Many people want strong and healthy hair, especially as they grow older.
Interestingly, your hair grows around 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) per month, and 6 inches (15 cm) per year. How fast it grows depends on factors like age, health, genetics and diet.
Although you can’t change factors like age and genetics, diet is one thing you have control over. In fact, consuming a diet lacking the right nutrients can lead to hair loss.
On the other hand, eating a balanced diet with the right nutrients can help promote hair growth, especially if you’re experiencing hair loss due to poor nutrition.
A healthy diet can help your hair stay strong and shiny. What you eat can also keep you from losing your locks. If you’re not getting certain nutrients from food, you might see the effects in your hair.
Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, play a key role in the health of your skin, hair, and nails. You should eat some of these foods, which are rich in omega-3, every day:
- Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish
- Flaxseed oil, Flaxseeds, chia seeds, canola oil
- Soy beans, tofu and cruciferous
- Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts)
Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are also important to your hair. Vegetarians and vegans often don’t get enough of them.
Foods with B6 include bananas, potatoes (both white and sweet), and spinach. Major sources of B12 include meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.
Which nutrients are in foods for hair growth?
Your hair’s structure is made of hardened proteins called keratin. When your protein stores are low, generation of this important building block slows and hair grows slower and weaker. Lean meats, like chicken and turkey, and fish like tuna, halibut and tilapia are great high-protein foods to include in your diet. Low-fat mozzarella and cottage cheeses, tofu and quinoa are also terrific options to consider.
Lentils are a good source of biotin—a nutrient that has been shown to promote hair growth. When biotin interacts with cell enzymes, it helps produce amino acids—compounds that form those ever-important proteins mentioned earlier. Researchers have even found that too little biotin can lead to hair loss. Carrots, almonds, walnuts and cauliflower are other smart choices to consider. If you’re interested in taking a supplement, speak with your doctor for a recommendation.
Your hair follicles receive nourishing oxygen from the iron in your red blood cells. While the level of iron in your blood may be considered normal, there is still a chance that you may have low ferritin—the “bank” of iron your body keeps to draw on when it needs it. Low ferritin has been linked to slow or halted hair growth, as well as shedding. Do your best to avoid this by eating iron-rich foods, such as oysters, clams, lean beef, eggs, tuna, soybeans, spinach, tofu and garbanzo beans. Be sure to have your ferritin levels tested before considering a supplement.
Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron so foods high in vitamin C are good to eat in conjunction with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant so is used readily by the body. The best sources are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen which strengthens the capillaries that supply the hair shafts.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are found in the cell membranes of your scalp’s skin, and in the natural oils your scalp and hair produce to stay hydrated. Getting enough of these essential fatty acids can help prevent dry scalp and help your hair grow and shine. Eating wild salmon and other fatty fish like striped sea bass or mackerel twice a week will ensure a healthy dose of omega-3s. Or, if you’re not a fan of fish, incorporate some plant-derived sources into your diet, like flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.
Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance created by our hairs sebaceous glands and provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. Without sebum we may experience an itchy scalp and dry hair. Include animal products and orange/yellow coloured vegetables which are high in beta-carotene (which makes vitamin A) such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
While your locks are made primarily of protein, they’re also made of water and need to maintain their moisture to avoid dryness and breakage. In addition to turning to a leave-in conditioner or other hydrating products to soften strands, make sure you’re also replenishing yourself by drinking plenty of H20 each day. Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables helps hydrate your mane as well.
Zinc and selenium
Scalp protection involves other important minerals, notably zinc and selenium. A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp. Fortified cereals and wholegrains are a good source of zinc along with oysters, beef and eggs.
The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin so ensure you eat foods rich in vitamin E to provide protection for your hair. Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, providing zinc and selenium as well as vitamin E so try to include them as part of a balanced diet.