Eat good food, not too much, mostly plants.—Michael Pollan “In Defense of Food”
Most of us know how important eating a healthy, balanced diet is for our overall health. But have you ever considered how a healthier diet could result in healthier hair? Believe it or not, there is a direct link to the overall health and wellness of our bodies and how our hair looks.
There are countless books, programs, apps and beyond devoted to finding the “right” combinations of foods based on everything from your blood type to your spiritual energy. Regardless of their angle, most of these ideas on diet have a very “broad strokes’” perspective. When all is said and done, your body uses the food that you eat to both power its existing parts and also to build new cells.
This includes growing your hair.
Depending on what ingredients you are giving it to work with, your body can either produce strong healthy hair fibers, or not. As long as you are eating mostly healthy, balanced meals, your hair should grow just fine. However, there are some vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are integral to hair health. Let’s explore what nutrients your body needs in order to make stronger, healthier hair and what foods you can find them in.
Your hair is made up of a lot of different components, but the one that gets the most attention is keratin. This fibrous protein is essential as it provides structure and strength to hair fibers. A lack of keratin results in weak, brittle hair that is prone to breakage. While it is possible to replace some keratin topically—by using certain products—your body mainly uses protein from the food you eat to produce keratin, so diet plays an important role in creating healthier hair, here.
Foods to incorporate: Meat, eggs, beans, fish
There are almost as many vitamins as there are letters in the alphabet and each one is designed to keep a specific body process running smoothly. Luckily, only a handful or so are essential for maintaining hair health. Vitamin A helps your scalp to produce sebum—the naturally occurring oil that keeps your hair and scalp moisturized. Vitamins B3 & B7 help your blood deliver oxygen to the hair follicle and stimulate certain production, respectively. These two vitamins are also knows as niacin and biotin.
Vitamin C not only boosts your bodies immunity, it also fights bacteria on your scalp. Finally, Vitamin E is the great moisturizer, infusing your scalp and hair with much needed hydration.
Foods to incorporate: Berries, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes/Carrots, Avocados, Peppers, Seeds, Nuts
Zinc, chromium, silica, omega fatty acids, and iron are also essential to maintaining healthy hair. While you can find most of these in supplement form, eating a balanced diet should provide you with the trace amounts of each of these nutrients that you need.
Foods to incorporate: (iron) meat, shellfish, beans, spinach (zinc): seeds, eggs, shellfish (omegas): avocados, nuts, fish.
There is also a recent study that links a particular compound found in soybeans to increased hair growth. This seems to occur by keeping hair in the anlagen—or growth phase—for longer. However, more research is needed before this effect can be widely accepted. At any rate, soybeans do contain a relatively high amount of plant protein, as well as some other healthy benefits…so it can’t hurt to throw them in the mix!
If you needed little extra motivation to start getting serious about what you are putting in your body, keep in mind that your body uses the food that you eat to create new cells. This goes for your brain, your internal organs, your skin, and yes, your hair. If you’re having a hard time “tasting the rainbow”—ie. incorporating lots of different fruits and veggies into your daily diet— just remember: you are what you eat!