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!
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.