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March 09, 2013:

A healthy and glowing skin needs a perfectly balanced diet, writes Dr Atul NC Peters.

What does our skin need to be healthy and our hair to be lustrous? The answer is good nutrition. Inner health is very vital for external beauty. In the race of “losing weight”, we often lose out on good nutrition! Our main motive for that movement is to look thin and shed the extra kilos. We resort to any method to achieve that target and the most common is to go on what is actually an unhealthy, very low calorie diet.

An average individual needs about 30kcal/kg/day to maintain his/her body weight. So an average 60 kg male would need about 1800 – 2000kcal per day for their daily needs, depending on the physical activity levels.


If we want to lose weight, we need to create a negative energy balance, which means we need to consume less calories and burn more, so that we can utilize the fat stored in the body to provide us energy. One needs to burn about 3500Kcal to loose 1pound of excess weight or about 7700kcal to lose 1 kg of weight! That’s a lot of hardwork, considering that we burn only about 400 kcal in an hour if we do brisk walking at a speed of 8km/hr!

Most of the dad diets provide calories as low as 700-800kcal per day in order to get instant results. But we have to understand that it is the water that we are losing, not the fat, in the initial phase. Lack of water can make us dehydrated and the effect of this is shown on the skin. The skin looks dehydrated, dry, and dull. Also, losing too much weight at a fast pace will not give the body enough time to shrink accordingly and can cause the skin to sag.

Some diets restrict the intake of proteins in the diet, whereas protein is the building block of our body as it helps in making new tissues and repairing the old ones. If protein is restricted in our diets, skin tends to lose its elasticity and results in sagging. Once the body gets decreased calories, the nutrients and calories consumed are used up by the other vital organs such as heart and brain, and our skin`and hair are devoid of them, resulting in hair loss and lusterless skin.

Food can either decrease or accelerate the aging process. There are four main contributors when it comes to aging: free radicals, blood sugar, cortisol and insulin levels, all of which are affected by food. Hormones and cells need to be able to communicate with one another effectively in order to maintain equilibrium in your body. The right balance of hormones slows the aging process, while the wrong balance accelerates it. Unhealthy eating habits, as you can guess, raise your free radical, blood sugar and insulin levels, accelerating the aging process. Thus, unhealthy eating can make you look years older than you really are.

Tips for glowing skin:


-  Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin
C such as blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries, and sweet
potatoes. They all help to produce collagen that strengthens the capillaries that feed the skin.
-  Make sure you get enough omega-3 and omega-6, both essential fatty acids. You will find omega-3 in oily fish, linseeds, and flax oil. For omega-6 try safflower, sunflower, and corn oils.
-  Eating foods that contain sulphur can help to keep skin smooth - garlic and onions are ideal.
-  Go for foods rich in vitamin E, such as almonds, avocado, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sunflower, and corn oils.
-  Zinc-rich foods such as wheatgerm, liver, pumpkin seeds, sardines, and oysters, help to repair skin damage and keep it soft and supple.
-  Foods rich in vitamin A help new skin to grow. Liver, eggs, milk and oily fish are good sources along with fortified cereals and margarines.
-  Eat a few dried apricots every day. They are full of iron to help improve your skin tone. So are sesame seeds - add them to cereals and muesli.
-  Drink plenty of water to rehydrate your skin - aim for eight glasses a day. Tea, coffee and juices do count, but for really great skin stick to plain water, and don't smoke.
-  Of all the B vitamins vital for great skin, vitamin B2 or riboflavin helps your skin glow. Best sources include beef, cheese, eggs, liver, and marmite.

Once you make changes to your diet, don't expect an overnight miracle. It takes six weeks for new skin to emerge up to the surface, so the visible benefits from dietary changes will take just as long. So it's never too soon to start!

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