• Experts speak

    Transformation Through Food

  • – Charmaine D’Souza 

    How often we look at models and actresses on television or in ads and feel envious about their flawless skin and beautiful hair? We all secretly want that. Some of it is makeup, sure, but the rest of it is good skin and hair care.  Now by skin and hair care, I don’t mean the products these women advertise. I mean good diet and quick home remedies. Yes, you’ll be amazed to find how religiously people follow such things, and well, the results are there for all of us to see.

    In order to enjoy optimal health, beauty and wellness, your body needs a daily diet that embraces nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, sprouts, low-fat proteins and nuts. So, put aside your chemical-laden beauty products for a while, take up your knives and forks and discover how to eat your way to a healthier, more beautiful you.

    Your body, as well as your skin and hair, is at its healthiest when it is slightly alkaline. Your blood pH level should be around 7.35. However, many of the foods we eat on a daily basis are highly acidic and lacking in nutrients. This can cause an acidic pH balance. Your lifestyle will have to be modified if you want to lessen the effects that acidic foods have on the body, skin and hair. Follow these few steps to prevent the threat of alkaline imbalance

    • STAY WELL HYDRATED by drinking at least 2 litres of water daily. This will keep your body flushed of toxins and help maintain an alkaline balance. You can add an alkaline supplement to your drinking water. Else simply add a stalk of celery or 20 mint leaves to the water.
    • EAT HIGHLY ALKALINE FOODS like avocado, garlic, asparagus, spinach, soy, tomatoes, radish, and sprouts. A healthy balanced diet is 80% alkaline and 20% acidic. Highly acidic foods which should be avoided or eaten in moderation include meats, cheese, artificial sweeteners, sugar, coffee, alcohol and bread.
    • BE KIND TO YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACT by eating smaller meals at regular intervals. Eat slowly and chew your food well before swallowing it. Ensure that your diet is high in fiber and eat a bowl of dahi or any probiotic to maintain proper digestive health
    • REDUCE YOUR STRESS LEVEL because stress increases your acid level.
    • EXERCISE as much as possible. A daily workout helps to keep the pH level in check and on the alkaline side.

    I understand how difficult it is to modify our diets and lifestyles, especially in the fast-paced lives that we lead. Having said that, our health is more important than anything else. So here are some tips about the different kinds of food and how best you can combine them to ensure healthy skin and hair:

    • Green Vegetables are the best sources of alkaline foods. Include celery, broccoli, pumpkin, coriander, mint, methi and raw spinach to your diet and the high fiber, vitamins and minerals will work wonders for your hair and skin.
    • Fruits must be eaten by themselves and not as part of or following a cooked meal. Do this to facilitate easier digestion. Limit your consumption of tinned or canned fruits or avoid them altogether. Ideally, fruits should be eaten as soon as they are cut open.
    • Almonds and Walnuts are healthy in between meal snack. They are alkalizing to the body and are a good source of calcium and magnesium.
    • Mixed Seeds like pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, melon seeds, chia seeds, etc are also alkalizing. Add them to your smoothies, snack mixes, soups, salads, etc to incorporate more zinc, calcium, magnesium and other minerals to your diet.
    • Millets include jowar, bajra, ragi, kodra etc. They are not acid forming like most grains. They are also free of gluten and are a good option if you are sensitive to gluten.
    • Grains like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, wheat, rye and barley are moderately acidic. So combine them with lentils like moong, masoor, toor dal etc to get a right balance of nutrients.
    • Water is the most important nutrients needed for our survival. Dehydration is the most common cause of daytime fatigue. It can also lead to pain in the joints, dry skin, brittle nails and hair damage. Water helps our body remove toxins through urination and perspiration. It helps reduce constipation. While detoxifying or fasting it is very essential to drink more water so that the body can be cleansed of all the accumulated toxins. However, overhydration can also be harmful as you can lose out on essential electrolytes due to excessive urination. A reasonable goal is eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

    Dry Skin

    • The weather: Your skin is driest in the winter.
    • Appliances: Air conditioning, wood burning stoves, room heaters and fireplaces dry the skin because they reduce humidity.
    • Deodorants, antibacterial soaps & other soaps and detergents: Take away lipids and water from your skin. Harsh shampoos dry out your scalp too.
    • Exposure to the sun: Dries up your skin. The sun damaged skin gives the appearance of dry skin.


    • Choose water-based fruits and vegetables like grapes, oranges, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions for added hydration.
    • Choose foods high in Vitamins A, B, and C and in natural antioxidants like apricots, strawberries, carrots, blueberries, orange and yellow vegetables like carrots, leafy green vegetables like spinach, plain yogurt for skin renewal and repair.
    • Choose foods that are high in sulfur content like eggs, garlic, broccoli and asparagus for skin rejuvenation.

    Remedies for dry skin:

    • Apply a pack of whole milk mixed with 1 tsp of almond paste, and wash after 15 to 20 minutes with cold water.
    • Apply mashed avocado mixed with a few drops of fresh lime juice and olive oil on the skin and wash away after 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Apply mashed banana with 1 tsp of honey on the face, keep for 15 minutes, and rinse off with cold water for an instant glow.

    Eat a tablespoon of mixed seeds like sunflower, melon, pumpkin and flax with a teaspoon of ginger juice for better skin hydration.

    Oily skin           

    Unfortunately, oily skin doesn’t give our skin a healthy glow but makes it shiny, thick, and dull colored. Very often oily skin has open pores, blackheads and pimples.

    Causes of oily skin

    Heredity, Diet, Hormone levels, Pregnancy, Birth control pills, Cosmetics, Humidity, and hot weather

    Foods that combat oily skin:

    • A diet rich in proteins but restricted in sugar, fluids, and salt.
    • Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits.
    • Even a slight deficiency in vitamin B2 can cause oily skin. Nutritional yeast, wheat germ, and organ meats provide both vitamin B5 and B2. Other good sources of Vitamin B2 are whole grains, beans, and nuts. Buckwheat, black beans, and whole rice are excellent to supply the body with iron and rejuvenate pale skin.
    • Drink plenty of quality water to keep the skin hydrated and flush out toxins.
    • Reduce the amount of fat in your diet. Avoid fried food, highly seasoned food, animal fats and heat-processed vegetable oils.

    Remedies for oily skin

    • Make a pack of 2 tbsp rice flour, 1 tbsp beans, 1 tsp lemon rind, 2 tsp lemon juice, and 2 tsp rose water. Apply on gently on your face. Leave for 2 minutes and then rinse off with cold water.
    • To reduce blackheads: use a scrub made of 2 tbsp oatmeal, ¼ tsp Haldi powder, and 2 tbsp lemon juice. Use this to cleanse your face.
    • Use equal parts of honey and rose water to soothe the skin if it is oily. Just apply and leave on for an hour, rinse with water, and dab with cotton wool dipped in milk all over the face. Keep on for 10 minutes and then rinse off with cold water. You can rub an ice cube all over your face after this for even better results.


    All of us have, at one point of time, had those ugly red pimples and not quite known how to handle it. Acne is not dangerous but can leave skin scars – and emotional scars. Curing acne is important not just for your skin, but for your self-esteem too.

    Remedies for acne

    • Make a face pack using 2 tablespoons of dried orange peel, 10 mint leaves, the juice of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons grated cucumber. Leave on the face for an hour. Then wash with cold water.
    • To prevent pimples from leaving scars, peel a clove of garlic, squash it, and rub the garlic clove on the pimple. Allow the garlic juice to act for 10 minutes and then rinse with cold water.


    Beautiful hair has always been an asset to us Indians. Very often we take it for granted. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. All that protein-rich food is necessary for proper growth of our hair. It goes through so many problems; hair loss, dandruff, oily hair, frizzy hair and what not. We are so caught up with our lives that we do not spare the time to treat our hair. Harmful chemical-laden products cannot be the answer to our hair woes.

    Hair loss

    A common problem faced by millions of people worldwide, hair loss is a source of worry. There can be several reasons for hair loss and some of them include:

    • Gradual thinning on top of the head.
    • Circular or patchy bald spots.
    • Sudden loosening of clumps of hair.
    • Full body hair loss.
    • Medical conditions like hypothyroidism and Alopecia areata.
    • Scalp infections like ringworms.
    • Other skin disorders like Lichen planus and some forms of Lupus.
    • Drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, and high blood pressure.
    • Hair-pulling disorder.
    • Certain hairstyles like pigtails and cornrows.

    Foods that combat hair loss

    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in salmon and flaxseeds. Add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil or flaxseed powder to your breakfast smoothie or porridge or dalia.
    • Vitamins E, A C, D and K. So increase your intake of broccoli, methi, spinach and carrots, Extra virgin olive oil contains vitamins E, A D and K, all of which aid in hair growth.
    • Silica found in sprouted moong beans and in the skin of potatoes and cucumbers.
    • Biotin and protein found in eggs, kidney beans and lentils like moong and masoor.
    • Zinc found in nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds and pecans.
    • Selenium found in Brazil nuts.
    • B Vitamins found in whole grains like breakfast cereal, whole wheat bread and short grain brown rice

    Remedies for hair loss

    • Boil 50 gms of dried amla pieces in 200 ml of coconut oil. Strain and store in a glass bottle. Apply on your scalp once a week to increase hair growth.
    • Boil 50 gms henna leaves in 200 ml of mustard oil. Use this henna oil to increase hair growth and reduce dullness of hair.
    • Massage the scalp once a week with a combination of coconut and almond oils to nourish the scalp.
    • Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to 100 ml olive oil and massage the scalp once a week with this to prevent hair dryness.
    • Apply a pack of coconut milk along with grated white coconut flesh on the scalp once every fortnight to nourish the scalp and prevent hair loss.
    • Apply a pack of 100 gms curd with 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of mint powder for shiny hair.
    • Wash your hair with 50 gms of black gram powder and 10 gms of fenugreek powder in order to improve dry hair damaged by hair dyes, curling irons etc
    • Eat 5 almonds and 2 walnuts daily
    • Drink a juice made from 1 amla, 10 lettuce leaves, 10 mint leaves, ½ beet, and 5 spinach leaves every morning. This strengthens the roots and prevents hair loss.


    It is a common chronic scalp condition marked by the itching and flaking of the skin on your scalp. Although dandruff isn’t contagious and is rarely serious, it can be embarrassing and sometimes difficult to treat. Dandruff symptoms are easy to spot: white, oily looking flakes of dead skin that dot your hair and shoulders, and an itchy, scaling scalp.

    Remedies for dandruff

    • Soak 1 tbsp methi seeds in 100 ml of water overnight. In the morning, add 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar and grind to a fine paste. Apply this paste to your scalp and keep for a few hours. Rinse off with cold water and use a mild shampoo to wash hair.
    • Make a paste of 1 tbsp of powdered melon seeds, 2 tbsp dahi, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp honey. Apply on your scalp and leave overnight. Rinse well and use a mild shampoo to wash hair.
    • Mix 2 tbsp moong powder, 4 tbsp dahi, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Let it stay on your scalp for a few hours and rinse well with cold water. Wash with a mild shampoo.

    Premature greying of hair

    Hair goes grey when color-producing cells stop producing. Naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide can also build up in the hair, bleaching hair of its colour.

    Causes of premature greying

    • Nutritional deficiency of B Vitamins, iron, copper, and iodine.
    • Medical conditions like thyroid gland imbalance, vitiligo, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, and anemia.
    • Excessive heating of hair- washing with hot water, blow drying and straightening.
    • Unclean scalp.

    Remedy to prevent premature greying.

    • Boil 20 curry leaves, 1 chopped amla, and 5 guava leaves in 200 ml of pure coconut oil. Let them blacken in the oil, then cover and cool this oil, pass through a muslin cloth and store in a dark-colored bottle. Use this oil on your scalp once a week.
    • Eat 10 curry leaves, 2 walnuts and 1 teaspoon kalonji before breakfast.
    • Drink a glass of beetroot, ginger and mint juice daily.

    Hair and skin are an essential part of our appearance. They matter to us not just because of what people think of us, but also because of what we think of ourselves. We take pride in grooming a healthy head of hair and glow from within when our skin is well nourished. From now on, let your kitchen be a place not only for cooking but also for healing. Follow our simple tips, using basic kitchen remedies, to ensure a more beautiful and confident you. I do hope that this article on skin and hair issues has given you more insight into how to deal with these minor and yet important matters. Like I always say, Good Health Always!


    Charmaine D’Souza is a Clinical Nutritionist and Dietician. Author of – Kitchen Clinic and – Blood Sugar & Spice, both published by Random House Penguin Books. She is the Director of Charmaine’s Good Health Always Consultancy Pvt Ltd.