The secret to strong, luscious hair isn’t with the right shampoo or hair conditioner. It actually lies on your plate and the food that you put in it. As they say, you are what you eat. Fill in your plate with these 8 vital nutrients and before long you’ll be sporting lustrous, gorgeous hair that’ll be the envy of everyone.
As hair strands are made up of protein, ensuring that you are getting enough protein in your diet is crucial in maintaining strong, healthy hair. If you’re not eating enough protein, your hair is likely to become dry, weak and brittle. Foods that are extremely low in protein may even result to hair loss.
Adult women are recommended to consume about 46 grams of protein each day, while adult men are advised to consume 56 grams of protein each day. To ensure that you’re consuming enough protein, make sure that you’re getting protein from varied food sources. Protein is found in animal sources, such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and milk. Plant sources of protein include nuts and seeds, dried beans and peas, tofu, grains and some vegetables and fruits.
- Omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fatty acids have long been lauded for their health benefits, including protection against heart diseases, stroke and other conditions like cancer and autoimmune diseases. They’re needed by the body to perform numerous normal body functions, such as blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain, as well as for building strong and healthy hair. They are found in the cells that line the scalp and provide the oils that keep the hair and scalp moisturized.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, which means our body can’t make them so they must be obtained from food. There are two types of omega-3 fats. The first type is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in some vegetable oil, such as canola oil and flaxseed oil and in walnuts and soybeans. Some green vegetables also contain ALA, including Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale and salad greens.
The other type, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines.
Iron is a particularly important mineral for hair. Blood carries nutrients to hair roots and follicles. If iron levels in the blood drops at a certain level, anemia may result. This disrupts the supply of nutrients to the follicles, which in turn affects the hair growth cycle and lead to hair loss.
Animal products, such as red meat, fish and poultry are excellent sources of iron. Iron from these sources has a high bioavailability or they’re readily available for use by the body. Vegetarians can boost their iron intake by including lentils, dried beans and dark leafy greens in their diet, such as spinach, kale and salad greens. Pairing non-meat sources with vitamin C-rich foods like orange or lemon helps boost iron absorption up to 6-fold.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C does not only enhance iron absorption, but they are also crucial in the production of collagen. Collagen is essential for hair health, strength and growth as it strengthens the capillaries that supply nutrients to the hair shaft.
Plant food sources provide the richest source of vitamin C. Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruit are excellent sources of vitamin C, while non-citrus fruits like papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries and kiwi fruit are excellent sources as well. Most fresh fruits are very good sources of vitamin C. Many vegetables are also rich sources of vitamin C, including tomatoes, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is imperative in the health and growth of all cells in the body, including hair and scalp. Vitamin A is also essential for sebum production, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands that acts as a natural conditioner for the scalp. Deficiency in vitamin A may lead to decreased sebum production, which leads to dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair.
There are two basic forms of vitamin A, both of which provide unique health benefits. These are carotenoids, which are found in plant foods, and retinoids, which are found in animal foods. Excellent animal sources of vitamin A include eggs, shrimp, milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, sardines, chicken and beef. Yellow/orange-colored fruits and vegetables are known excellent sources of vitamin A as well as broccoli, chili peppers, asparagus, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens, papaya, watermelon and tomatoes.
Biotin is a b-complex vitamin that promotes hair growth and prevents hair dryness. It also boosts the elasticity of the hair’s cortex, helping to minimize and prevent hair breakage. Biotin deficiency can lead to dry, brittle hair and hair loss.
Biotin is found in a variety of foods, including whole grains, liver and kidney, eggs and milk, halibut, nuts, wheat products, carrots, beans, mushrooms and some fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E provides several benefits to the body, including prevention of hair loss and promoting hair growth by stimulating the growth of capillaries that nourish the hair and scalp. Vitamin E also prevents premature greying as it is also a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect cells from the damaging effects of the sun, which causes premature ageing.
Vitamin E is a natural supplement that can be found in a variety of food sources, including nuts, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, mustard greens and Swiss chards, avocados and fruits like kiwi and papaya.
Zinc is a trace mineral noted for its significance in scalp protection. A deficiency in zinc can result to a dry, flaky scalp, thinning hair and hair loss. Fortified cereals and whole grains are excellent sources of zinc, as well as oysters, beef and eggs.