Building beautiful from the inside out

On Wednesday night I’ll be talking with over 100 beautiful women at the Women’s pamper evening in Newmarket that is being hosted by Auckland’s original Paleo café, Wilder and Hunt. I’ll be sharing what I know are the building blocks of beauty from a nutrition perspective.

What makes a woman beautiful? Print and digital media influence what we perceive as beautiful in a woman and objectively speaking, we aren’t all going to agree – beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. If you look through the last 50 years of beauty as defined by the media there is a definite change in the physical features of woman – from Marilyn Monroe with a softer, curvier shape, to Twiggy, whose name aptly describes her physical features, to Elle Macpherson (The Body who, in my opinion, is more gorgeous now than the early 90s and her supermodel days) to Kate Moss. The focus on a women’s shape has largely been the determining factor, and the changing shape of a beautiful woman is telling of society’s acceptance of messages that are portrayed around beauty. While once we were bombarded with the ‘thin is in’ message, this has largely been replaced by images of a muscular yet equally lean woman with ‘strong is the new skinny’ as the tag line. Both, for the majority of woman, are unattainable and – if achieved – unsustainable in the long term. This definition of ‘the body beautiful’ is largely created from the narrow perspective of industry, media and the thousands of available diet and beauty products that try and sell you a magic bullet to solve your perceived beauty woes.

Body shapes aside, there are far more salient features that (to my mind) determine what makes a woman beautiful. We all know what makes a woman beautiful – even if you don’t think you ‘know’ or haven’t quite put your finger on why someone who might not be fit this narrow definition of beautiful but you find them attractive all the same.  It’s not their body size, their haircut, their muscle tone or the make up they are wearing. It’s the sparkle in their eyes, it’s the smile on their face, and it’s a sense of calm and confidence. It’s the glow of their skin and the condition of their hair. We know that beauty comes from within and this emanates health. How often have you met someone who you initially evaluate as attractive (because, let’s face it, we all make a judgment on someone upon meeting them). Then as you get talking to them this can change by (occasionally) what they say, but more by their body language, their facial expression, the lack of warmth. What makes a person, anyone, attractive, is the type of person they are – not what they look like. And what you eat plays a large part in that.

Beauty product manufacturers know that beauty comes from the inside out -however they deal in the superficial. They spend years and have big budgets to research ingredients for their top line products to ensure they help nurture good skin health. Beauty isn’t just about our skin, but one of the first places that reflect good health is certainly our skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ, is made up predominantly of collagen and reflects the health of our cells. The time it takes for our cells to turn over and regenerate increases with age, and goes from a few weeks to a few months. It’s not just chronological age though. If we don’t have the available nutrients to nurture good health from the inside out, then no amount of expensive skin cream is going to cover up the signs of a poor diet. The older we get, the slower our cells regenerate and turn over. At any age, however, this process can slow down if you don’t have a diet that supports healthy cell metabolism. You can encourage cell turnover through beauty routines that include exofoliation or microdermabrasion, however your best line of defence has to be your diet.

How can you easily find out which nutrients are important in cell health – take a look at the active ingredients in many skin care products. Vitamins A, C, E, along with omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be protective against inflammation in the skin and these may protect the whole body from sun damage – rather than the topical protection that sunscreen provides  These nutrients also play a valuable role in gut health, reducing oxidative stress in the body and (omega 3’s in particular) help with the elasticity of our arteries and cell walls – protecting against arterial stiffness and subsequent narrowing of the arteries. In addition, vitamin A works much better in the presence of vitamin K2 for encouraging cell renewal, and the antioxidant activity of both C and E is enhanced when they are delivered together

Likewise zinc, a mineral found in animal protein (the most available form in the diet) is essential for wound healing, cell regeneration and synthesis, and again plays a role in gut health.  A healthy gut is important for the absorption of all of the nutrients to ensure they are available to be utilized in the body. Co-enzyme q 10 is often touted as an essential ingredient in skin care and that is well warranted – research points to deficiencies in this leading to increased levels of reactive oxidative species (or oxidative stress) in the body due to it’s role as an antioxidant. And another important cofactor in skin (and overall health) is collagen – you could take Imedeen capsules – the original expensive skin care pill – or eat slow cooked meat or bone broth where the collagen has broken down and glycine is released – yet another important co-factor in our digestive health.

You know what? There are many different antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that are responsible for cell health and regeneration in the body. I’ve scratched the surface here. But the main reason for writing this is to point out that the main building blocks for beauty aren’t purchased in a cream or a pill, nor are they necessarily sourced as an addition to an otherwise awesome diet. The co-factors responsible for building you beautiful are found in your everyday food choices: your fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruit, grass fed meat, free range eggs, full fat dairy and nuts and seeds. For otherwise healthy people, the benefit of whole food will shine through the skin, the eyes and the hair. In addition to that, the benefits of this for balancing stress and sex hormones, helping both energy levels and mood, the enigmatic aura that makes someone beautiful will shine through. And that’s the real benefit – how you feel. You can’t buy that in a bottle.

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