By Jennifer Kingston
An enormous amount of time and effort is put into researching the best foods to eat to remain healthy. Fortunately, for anyone living in Virginia it is easy to stick to a diet that is not only local, tastes great and is very varied, but that also ensures an inner and outer health that reveals itself in luscious hair and radiant skin. There are some key vitamins and nutrients that are essential for a healthy appearance, and they can all be found in Virginia’s heritage food.
As skin and hair are both made with protein, it is only natural that protein in the diet can help to ensure that neither becomes dry and the hair doesn’t become brittle. Hair requires amino acids to remain strong and healthy, which means that protein is an essential part of a healthy food regime. There are plenty of opportunities to include protein from Virginia’s farms in your diet. Pink House Farm, for example, breeds Red Ranger chickens for both meat and eggs, so there is a vegetarian option for protein as well. Eggs have multiple other health benefits too (see below), so be sure to take advantage of the abundance of high quality eggs in the state.
Zinc is surprisingly common in many foods and is excellent for healthy skin and hair. One of its benefits for the skin is helping to repair any damage that may have been caused, and to recover it from dryness so that it becomes soft and smooth once more. If both the skin and hair are dry – particularly if accompanied by tiredness and muscle aches – it can be an indication of an underactive thyroid, in which case it is advisable to speak to a doctor. However, sometimes a lack of zinc in the diet can be the cause. It is also a contributing factor in hair loss, as zinc is necessary for the cells in the body to carry out a number of functions, such as protein synthesis. Conversely, too much zinc in the diet can have adverse health effects such as zinc toxicity, and the recommended daily allowance is 11mg for men and 8mg for women. It is therefore important not to exceed this recommended intake, and if the limit is reached and hair loss is still not improved there is some good value medication than can help to treat baldness.
To ensure that sufficient zinc is obtained in the diet – but not too much – it is useful to know where it can be found. Beef is rich in zinc, and will also ensure that the body is getting enough protein. Gryffon’s Aerie in Crozet produces beef that is grass-fed and free from antibiotics, and it is a perfect source of zinc, protein and iron. Iron is another essential nutrient for skin maintenance and general health, as it assists in the circulation of oxygen around the body which enables cells to function more efficiently, including those that are involved in repairing the skin. Once again, eggs step to the forefront of healthy eating as they not only provide protein, as mentioned above, but also zinc and iron. As well as Pink House Farm in Louisa, there are many farms providing a whole range of different eggs to try, and you are sure to find one near you. Iona Farm sells certified organic eggs from their site in Scottsville, for example, and is also breeding heritage breed chickens.
Antioxidant beta-carotene and Vitamin A
Vitamin A has benefits for both the skin and hair and can be obtained in the diet through beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body and can be found in many vegetables, such as sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are grown at Finest Kind Farm at Tye River in Nelson, where you can also pick up some Jersey beef, chicken and eggs if you call beforehand to let them know you’d like to come and buy some seasonal produce. The benefits of vitamin A include helping skin to grow and helping to produce oils that are good for maintaining a healthy, dandruff-free scalp.
Vitamin C has long been heralded as one of the key vitamins for ensuring a healthy immune system, but it has benefits for the skin and hair, too. It is great for maintaining healthy circulation, which ensures good blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles, as well as assisting in the production of collagen, which is good for healthy-looking skin. It is found in all sorts of fruits and vegetables, such as the berries that can be found at Fortune’s Cove Farm in Nelson.
The range of good quality produce to be found in Virginia ensures that there is no need to look any further for foods that will maintain healthy skin and strong, beautiful hair. From free-range eggs to delicious, juicy berries, Virginia’s got all you need for a diverse and nutritious diet.