Last month, we looked at four foods that are damaging your hair, from sugar to sodium. Some readers expressed dismay over the hair sins they were committing without even realising.
If you’ve been unkind to your hair, relax. Just as unhealthy foods are bad for your hair, a balanced diet can do wonders for your locks.
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Nutritionist and author of The Beauty Diet, Lisa Drayer, explains, “your hair reflects your nutritional status. Behind great hair is great nutrition. There are no hair products that can be applied on the outside that will make up for poor nutrition.”
Read on for five superfood groups that will kick start your hair recovery.
1. Omega 3-rich foods
As we uncovered in the four foods that are damaging your hair, deficiencies in your diet can be just as damaging as overindulgence. People who don’t consume enough foods that are rich in omega-3 may experience brittle hair and scalp conditions such as eczema.
Drayer warns, “Your body needs quality fats to grow hair, since about three percent of the shaft is made up of lipids.” Additionally, fats are used to build cell membranes in the scalp and to create the natural oil that keeps your hair from drying out.
Salmon is an excellent (and tasty) source of Omega 3. If salmon isn’t to your tastes, you can also boost your body’s essential fatty acid intake by eating other fish, such as mackerel or sardines. Other options include walnuts, pumpkin seeds and whole grains. Drayer also recommends flax or hemp seeds.
2. Iron-rich foods
An iron deficiency, sometimes seen in pregnant women or people with restricted diets (such as vegetarians or vegans), is a known contributor to hair loss and hair thinning.
Research by Wilma Bergfeld for the America Academy of Dermatology suggests that, even if anaemia is not the main cause of a person’s hair loss, having too little iron in the blood only makes matters worse.
A great iron-rich food is spinach. Spinach contains not only iron but also folate and Vitamin C, all of which encourage production of healthy scalp oils for hair growth.
If you don’t enjoy spinach, you can also find iron in other dark vegetables, such as kale, broccoli or bok choy.
We recommend oysters for pescetarians.
3. Vitamin C-rich foods
Drayer explains, “If you are not eating abundant amounts of vitamin C-rich foods every day, you may not have enough to take care of your lovely locks.”
Why is Vitamin C so important? Among other things, Vitamin C aids collagen product. Collagen isn’t only found under our skin, but it also surrounds your hair strands. As we age, the collagen breaks down. This process makes hair more prone to breakage.
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious foods that can help you get your daily fill of vitamin C. Blueberries are a particularly rich source of vitamin C. Other options include oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit and red peppers.
Consuming 250mg of vitamin C daily won’t just help you get beautiful hair – the increased collagen production will also fight signs of ageing, like wrinkles, on your skin.
4. Zinc-rich foods
Zinc is another essential mineral for strong, healthy hair. Drayer notes that, while many people have a zinc deficiency, “taking zinc supplements can throw off your body’s natural balance between zinc and copper.”
Why resort to supplements when you can eat your way to healthy zinc levels?
Drayer’s top 10 beauty foods lists oysters and yoghurt as excellent sources of zinc. Other foods that can help your boost your zinc intake include seafood, beef, lamb, eggs and nuts.
5. High fibre foods
While we may not often associate fibre with lustrous locks, Drayer explains, “some skin-care experts believe toxins contribute to scalp and hair problems.” Additionally, making sure you get enough fibre in your diet will prevent undigested food from lingering in your intestines and robbing your body and hair of precious nutrients.
You should aim to eat at least 20 to 25mg of fibre per day. Good sources of fibre include foods made from whole-grains, such as brown rice or bread. Raw vegetables, such as carrots, are another easy way to get fibre into your diet. Carrots have the added benefit of increasing your body’s production of Vitamin A, which is vital for a healthy scalp.
By including some of these five superfoods in your diet, you can easily combat hair loss and eat your way to silkier, stronger and more manageable hair.
What are your best tips for healthy hair?
Bethany Tyndall writes about beauty on her blog Beauty Junkie.