BY ERIN HEGER
Before she started working in the nutrition industry, Amy Aaron was 215 pounds with dark circles under eyes. She was always tired and suffered from migraine headaches.
“I was on three different anti-depressant medications,” Aaron said. “And I wasn’t eating well.”
Once introduced to good nutrition, Aaron, owner of Imagine Nutrition, 3300 Bob Billings Parkway, started eating an abundance of organic vegetables, chicken and fish. She lost 50 pounds in five months and has kept off a total of 76 pounds.
In addition to the weight loss, Aaron said she also saw a dramatic change in her skin and hair.
“Within three days of changing my lifestyle, the dark circles under my eyes went away,” she said. “Now my hair grows like crazy and I can’t keep up with it.”
A balanced diet is not only essential to a healthy lifestyle, but in addition to weight loss, can also enhance appearance.
Some of the best nutrients for healthy skin, hair and nails include collagen, biotin and omega fatty acids, said Aaron Boos, owner of Lawrence Nutrition Center, 4931 W. Sixth St.
Collagen is a group of proteins vital for body function and it also strengthens skin. Aging, sun exposure and smoking can cause collagen to break down.
Biotin is a common vitamin in nature and small amounts are naturally found in food. Biotin supports hair growth and overall hair health. When taken as part of a regular regimen, biotin makes hair stronger and helps hair grow faster.
Eggs are a good source of biotin, Boos said. Carrots also contain biotin, as well as beta-carotene, which promotes general eye health. A variety of nuts such as almonds and walnuts, also supply the body with biotin and protein. Nuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, and contain vitamin E, which works with vitamin C to rebuild collagen.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and limes are rich in vitamin C, which is essential for the synthesis of collagen. Dark green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collard greens and arugula, are also high in vitamin C. These veggies increase collagen in skin and help the body use protein effectively. Tomatoes also help protect skin from sun damage.
“Vitamin C is great for age spots and overall brightening of the skin,” said Corinne Krei, manager at Beauty Brands, 3514 Clinton Pkwy.
Blueberries and pomegranates are also high in vitamin C and contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which help protect from wrinkles and dryness.
Omega fatty acids found in fish, such as salmon and tuna, also create an ideal environment for collagen production. These fatty acids can also be found in cashews and almonds as well as avocados, Boos said.
Extra calcium strengthens bones, aids in weight loss and benefits hair and nails, Aaron said. Deficiency of calcium in the body can cause migraine headaches among other health complications.
While collagen, biotin, and omega fatty acids are found in foods, most people need more than they can naturally consume.
“If you can get these vitamins in high enough levels in food, getting them in food is better,” Boos said. “But you will probably also need a little supplementation.”
Even if a person is consuming the recommended daily servings of fish, for instance, an omega-3 supplement is still needed.
“Supplementation is pertinent. Our bodies need supplementation,” Aaron said. “If you’re not eating fish all day, you’ve got to take a supplement of omega-3. You would have to eat an abundance of fish to get the omega-3s the body needs.”
In addition to recommended food, vitamins and supplements, the amount of sleep a person gets every night and the amount of water he or she consumes also affect overall health and appearance.
Most adults need a minimum of eights hours of sleep a night. Men should consume about three liters of water a day, while women should consumer about 2.2 liters, according to the Institute of Medicine.
“Water is very important,” Boos said. “Water and sleep are two great, free things you can do for yourself without even walking into a store.”
Exercise also improves health and is an important part of weight loss. However, exercise does not replace the need for balanced nutrition.
“Exercise is great. If you can get it into your day, totally do it,” Aaron said. “But 80 percent of what our bodies look like inside and out is what you put in your mouth.”
When it comes to foods for wellness and beauty, variety is best. An overall balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish will keep hair and skin healthy.
A balanced diet increases collagen production, which in turn improves skin tone as well as overall health.
“The cleaner you eat, the better you are going to feel and the better your skin is going to look,” Aaron said. “Good nutrition is an amazing thing when you put it into your body.”