With aisles and aisles of products aimed at improving the look and condition of your hair, it can be easy to forget that one of the most important things you can do to keep your locks looking their best is to provide them with adequate nutrition.
That’s right, just like your skin benefits from a healthy diet (like the rest of your body, for that matter), eating right and getting essential nutrients ensures that your hair gets what it needs to promote growth and. prevent breakage and drought. Likewise, strong, shiny and soft hair is not only something that makes you look and feel beautiful, it is also a sign of good nutrition.
The next time you admire your mane in the mirror, give a big thank you to these essentials for healthy hair nutrition. And if you’re looking to improve your hair, take a look at your eating habits to see what might be missing; advice from a nutritionist can also help.
The structure of your hair is made up of hardened proteins called keratin. When your protein stores are low, the generation of this important element slows down and hair grows slower and weaker. Lean meats like chicken and turkey, and fish like tuna, halibut, and tilapia are great protein-rich foods to include in your diet. Low fat mozzarella and cottage cheeses, tofu, and quinoa are also great options to consider.
Lentils are a good source of biotin, a nutrient that promotes hair growth. When biotin interacts with cellular enzymes, it helps produce amino acids, compounds that make up the ever-important proteins mentioned earlier. Researchers have even found that less biotin can lead to hair loss. Almonds, carrots, cauliflower and walnuts are other smart choices to consider. If you want to take a supplement, talk to your doctor for a recommendation.
Your hair follicles receive oxygen nourishing the iron contained in your red blood cells. Although the level of iron in your blood can be considered normal, it is still possible that you have low levels of ferritin – the “bank” of iron that your body continues to draw on when it needs it. Low ferritin has been associated with slow or interrupted hair growth, as well as hair loss. Do your best to avoid this by eating foods high in iron, like oysters, clams, lean beef, eggs, tuna, soy, spinach, tofu, and chickpeas. Be sure to get your ferritin levels tested before considering a supplement.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3s are found in the cell membranes of the skin of your scalp and in the natural oils that your scalp and hair produce to stay hydrated. Getting enough of these essential fatty acids can help avoid dry scalp and help your hair grow and shine. Eating wild salmon and other fatty fish like striped bass or mackerel twice a week will ensure you get a healthy dose of omega-3s. Or, if you’re not a fan of fish, incorporate plant sources into your diet, such as flax seeds, nuts, soybeans, and canola oil.
While your strands are mostly made of protein, they are also made of water and need to retain their moisture to prevent dryness and breakage. In addition to turning to a leave-in conditioner or other moisturizing products to soften strands, also be sure to replenish yourself by drinking plenty of H2O each day. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in water also helps hydrate your mane.
B6, B12, and folate help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to all cells in the body, including those in the scalp and hair follicles. If you don’t get enough B vitamins, cells can starve, making your hair more likely to fall out, slow down in growth, and break. Pork tenderloin is packed with these vitamins, but if you don’t eat pork, stock up on beans, chicken, oatmeal, and low-fat dairy products, which are also good sources.
This essential nutrient does several things to help promote healthy hair: Vitamin C helps absorb iron. It is also used to form collagen, a structural fiber that makes up the connective tissue in the body, which hair follicles need for optimal growth. Peppers, thyme, parsley, kale, Brussels sprouts, oranges and strawberries are all packed with vitamin C.
This mineral helps strengthen your hair follicles and avoid hair loss by binding its proteins. It also plays a role in keeping your sebaceous glands functioning properly, which protects your strands from dryness and dandruff. Shellfish, such as oysters, crab, lobster, clams, and mussels are all high in zinc. In fact, just three ounces of oysters (about two medium-sized oysters) contain 493 percent of the recommended daily value of zinc. Sunflower seeds, peanuts, pine nuts, beef, lamb, pork, and whole grain cereals and bran are other high zinc foods to choose from.
If you notice significant changes in your hair that are of concern to you, see your doctor to discuss possible causes, such as nutritional deficiency, stress, an underactive thyroid, or hormonal imbalance.