Eating your way to great hair

I’ve written in a previous post about supplements which can help promote healthy hair growth but can you eat your way to better hair? Dena Ryness, a nutritionist from Beautiful. Active. Nourished, offers her advice below.

Diet can definitely make a difference to the overall health and quality of your hair but it’s unlikely to be the only factor in poor hair health. If you are suffering from hair loss, you should still seek medical advice. However, the right diet can make a difference – not just to your hair, but to your skin and your health in general.

Before we look at the nutrients you need to boost your hair health, here are two tips to bear in mind:

  1. Following a calorie controlled diet can be detrimental to hair growth. If you are eating too few calories, you aren’t going to be getting all the nutrients you need to nourish your scalp and hair. Taking supplements is an option but it’s never going to be as effective as taking in the nutrients directly from their source: food!
  2. Try to eat as clean and naturally as possible. This means avoiding processed foods, especially ready meals and chemical-ridden junk and snack foods, and focusing on whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, beans.

So, having established these principles, let’s look at some of the nutrients you should be incorporating into your diet to ensure maximum hair growth:

Protein

Hair – as well as fingernails – is made up of protein. Ensuring enough protein in your diet will help to boost hair follicles, which will in turn strengthen the hair strands, resulting in better hair growth.

The best sources of protein are lean meats, such as chicken and turkey, fish, eggs and dairy products. Vegetarians should include beans, pulses and nuts in their diet as good sources of protein

Omega 3

Omega 3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (i.e. a type of fat!) which the body can’t make itself, so it is vital to eat foods which are rich in this nutrient. These types of fats are found in the cell membranes which line the scalp, and in the natural oils which keep the hair and scalp hydrated, so ensuring you have enough of them is very important. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, and this helps to open the hair follicles, encouraging growth.

Food sources include oily fish (sardines, salmon, herring, tuna), seeds such as flax seeds (which are ground linseeds – freshly ground is best), hemp, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Wholegrain cereals are another source, as are rapeseed, evening primrose and walnut oils. Look for fresh-pressed versions of these oils, though, as heat will destroy their nutrients.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is needed by the hair’s sebaceous glands to create sebum, which acts as a natural conditioner, keeping your scalp healthy. Without enough sebum, your scalp can become itchy, resulting in dry hair. Look for vegetables rich in beta-carotene, identifiable their orange-yellow colours. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to Vitamin A

Sources include carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, apricot, cantaloupe melon, and green leafy vegetables

Iron

Iron helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Hair follicles and roots are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. Without enough iron, the nutrient supply to the hair follicle is disrupted, and this can affect hair growth, leading to shedding.

Iron can be found in red meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarian options include lentils, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C aids the absorption or iron. It also helps to produce collagen, which essential for hair growth, as well as maintaining its strength.

Good sources include berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes and papaya

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps to protect and nourish the hair.

It can be found in almonds, green leafy vegetables, plant oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, hemp seed, coconut, olive and cottonseed oil – again, remember to look for cold-pressed versions)

Zinc and Selenium

These 2 minerals help to boost the immune system. Zinc will help with a dry, flaky scalp, as it helps to keep the oil glands at a healthy level. This is useful in preventing hair loss.

Zinc and selenium can be found in whole grains and nuts. Additional sources of selenium can be found in liver, butter and garlic, while kidney beans, oysters, beef and eggs provide additional zinc.

Biotin

Biotin is a trace mineral which improves hair growth, strengthens hair, and helps to reduce hair loss.

Biotin is found in yeast, liver, kidney, egg yolk, soya, nuts and cereals.

So, try incorporating these into your diet and eat your way to better hair!

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