Recently, during a talk I gave, one recurring question from the audience was about hair health. So many people were worried about their hair issues (falling hair, thin, brittle hair, dull hair etc) that I decided it was time to share the secret that we can tend to our tresses via food. Never thought of food as a hair staple? Well, its time to stock up on hair essentials ASAP and see and feel the difference.
The connection is logical. Remember if the body is healthy, hair will be well nourished. If you are having any health problems, hormonal changes, anorexia, sudden weight loss or are suffering from any nutritional deficiencies, your hair may stop growing, show damage, lead to weakening or thinning, frizzy, brittle, dull locks or even total baldness. For example, it is a well-known fact that an under active thyroid can result in frizzy or brittle hair, while an overactive thyroid turns hair greasy and limp. So, look out for these signs.
Below is the list of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to score super healthy hair:
Protein is essential for every cell in the body, including those required for normal hair growth, particularly to replace the hair that has been shed. In fact, hair responds instantly when you begin eating protein rich foods.
Opt for fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and soya products like tofu (with all essential 9 amino acids).
If you are a vegetarian, then eat a variety of plant foods to add up adequate amount of amino acids. Most plant sources like dried beans, seeds, nuts, grain products and many vegetables do contain protein, but not in the complete form. Variety here can be your saviour.
Also Read: FitQuiz: How Well Do You Know Your Proteins?
Body needs vitamin A to promote the growth of the cells and tissues of the hair and scalp. It helps to produce healthy sebum (oil) in the scalp. You can get vitamin A from both plant and animal sources.
Carotenoids like beta-carotene present in plant sources convert to vitamin A in the body. Sources include red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables.
Carrots, apricots, mango, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and broccoli pack in a good Vitamin A punch.
Animal sources deliver vitamin A in the form of retinol. Good animal sources include liver, eggs, fish oil and foods that are fortified with vitamin A.
B6 deficiency can cause reduced blood and oxygen supply to the hair, leading to hair loss, damaged hair and slow re-growth. Besides B6 also helps create melanin, the pigment that gives hair its colour.
Jumpstart hair health by chowing down green vegetables, beans, sunflower seeds, soya, liver, nuts and peas.
These foods are all high in the B complex family. To focus on folic acid eat leafy vegetables, orange juice, beetroot, broccoli, liver and foods that are fortified with it. Animal foods like mutton, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy foods contain B12.
A severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to hair splitting and hair breakage as this antioxidant promotes hair cell growth and repair.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, melons, berries, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and dark green leafy vegetables, cauliflower and cucumbers. An amla a day is a great idea too.
Vitamin E is a boon for shiny, healthy hair as it increases scalp circulation. It is found in avocados, rice bran, nuts, dark green vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Also Read: 11 Foolproof Foods For Flawless Skin
Iron carries oxygen in the haemoglobin of red blood cells. Its deficiency can lead to anaemia and increased hair loss. The daily intake for iron is 18 mg for an average adult. Iron can come from two sources – heme and non-heme iron.
Heme iron sources include animal products and non-heme iron comes from plant foods like spinach, red kidney beans and bran.
Zinc is a mineral that promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair and helps in the maintenance of the oil-secreting glands that are attached to the hair follicles. Daily intake of zinc is 15 mg for the average adult. Good sources of zinc include liver and seafood while it is also supplied through eggs too.
It helps to regulate the thyroid hormones. Thyroid disease is the number one cause of disease-related hair loss.
Iodine is present in fish, iodised salt and garlic.
Potassium helps in the transfer of nutrients through cell membranes and is essential in hormone secretion. Daily recommended dose amounts to 3500 mg. It is found in bananas, dairy foods, fish, meat, poultry and oranges.
Essential Fats (EFAs)
Two essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 are needed for healthy hair. Omega-6 fats are present in safflower oil, sunflower seeds and corn.
Omega-3 fats are found mostly in dark green vegetables, fish, soybeans and flaxseeds.
Water helps to flush out the chemical wastes, toxins and other impurities from the body. It helps to transport the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients in the body. So, drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico).‘ Her next book ‘Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa)‘ will be out in September.)
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