“What’s food got to do with it?” you ask. Well, without getting overly sciencey about it, hair is made up of a protein known as keratin, and this protein’s growth can be affected by many factors – notably through hormones, illness, genetics and of course, diet.
Therefore, it’s fair to say that healthy hair is achieved from the inside out.
However, not all of these factors can be easily controlled. For example, we can’t be held accountable for our predisposition to fine hair – that’s way out of our hands! But, there are some things we can control, which is why if you want super-looking locks, beautifying your diet is a good place to start.
And so, to make your life easier, here are some insightful pearls of wisdom that will help you achieve just that!
What Nutrients Does Our Hair Need and What Foods Contain Them?
Protein: Since our hair is made of protein, it’s pretty vital to have this nutrient within our diets. An absence of it can lead to brittle and weak hair and even hair loss! So, first and foremost, our diet should contain healthy proteins. Plant proteins are a brilliant choice for nourished locks and can be found in soy products, beans, lentils and nuts. Amino acids found in these proteins are vital, as the hair keratin is made up of 16 of them, and intake of these proteins strengthens the hair shaft and stimulates follicular growth. AKA, the quest for beautiful hair is only a protein-rich meal away!
Omega 3: Our bodies don’t make these fatty acids naturally, so they have to be a part of our diet. They provide oils that hydrate the hair and keep it shiny. Vegetarian options include seeds (such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia and flax) as well as nuts (walnuts especially) spirulina (algae) hemp seeds and avocados. Blend them into a smoothie or sprinkle them on a salad, whatever you choose to do, your body will thank you for it!
“Healthy hair is achieved from the inside out”
Iron: This mineral is necessary for a healthy diet. If this nutrient falls short in the blood supply, you can become anaemic. It also means that the hair follicle and root cannot be fed properly, inevitably causing a potentially upsetting side effect of hair loss. To ensure you and your tresses are fed well, make sure you consume iron-rich foods, such as leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale and broccoli) lentils, tofu, beans and peas, mushrooms and whole grains.
Zinc and Selenium: A deficiency of these vital minerals in your diet means that your hair may be subject to dandruff. A lack of zinc can also, like iron, lead to hair loss. So, to protect your scalp from being dry and flaky, it’s good to eat foods like wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, cashews and fortified cereals. You can also treat yourself to dark chocolate too, as this is also high in zinc! Amazing or what?!
Vitamins A, C and E Vitamin A: Also known as beta-carotene, vitamin A can be found in foods such as sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots and pumpkins and other vegetables that are orange/yellow in colour. This vibrant vitamin is important in preventing a dry/itchy scalp, as it provides a source for the body to make sebum, which is what keeps the scalp conditioned.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is also really important in the diet, as it aids the absorption of iron (which, as you saw earlier, is rather necessary to have!) It’s also great for keeping your skin and immune system in top form because it provides collagen – a protein that connectively holds the body together and keeps it healthy and youthful. Sources of vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables, for example in berries, oranges, sweet potatoes and peppers.
Vitamin E (tocopherol) doesn’t only stimulate hair growth, it can also actively prevent hair loss! It is a fat-soluble nutrient that can be found in nuts (such as walnuts and almonds) and oils (including rapeseed) as well as foods like Swiss chard and spinach, which provides the highest dose of vitamin E per 100 calories. So if you want to keep your diet light but nutrient-dense, know it can be done!
“Vitamin A is important in preventing a dry/itchy scalp”
Biotin: This is also known as Vitamin B and is one of the chief vitamins in encouraging hair growth. Biotin-rich foods include soy flour, walnuts, almonds, carrots, spinach, yeast and also whole grains (such as fortified cereals).
Complex Carbohydrates: No matter what you’ve heard, carbohydrates are CRUCIAL to the diet, especially when it comes to hair! Despite the many diet fads out there trying to encourage you to limit your carb intake to an absolute minimum, the truth is, those with low carb diets can actually shed hair more easily, and what’s left can end up looking dull and lifeless. Therefore, to encourage gorgeous hair, indulge in wholesome carbs like quinoa, bulgur wheat, couscous and brown rice. Because you owe it to yourself to look and feel wonderful.
Happy healthy eating!