Not just mere accessory, your hair is a reflection of your health. So if your hair is in bad shape, ask yourself “am I eating the right foods”.
Nutrition plays a vital role in how your hair looks and feels. Although the hair that comes out of the scalp is practically dead, the hair follicle that is located deep inside the scalp is very much alive. So if you are not eating the right foods, and as a result not supplying the follicles with the nutrients they need, your hair will suffer. The hair that grows out will be finer and fragile, and it can break off or fall out prematurely.
Besides, any deficiency in your body will first hit your hair. It’s because hair is a non-essential part of your body – meaning it’s not necessary for your survival. Nutrients will be taken from less important areas such as hair follicles, nails to feed the more important parts, such as organs.
If you have noticed, people who are crash dieters, and people who have poor eating habits (like those who survive on crisps and sodas) generally have thin dull hair. And in extreme cases of malnutrition, your body can stop producing hair completely to conserve energy for more important bodily functions.
But the good news is that if you start supplying your hair with more oxygen and nutrients, your hair will get better and also start growing back – although there can be a lag time of few months before you start to see new growth.
Here is a key list of vitamins and nutrients that you should be eating to help you regain a more healthy and beautiful hair:
1. Protein: Hair is made up of protein called keratin. A lack of protein can trigger excessive hair thinning and or shedding. So make sure you eat foods that are high in protein.
Foods high in protein: seeds, nut, vegetables, wholegrains, lentils, pulses, dairy products, poultry, fish, and meat.
2. Iron: Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common causes of thinning or hair loss in otherwise healthy women. Besides, it’s noted that women with alopecia areata have significantly lower levels of iron in their blood compared to those without hair loss. So for thicker, stronger hair, up the amount of iron in your diet.
Foods high in iron: green leafy vegetables (spinach), eggs, wholegrains, lentils, kidney beans, meat, turkey and fish. And opt for iron pots and pans so that you will absorb some of the iron in your food.
3. Zinc: Those with low levels of zinc may produce weaker hair, which can break or fall out easily. Zinc is necessary for repair and regeneration of your tissues (including hair cells). It also keeps the oil glands around the hair follicles working properly. The good news is that you can get sufficient zinc through most nuts and seeds to keep your hair bouncy and beautiful.
Foods high in zinc: whole grains, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, spinach, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, oysters, red meat.
4. Biotin: One of the B vitamin (B7), Biotin is essential for hair growth and also to preserve your natural colour. It’s deficiency is rare because our bodies makes its own biotin and it is plentiful in many common foods.
Foods high in biotin/ The best source of biotin: peanuts, eggs, Swiss chard, salmon, avocados, almonds, wheat bran.
5. Silica: Research tells us that those who eat a high silica diet (especially Asians and Indians) have stronger bones as well as stronger hair and nails.
Foods high in silicon: Green beans, whole grains (brown rice, barley), spinach, cucumber, asparagus, and lentils.
6. Essential fatty acids – omega 3 and 6: Essential fats are vital for healthy hair and scalp. They nourish the hair follicles, add strength and elasticity to the hair shaft (which means less breakage), and promote healthy hair growth. These beneficial fats, especially the omega 3, have anti-inflammatory properties that work to help with dry scaly skin and dandruff.
Foods high in Omega 3 and 6: oily fish, ghee, avocados, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds. You can also use their cold pressed oils for your salad dressing.
7. Antioxidants: Free radicals which are produced as a result of body’s natural metabolism can cause wrinkles, cancer, stroke, and other age related changes (including grey hair as well hair loss). And how do you battle free radicals? by eating more antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in neutralizing these free radicals and act as protective and preventive agents.
Foods high in antioxidants: Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially berries, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, squash and gourd family. For the biggest boost go for a range of colours.
While the right foods can metamorphose your hair from dull to vibrant looking, there are certain food which you must keep away from if you want to preserve your locks. These foods can deplete the mineral reserve as well as nullify the effect of healthy foods that you eat. Here is the list of food you should keep away from:
We are constantly bombarded with images and adverts of ‘so called’ vitamin enriched beverages or foods. Don’t be fooled by marketing gimmick or your favorite star endorsing it. The first thing you should do before buying any packaged drink/food is read the label. If there’s any added sugar – comes in many forms such as fructose, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose – or artificial flavour enhancer or hydrogenated fat, put it back on the shelve.
Pill Lifestyle: This is a modern-day tragedy. We want every thing packed in a Pill – be it nutritious food or exercise – so we can gulp it down without taking any effort. Supplements may be important at an initial stage, but you cannot totally rely on it and not eat proper food. Plus, when it comes to supplements you’re getting what the manufacturer adds. Minus the other benefits of the wholefoods such as antioxidants, phyto & macro-nutrients, fiber, protein, and other nutrients. So the bottom line is whenever possible ‘eat real food’ – that is the best source to get your nutrients from.
Healthy eating sounds more overwhelming than it is. Just begin where you are, doing what you can. You can start by chucking all the junk food out of your fridge or cupboards – throw it away or give it away. Load your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables. Store nuts or dry fruits instead of crisps. Your hair and your body will thank you. Trust Me!
I feel great joy when my readers tell me that they are eating healthy food, exercising, and even meditating to preserve their locks. But I think it’s not just for hair’s sake, there is a shift in mind-set. And it’s for greater good.
Seek help: If you are unsure whether the hair loss is due to certain deficiencies, seek help. The people who can help you detect or correct your deficiencies are GPs, dietitians, nutritionist and even ayurvedic practitioners and homeopaths. You can also read a book on nutrition (see the references below) or talk to a friend who understands the importance of healthy food in your diet.
Be good to yourself. Always be happy 🙂
The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Dr Vasant Lad