You probably discovered the Paleo diet because you wanted to improve your health and/or lose weight. But wouldn’t it be great if it also made you look like a younger, sexier, and more vibrant version of yourself?
In most cases, the physical attributes that we find attractive – including shiny hair, clear skin, white teeth, and a healthy waist-to-hip ratio – are indicators of good health. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, as choosing mates based on health and fertility would have maximized survival advantage for our ancestors.
This is good news, because it means that you don’t have to try questionable supplement regimens, miracle creams, or invasive surgeries to improve your appearance. When you use a nutrient-dense Paleo diet to heal your body from the inside, these changes will manifest on the outside!
Can #Paleo put the brakes on the aging process?
Hair and Nails
Compared with other parts of the body, hair and nails are not essential to our survival. Thus, if you’re nutrient deficient or otherwise have compromised health, hair and nail quality will probably be the first to go. The overall nutrient density of a Paleo diet alone can lead to a significant improvement in hair and nail strength, thickness, and shine, but certain nutrients such as zinc, biotin, and iron may play a particularly important role, and it’s common for intakes of these nutrients to increase significantly when someone switches to a Paleo diet.
For example, red meat and shellfish are some of the best dietary sources of zinc, while cereal grains actually decrease zinc absorption due to the presence of phytates. Because of this, people who avoid red meat and shellfish and consume lots of whole grains (in other words, people who follow a conventionally “healthy” diet) might not be getting adequate zinc, which could lead to poor hair and nail quality.
Dietary phytates also decrease iron absorption, and iron deficiency is a less well-known but significant contributor to hair loss, particularly for premenopausal women who have low iron stores but are not anemic. I’ve discussed before how increasing iron intake isn’t beneficial for everyone, but for a large percentage of women, the increased iron absorption resulting from more red meat and fewer whole grains on a Paleo diet could resolve hair loss and lead to thicker hair.
Egg yolks, like red meat, are often discouraged on a so-called “healthy” diet, but are allowed (and even encouraged) within a Paleo framework. Egg yolks also happen to be one of the most concentrated sources of biotin, which is extremely important for hair growth. Biotin is also important for nail health, and in one study, patients experienced a 25% increase in nail plate thickness from biotin supplementation.
Skin problems are incredibly common, and they almost always indicate an underlying health issue that can often be resolved through dietary changes. A Paleo diet is extremely effective at improving skin quality because it directly addresses the three most common causes for unhealthy skin: inflammation, gut dysbiosis, and nutrient deficiencies.
One of the primary goals of a Paleo diet is to eliminate foods that can cause inflammation. One of the biggest culprits is industrial seed oils (including corn, soybean, and canola), which are unfortunately marketed as a health food by many authorities. These oils add excessive amounts of omega-6 fat to our diets, which disrupts the normal inflammatory cascade and can manifest as inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Switching to a Paleo diet and eliminating these industrial fats, along with other inflammatory foods such as refined sugar and flour, is one of the best things you can do for reducing inflammation and calming your skin.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may be aware of the gut-skin axis. This theory suggests that the health of your gut is often directly reflected in the health of your skin. In fact, if a patient comes to see me with skin problems, I immediately screen them for digestive issues and bacterial dysbiosis, because there’s almost always a connection. Unfortunately, gut health can be damaged by things like grain proteins (especially wheat gluten), excessive alcohol consumption, and even excessive stress, so compromised gut health is pretty common. Fortunately, a Paleo diet removes the worst dietary offenders and also promotes gut healing by including plenty of fermentable fibers, bone broth, and fermented foods.
Like hair, skin is very sensitive to nutrient deficiencies. I wrote an eBook on nutrition for skin health, and eating a variety of nutrient-dense Paleo foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and starchy tubers is a surefire way to get these nutrients in your diet. But aside from vitamins and minerals, there’s another often-overlooked nutrient that can have a big impact on skin health: collagen.
Collagen is the primary protein found in connective tissue, and it provides the building blocks for increased skin elasticity and smoothness. One important aspect of a Paleo diet is the notion of nose-to-tail eating (as opposed to solely eating muscle meat) so a Paleo diet should include plenty of collagen building foods with health benefits like bone broth, tendons and skin, homemade gummies, or gelatinous cuts of meat in dishes such as Vietnamese pho.
In short, a Paleo diet doesn’t just improve your health – it improves your physical appearance, too. But when it comes down to it, what’s sexier than someone who has excellent health, doesn’t obsess about their diet, and enjoys their food? Especially if you’ve been struggling with your health for a while, nothing will make you feel younger or more vibrant than finally feeling healthy.
Now I’d like to hear from you: has switching to a Paleo diet improved your appearance in some way? Share in the comments!