There’s a reason why we can’t go a single commercial break without watching a blond bombshell flaunt her long luscious locks. And that’s because we’ve been conditioned into thinking that a thick head of hair reflects good health and vitality (and in a way it does).
Much to our vain dismay, however, healthy hair doesn’t just show at the snap of a split end. Like a good diva, our hair requires serious pampering! No, not the deep-conditioning, chemical-blast, hair-serum kind; I’m talking the all-natural, whole-food, nutrient-dense kind. Just as we need nutrients to maintain proper bone and muscle growth, the hair, too, needs certain nutrients to ensure long and strong growth.
Eating clean whole foods rich in proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals will not only stimulate growth and repair but it will boost that je-ne-sais-quoi lustre that we all desire. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at several nutrients that will nourish your mane (and your ego)!
Protein – 88 per cent of hair is made up of protein, specifically keratin, so it’s no wonder a diet rich in complete proteins (those that include all the essential amino acids) is vital for strong, healthy hair. Complete protein sources include eggs, chicken, fish, quinoa, hemp seeds, tempeh, goji berries, whey protein and micro-algae. For the vegans among us, intake of protein is even more important so consider adding other protein-rich plant foods to your diet such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, legumes or whole grains.
Essential fatty acids – The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are truly endless. When it comes to our goldilocks, the omega-3s help combat dryness, boost circulation to the scalp and nip dandruff in the bud. Both DHA and EPA fatty acids are known to nourish hair follicles and have even been found to prevent hair loss. Fill up on omega-3s by munching on flax seeds, walnuts, coldwater fish such as halibut and salmon, or consider a high-quality oil supplement.
Biotin – Biotin, a.k.a. vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin that helps metabolize both fats and proteins. Because deficiencies in biotin cause hair loss, this savvy vitamin has long-been touted as a hair-supporting rockstar. But how exactly does biotin impact our hair? Well, that’s still being studied, but it’s thought to increase the elasticity of the hair’s cortex, helping prevent breakage. Food sources include egg yolks, sardines and almonds.
Silica – There’s nothing hairy about this trace mineral. Also called the “beauty nutrient”, silica is to hair what water is to life. It works to retain hair’s moisture, reduces brittleness and split ends, creates shinier strands and even slows hair loss. Though silica is already found in our bodies, more can be obtained through foods such as leeks, chickpeas, cucumbers, mangos and celery.
Vitamin E – This fat-soluble vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and a vanity staple. Long-known for its skin-enhancing properties, vitamin E is also thought to help hair by boosting scalp circulation which stimulates the growth of new hair follicles. While it’s often included in many natural shampoos and conditioners, vitamin E can also be found in food sources such as sunflower oil, almonds, spinach, cabbage and avocados.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
As a Nutritionist I always resort to food sources first when promoting key nutrients but there is a place for supplementation in the overall health equation. Each and every one of us is biochemically unique and may be experiencing various ailments i.e. some of us may be experiencing gut inflammation or low stomach acid in which case nutrition via food alone may not be adequate as absorption of these nutrients is trivial. If healthy hair is a concern for you, I suggest supplementing in addition to eating nutrient-dense foods. My top 3 favorite supplements for healthy hair: a good essential fatty acid formula like fermented cod liver oil or krill oil, a good mineral formula that is rich in biotin and silica (BioSil is a great product as if Quint Essentials for a mineral boost but any broad spectrum mineral formula rich in biotin, silica, iron and zinc will do) and lastly, a good protein formula. I can almost guess that you’re probably not getting enough protein in your diet so a protein powder is a convenient way to ensure that you’re getting enough protein daily (I’m talking 45 g per day for sedentary women). If you’re vegan, a pea, pumpkin or hemp protein will do and if you’re a carnivore, I suggest a whey protein powder for easily digestible and absorbable protein. My favorite brand at the moment is ProMix.
If you notice that your hair is very brittle or in worst case scenario, falling out, consult with your doctor and request getting your thyroid checked. A simple blood test measuring TSH and T3 levels can indicate whether or not you have a hypothyroid or sluggish thyroid. A major symptom of hypothyroidism is brittle, lack luster hair and by simply addressing the thyroid you will get your hair back to where you want it to be – long, strong and luscious.