Welcome, class. Today we’re going to discuss the science of getting healthy hair from healthy food. So get your pen and notebook in hand, and get ready, we have some important information to digest (no pun intended…)
What’s food got to do with it you ask? Hair is made up of a protein known as keratin. The healthy growth of keratin can be affected by many factors, such as through hormones, illness, genetics and diet.
Thus, healthy hair is achieved from the inside out. So it’s important to start with one factor you can control, and that’s with a nutrient rich diet.
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. The best sources of animal protein for healthy hair can be found in fish, chicken, turkey, dairy products and eggs. Plant proteins are also brilliant choices for nourished locks and can be found in soya 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.
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; therefore oily fish are a massive yes! So treat yourself to salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel (at least two portions of fish a week for the recommended omegas). Vegetarian options include seeds (such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia and flax) as well as nuts and avocados.
“Healthy hair is achieved from the inside out”
Iron: This mineral is necessary to our diet to avoid anaemia. If this nutrient falls short in the blood supply, the hair follicle and root cannot be fed properly, and a side effect of that is hair loss. To ensure you and your tresses are fed well, make sure you consume iron rich foods, such as beef, chicken and fish. Veggie options include leafy greens (such as spinach, kale and broccoli) salad leaves and lentils.
Zinc and Selenium: A deficiency of these vital minerals in your diet means your hair may be subject to dandruff. A lack of zinc especially can also lead to the worse consequence of hair loss. So, to protect your scalp from being dry and flaky it’s good to eat foods like red and white meats, eggs and oysters. And for vegetarians, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, cashews and fortified cereals. You can also treat yourself to dark chocolate, as this is high in zinc too. Happy days!
Vitamins A, C and E Vitamin A (also known as beta-carotene): is found in foods such as sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots and pumpkins and other vegetables that are orange/yellow in colour. Vitamin A is important in preventing a dry/itchy scalp, as it provides a source for the body to make sebum, which keeps the scalp conditioned. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is really important in the diet, as it aids the absorption of iron, and is also great for keeping your skin and immune system in top form. This is because it provides collagen, which is 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, but can also prevent hair loss! It is a fat-soluble nutrient that can be found in nuts (such as walnuts and almonds) and oils (including rapeseed and vegetable oil). It’s an all-round vitamin for luscious locks.
“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, egg yolk, liver, yeast and wholegrains (such as fortified cereals).
Complex Carbohydrates: The previous mention of wholegrains leads me nicely to my last point on how vital carbohydrates are to the diet when it comes to hair. Those with low carb diets can shed hair more easily, and what is left can look dull and lifeless. Therefore, to encourage gorgeous hair, indulge in carbs like quinoa, bulgur wheat, couscous and brown rice.
There you go, who thought a biology lesson could lead to such beautiful hair? I’m now going to enjoy my protein rich fish, with complex carb bulgur wheat and vitamin rich salad (recipe idea, people!) and my hair will enjoy it too! Happy healthy eating 🙂