One of nature’s most nutritious foods, fish is a rich source of many of the vital nutrients we need not just to feel good but to look good. Beauty starts with a good, solid nutritional base and introducing fish to your weekly eating plan is one easy way to shine.
When it comes to beauty there is no doubt that the Holy Grail is perfect skin. Women, and more recently men, spend a fortune every year on expensive face creams and treatments aimed at reducing the signs of aging and producing a glowing complexion. While creams and potions can help, any model or celebrity will tell you that the best place to start is not with what you put on your face but with what you put in your mouth. A healthy, balanced diet is the real foundation for good skin.
A good, balanced diet is so important as skin, hair and nails are the last parts of the body to get nutrients from food. Nutrients tend to go to the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs first. Whatever is left over then makes its way to the skin. This is why you need to make sure you are getting plenty of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed for your skin everyday – it’s the only way to be sure they reach their target. This is where fish comes in.
One of the basic building blocks of healthy skin is protein. Every skin cell, all your collagen, every part of your skin needs protein. Not eating enough protein will leave skin dull and weak and prone to imperfections. Skin blemishes can take longer to heal and you may find yourself more prone to problems like cold sores – never very attractive. You need to eat some protein everyday to keep skin in good condition and fish is one of the richest sources of protein and has the advantage of being very easily digested. One 4 ozs. (100g) serving of any cooked fish will give you your full protein needs for the day.
While protein is important, your skin still needs plenty of other vitamins and minerals to ensure you get the best benefit from the protein you eat. Oil-rich fish like trout, herring and mackerel have large amounts of vitamin A. Well known as an essential skin vitamin, vitamin A helps to keep skin smooth and supple and is important in helping skin to hold onto moisture. Lack of vitamin A can leave skin feeling dry, flaky and uncomfortable and applying make-up can be a nightmare.
Zinc is one of the minerals found in fish which is also needed to help hold moisture in the skin. Shellfish, especially oysters, are particularly rich in zinc. B vitamins are also needed for healthy skin. The B vitamins found in fish help skin cells to access the energy from food, which encourages healthy cell growth and turnover, keeping your complexion looking fresh.
Another fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E is one of the more powerful dietary antioxidants, helping your skin to fight toxins from food and from pollution. Antioxidants may play an important role in helping to prevent wrinkles as they can neutralize some of the harmful substances that can damage skin. Fish are rich in another powerful antioxidant – selenium. Along with vitamin E, selenium helps your skin – and the rest of your body – to neutralize toxins and avoid some of the long-term damage that can give rise to diseases such as heart disease and cancer – not to mention wrinkles.
Oil-rich fish in particular have something special to offer your skin. The omega-3 fats found in oil-rich fish such as trout, herring and sardines, are one of the essential fatty acids needed to keep skin soft and supple and they may play a role in treating several skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis. Some dermatologists recommend omega-3 fats from fish to help prevent some signs of aging.
Oil-rich fish are rich in DHA and EPA, two essential omega-3 fats. The body cannot make these fats and although some plant foods have omega-3s, it is hard for your body to convert these into the active forms of DHA and EPA that are needed by the skin. Eating even one portion of oil-rich fish every week is a great way to ensure you are getting your omega-3s. Try salmon with spinach, grilled darne of salmon or smoked mackerel salad.
It is worth remembering that anything you do for your skin will also benefit your hair and nails. Hair and nails are made from a protein called keratin and, like skin, hair and nails rely on a good intake of protein to maintain their strength and shine.
Hair also benefits from a good intake of minerals. Copper and iron are both needed to keep natural hair colour rich and full. Nails also benefit form a good iron intake. Apart from making you feel tired and run down, a lack of iron can lead to nails developing ridges and losing their smoothness and shine. Oil rich fish and shellfish are both good sources of iron.
Once you have your skin, hair and nails looking sensational, it’s worth looking at how fish can help maintain a fabulous figure. Fish is generally low in fat and white fish is a particularly low-calorie source of protein. Apart from being low in calories, fish is rich in iodine. Iodine has a special role to play in helping to keep your metabolism ticking over. It is essential in helping the thyroid gland to make thyroxine, the hormone that controls and regulates your metabolism. People with an under active thyroid typically gain weight, lose concentration and feel tired and sluggish. A good intake of iodine is essential in keeping the thyroid working at its best and cod and haddock are two excellent fish to choose.
So for glowing skin, healthy hair and a head start on the way to a fabulous figure, include fish in your diet at least twice a week. What more could your body ask for?