with the thyroid, or malnutrition. A simple blood test to eliminate any medical conditions would be good to get to the root of the problem.”
Should one take vitamin supplements? “These are necessary only if the doctor recommends them because of a medical problem or if you are no able to get nutrients from foods.”
The essential vitamin hit list:
Vitamin A: Helps repair body tissue, prevents dry skin and postpones ageing.
Source: Liver, sweet potatos, carrots, spinach, milk, egg yolk.
Vitamins B-6, B-12: Important for general hair health.
Sources: Bananas, potatoes, spinach, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products.
Vitamin C: Maintains collagen, the protein part of skin that keeps it smooth and firm.
Sources: Citrus fruits and tomatoes.
Vitamin D: Promotes skin-collagen health.
Sources: Sardines, cod liver oil and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamin E: Repairs body tissue, prevents skin dryness and postpones ageing.
Thiamine: Also known as B1, for general hair health.
Source: Brown rice, sunflower seeds, various nuts, oatmeal.
Potassium: Good for skin and hair.
Source: Sweet potato, potato, white beans, yogurt (fat-free), orange juice, broccoli, banana.
Selenium: Adds lustre.
Source: All vegetables, fish, red meat, grains, eggs,
Source: Beans, cheese and salads are rich in zinc, which is vital for skin and hair.
Manganese: Good for skin and hair.
Source: Nuts, seeds, grains, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, fruit and vegetables, Pineapple is rich in manganese,
Copper: Liver is rich in copper as are sesame seeds, chocolate, lobster and calamari, nuts, These are good antioxidants and halts ageing. Good for hair and skin.
Folic acid: This is important for your hair,
Source: Fresh fruits and vegetables, specially citrus fruits and tomatoes, whole grain and fortified grain products, beans, and lentils.
Calcium: For strong hair and a healthy scalp.
Source: Milk, sardines, almonds and yoghurt.
Iron: For a healthy complexion.
Source: Liver, red meats, tuna, salmon, and shrimp, beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, broccoli, chicken and turkey, nuts, egg yolk,dried fruits. Good for both hair and skin, but be careful not to consume too much iron.
Eating for good hair:
Protein is the building block of hair. Without enough protein in your system, you may experience greater hair loss. Calcium found in foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese has proven to help promote hair growth and repair damaged hair follicles.
Olives and olive oil are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, which has shown to help the hair grow thicker and stronger.
In addition, fresh vegetables such as cucumber, lemon, lettuce and tomato consist of 70-90 percent water. Water is a natural remedy which supports hair vitamin consumption and a healthy hair growth.
Cheese which is derived from milk is a high source of calcium and protein. However, it’s important to note that it’s preferable to consume it low-fat since in its full-fat form it contains high saturated fat (i.e.: bad fats).
Eat your way to healthy hair
Preparation Time: 10 mins
10 black olives
60 gms. light Feta cheese, cut into cubes
200 gms cherry tomato or tomato, cut into cubes
200 gr. cucumber, cut into cubes
500 gr. Romaine lettuce, roughly torn
A few mint leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of dry oregano
Pinch of salt
Method: Mix all ingredients in a salad bowl topping with cheese, olives and mint leaves. Add the dressing just before serving.
Serving size: 1 salad bowl
Number of servings: 4
Calories = 95 cal
Protein = 5 g
Carbs = 8 g
Fat = 5 g
(These recipes have been created by Live’ly Executive Chef Kassem Taha)
Watermelon is rich in lycopene, vitamin C and vitamin A which are known to be powerful antioxidants. These help protect and rejuvenate hair follicles and skin tissues. Studies have shown that a regular consumption of watermelon and green tea may reduce the risk of certain cancers such as prostate cancer. Watermelon and lime juice consist of 90 to 95 percent water. Water is a natural remedy which supports hair vitamin consumption and a healthy hair growth.
There is nothing better than a low-calorie and guilt-free watermelon sorbet to add life to your hair.
Preparation Time: 35 min
½ cup plus 4 cups seeded and pureed watermelon
½ cup fruit sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup watermelon puree and the fruit sugar to a simmer and remove it from the heat. Add the lime juice and zest and allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes. Add the 4 cups fresh watermelon puree to the melon-lime mixture, and freeze in an ice cream maker. Place sorbet in a plastic container and allow to freeze for 3-4 hours.
Serving size: 1 scoop
Number of servings: 8
Calories per serving: 68 cal
Protein = 0.3g
Carbs = 17g
Fat = 0g
Date and walnut cake
Preparation time: 55 mins
Walnuts are high in fat, but they have good fats. The fats in walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats which have shown to have many beneficial properties such as preventing cardiovascular disease and helping in boosting the immune system and improving the health of your hair and scalp.
Nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and iron which make it an ideal choice for people struggling with hair loss. It is better to avoid consuming it roasted or salted, but have it raw and in moderation due to its high calorie content.
Dates are also very rich in vitamins (B complex vitamins) and minerals like potassium and iron. A potassium deficiency, also called hypokalemia, can lead to hair loss. B complex vitamins play various important roles in the body including improved hair growth and thickness.
Enjoy this guilt-free and delicious dessert.
1 cup of pitted dates (seedless)
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp of soda bicarbonate powder
1/2 cup of oil (sunflower or corn)
3/4 cup of sugar
2 cups cake flour
3 tsp of baking Powder
1/2 cup skimmed or low-fat milk
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla (powder or extract)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 tbsp flour
In a casserole, put the dates, add boiling water and soda bicarbonate and boil for 3-4 minutes (until the dates are soft). Set aside to cool to room temperature. (It is okay if the mixture foams and turns dark brown). Beat eggs with vanilla essence, add sugar, oil and dates mixture.
While mixing, alternate by adding the flour and baking powder and milk. Pour the batter in the baking pan (spray the pan with oil first and add flour). Toast chopped walnuts with 3 tbsp of flour in a pan until little brown, and sieve them from the flour. Spread chopped walnuts on top of the cake batter and bake the cake in a 180 degree oven (350F) for 30-40 minutes.
Calories per serving = 226 cal
Protein = 4 g
Carbs = 31 g
Fat = 10 g
Eating your way to a glowing skin
Japanese chicken salad
Preparation Time: 40 mins
Serving size: 1 bowl
If you are suffering from dry and unhealthy skin, the good news is that the secrets to a healthy and radiant skin are very basic and you do not have to use high-end skin products or layers of make-up to hide unhealthy skin. A well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are the two most important factors influencing the condition of your skin.
In addition, fresh vegetable such as onions, cucumber and peppers consist of 70 to 90 percent water. Water flushes out the toxins from the body and helps rehydrate the skin and reduce risk of dryness and irritation.
110 gms Thai jasmine rice
1 cucumber, diced small
3 spring onions, sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
85 ms cooked chicken, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
Salt & fresh coarse ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp sunflower oil
Put the rice in a large pan with plenty of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 12-15 min until the rice is just tender. Drain and leave to stand in a sieve for 15 mins, stirring half way through. Transfer to a bowl.
To make the dressing, gently warm the rice wine vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add sunflower oil and stir into the rice. Leave until cold.
Stir cucumber into the dressed rice with spring onions, pepper, chicken and avocado and season to taste.
Calories per serving = 219 cal
Protein = 11g
Carbs = 32g
Fat = 5.2g
Baby corn and spinach pizza
Number of servings: 4
Preparation time: 20 mins
Baking time: 20 min in 280 degrees oven
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in Lutein), vitamin C, vitamin K, and Vitamin B9 (folic acid). Vitamin A helps repair body tissue, prevents skin dryness and postpones ageing.
Using whole wheat dough in preparing your pizza will help improve your skin complexion. Brown bread and flour as well as whole wheat germs are rich in B vitamins which have shown to improve circulation and skin color.
Ingredients Whole wheat pizza dough:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
1 onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tsp olive oil
1 kg fresh tomato, peeled & chopped OR 1-1/2 x 415 g cans crushed tomato
1 tsp dry oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil
1/2 tsp dry thyme
Dash of salt and black pepper
(Optional: Drizzle of Hot Sauce)
2 onions; cut into rounds (lightly sautéed)
1 cups colored and green peppers; cut into strips
1 cup of baby corn, sliced
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup of light mozzarella cheese, grated
1 tbsp pine nuts
Mix dough ingredients and let it rest for 90 minutes. Cook pizza sauce. Roll dough out thinly to fit a greased pizza base. Top dough with pizza sauce and arrange toppings over it. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and top with pine nuts. Bake at 280 degrees C for 20 minutes.
Serving size: ¼ slice pizza
Calories per serving = 300 cal
Protein = 11g
Carbs = 48g
Fat = 8 g
Tasty fillet salmon
Preparation time: 15-17 minutes
Salmon is considered an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. It is also a very good source of protein, vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B12. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk of dryness by helping skin retain its natural moisture. It has the ability to neutralise damaging free radicals and therefore protect the skin from aging and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) has shown to increase production of ceramides and fatty acids, two key components of skin’s outer protective barrier. A deficiency of niacin leads to pellagra, a condition characterised by diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia, inflammation of the mouth, amnesia, delirium, and if left untreated, death. Fall in love with salmon and enjoy a radiant skin.
2 salmon fillets, 1-inch thick and 6 ounces (170 grams) each
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first nine ingredients; add salmon. Seal bag and turn it to coat evenly; refrigerate for 15 minutes, turning once. Drain and discard marinade. Using long-handled tongs moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Place salmon skin side down on rack. Grill covered over medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 13-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serving size: 1 fillet
Calories per serving = 330 cal
Protein = 36 g
Carbs = 32 g
Fat = 6g