Besides for looking great, healthy hair can be a signifier of good health. Dull, lifeless hair can be indicative of nutritional deficiencies that can also affect other crucial bodily functions. Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet and include the following for luscious locks:
B Vitamins: Folate, B6, B12
These vitamins are the building blocks of the industrious red blood cells: they carry nutrition and oxygen all through the body and to your scalp, hair shaft and follicles. Lacking these essentials can mean that the above mentioned function of your red blood cells will be impaired.
BEST FOODS FOR B VITAMINS: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), salmon (fresh, canned), lean beef, chicken, oats, bananas, pistachio nuts, lentils, tomatoes, barley, brown rice, broccoli, carrots, peanuts and peanut butter, eggs, shrimp, tofu, apricots, watermelon, avocados, strawberries and whole grain bread. Shellfish, salmon (fresh, canned), soy milk, low-fat cottage cheese, milk and yogurt, spinach, mustard greens, peas, okra, beets, sunflower seeds, oranges and orange juice, papaya, seaweed, cauliflower and corn.
Another B vitamin, biotin, is essential for hair and scalp health. Luckily, because our bodies make their own biotin and it’s all abundantly found in most common foods, it is unlikely to develop a biotin deficiency.
BEST FOODS FOR BIOTIN: Eggs, peanuts and peanut butter, almonds and almond butter, wheat bran, walnuts, whole wheat bread, low-fat cheese, cauliflower and avocadoes.
For vegetarians, it’s important to stock up on iron-rich plant foods like spinach and dark greens, lentils and beans. Additionally, Vitamin C betters the body’s ability to absorb iron from plant sources, so it’s more beneficial to consume Vitamin C rich foods alongside iron rich plant foods in the same meal. Iron helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen. Anaemia, a condition caused by a deficiency of iron, is when the cells aren’t provided enough oxygen to enable their proper function. Hence iron rich foods are necessary for healthy hair. Iron found in meat, called heme-iron, is more easily absorbed by the body than iron found in plant foods.
BEST FOODS FOR IRON-RICH PROTEIN: Lean beef and lamb, chicken and turkey (especially dark meat), shrimp, egg yolks.
BEST IRON–RICH PROTEIN (vegetarian sources): Tofu, soybeans (edamame), lentils, beans (such as black, chickpeas/garbanzo, and kidney)
BEST IRON–RICH VEGETABLES: Spinach, seaweed, asparagus, mustard greens, kale and broccoli.
Enabling the body to more readily absorb plant source derived iron is one of the many reasons that Vitamin C is necessary for hair health. This in turn ensures plenty of iron for the red blood cells to effectively transmit oxygen to cells in the scalp. Vitamin C is also used to form collagen, a structural fibre that holds everything together: hair follicles, blood vessels, and skin. Vitamin C deficiency is the most common cause of ingrown hairs and redness around hair follicles.
BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN C: Guava, bell peppers, oranges and orange juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, lemons and lemon juice, broccoli, kale, kidney beans, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cabbage (all varieties), mangoes, mustard greens, tomatoes, sugar, peas, watermelon, tangerines, okra, lychees and persimmons.
When absorbed in the body, beta carotene is converted to vitamin A which is necessary for all cell growth, including hair cells. Although imperative for healthy hair, excessive amounts of Vitamin A can cause hair loss. Check your multivitamin to make sure that you ingest not more that 50% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A (sometimes listed as retinol on labels). The rest of the Vitamin A required by the body should be from beta carotene rich foods which is converted to Vitamin A and dispensed to the body when needed.
BEST FOODS FOR BETA CAROTENE: Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, pumpkin, mustard greens, cantaloupe, apricots, spinach, lettuce (green, red and romaine), grapefruit, watermelon, cherries, mangos, tomatoes, guava and red cabbage.
Zinc is involved with the maintenance of the oil glands around the hair follicle and hair tissue. Zinc deficiencies can lead to dandruff and hair loss.
BEST FOODS FOR ZINC: Lean beef and lamb, chicken or turkey (especially dark meat, pumpkin seeds, low-fat yogurt, beans (such as black, chickpea/garbanzo, kidney), lentils, soybeans (edamame), pine nuts, cashews, peanuts and peanut butter and sunflower seeds.