BEIRUT: Beauty is just skin deep, but when it comes to looking your best it’s what’s inside that counts. While there are hundreds, if not thousands of beautifying products on the Lebanese market – from foundations, nail oils and hair conditioners – it is essential to start with a healthy and balanced diet if one’s natural assets are to shine.
“You will glow if you know what you are eating: It’s not only about the makeup you wear or how you do your hair. It’s also about the way you’re going to eat. What’s going to go inside is going to be shown on the outside,” clinical dietician Nicole Maftoum says.
If you make the right food choices, Maftoum insists, your skin will be more glowing, your hair will be thicker and your nails less brittle.
Here, she talks through the best foods to eat to maintain your skin, hair and nails at their best.
While the No. 1 cause of hair loss is bad nutrition, Maftoum says, it is also affected by environmental factors such as water, weather and stress. So to minimize these factors, a balanced diet is essential.
For thick and shiny hair it is necessary to have a protein-rich diet, Maftoum says. While beef and chicken are protein-rich, the nutrient is also found in beans, grains and lentils, which many people, wrongly, try to avoid.
“People think that beans and grains are only rich in carbohydrates when in fact no, they contain proteins and they are rich in fiber, and they are very good for overall health,” Maftoum says.
Silica works wonders at keeping hair thick, she adds, and is found in oats, bananas and beer. Maftoum recommends a maximum of one glass of alcohol each day for women, and for men, two.
To promote hair growth, mineral-rich foods, such as potatoes, sunflower seeds, lentils and grains are ideal, and Vitamin B heavy foods, including nuts, oats, oranges, meat, poultry, eggs and cereals, are also beneficial, Maftoum says.
When it comes to looking after your skin, the first step is to stay well hydrated. Maftoum says that while ideal water intake depends on the individual, the weather, and exercise routines, it is generally good to drink around around eight cups of water every day, starting with two upon waking, as the body gets dehydrated overnight.
Maftoum also reminds that coffee and alcohol are diuretics, so when drinking either of those, one should up their water intake even further.
For glowing skin, healthy fats, such as Omega 3-rich mackerel, sardines, salmon and flax seeds are best, and in terms of vegetables, purslane has the highest content.
A daily menu should include at least two portions of fruit, and six servings of vegetables, as these antioxidant-rich foods help combat dangerous free radicals, and help fight the aging of skin. While all fruits and vegetables are good, red berries, such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are among the best, and those containing carotene, such as carrots, tomatoes and kale help prolong tans and give the skin a better color, Maftoum says.
While again external factors such as the weather, washing up and cooking can affect one’s nails, it will help to have a diet rich in Vitamin B and calcium, the latter found in milk and milk derivatives, and mushrooms and tofu.
Fitting in this perfect balance of fresh food can be difficult, Maftoum recognizes, especially now that women are working longer hours and it’s sometimes hard to find the time to create perfectly balanced lunch boxes for work the next day. If you’re concerned about reaching this nutritional zenith, and are eager to maintain your skin, nails and hair at their best, supplements offer another option.
“Sometimes you might think you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need but in fact you are not ... maybe you are overcooking or eating leftovers, or reheating food, and then you can lose nutrients,” Maftoum says.
To be on the safe side and especially after a certain age, supplements can help, she adds. “Especially if you are concerned about wrinkles, or if you have brittle nails, or if you have hair loss, or, for example, if you have a lot of sun exposure.”
One such product, Oenobiol Paris, has just launched in Lebanon, the company’s first venture in the Middle East.
Created by French nutritionist Dr. Marie Bejot in 1985, the company’s slogan is that “beauty comes from within.” Using only natural ingredients, the capsules contain the essential nutrients to promote healthy skin, hair and nails, with specific products for each, and are all based on clinical studies.
Perhaps their most famous product is Oenobiol Solaire, which helps promote a long-lasting tan, but their anti-wrinkle, anti-hair loss and Aquadrainol – which helps reduce excess water retention – are also best-sellers.
The products are being sold at certain pharmacies throughout Lebanon and work alongside one’s usual skincare routine.
“Our philosophy is that there are some ingredients in your daily nutrition that you lack and these supplements can help combat certain deficits which result from an unbalanced nutrition,” says Myriam Aznavourian, head of communications for Oenobiol Paris in Lebanon.
“Prevention is better than cure,” Aznavourian adds.
Meal guidelines for healthy eating
While clinical dietician Nicole Maftoum stresses that an individual’s daily needs depends on weight, height, energy expenditure and metabolism, the following provides a guideline for a daily 1,200 calorie diet, which is also recommended for people trying to lose weight.
Check with a dietician to know exactly what you should be eating.
On an empty stomach, drink two cups of water, and then coffee, if you need it (have a maximum of two cups a day). Then have a bowl of whole grain cereals, or muesli, with a glass of skimmed milk, which provides essential calcium.
Skipping the first meal of the day is a big mistake, Maftoum says, as eating breakfast revs up your metabolism for the day. “Also if you skip breakfast you will eat twice more during the day, as you will be so much more hungry when it comes to lunch time. Also, you will not be able to make up for the nutrients you skipped at breakfast.”
Mid-morning snackTwo hours after breakfast, eat two portions of fresh fruit. “Fruit is rich in fiber, so it will make you feel full for longer, and also rich in vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.”
Salad should constitute 50 percent of your midday meal, with 25 percent carbohydrate and 25 percent protein. While many people in Lebanon assume meat should provide the protein, Maftoum warns against consuming too much meat, which can lead to heart disease and cancer.
“Limit yourself to 500 grams of meat per week. The rest of the days, you can have fish, maybe three times a week, or grains, which help you burn fat and lost weight, they are very rich in fiber so they will make you feel full for longer.”
Afternoon snackIf you’re feeling peckish a couple of hours later, opt for either 30 grams of dark chocolate, 23 almonds, 14 walnuts or a fruit salad with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Your evening meal should be eaten no later than four hours before going to bed, and should be lighter than your midday meal. Maftoum suggests a turkey sandwich with vegetables, or a small protein-rich salad, with tuna, sardines or mackerel.