Shampooing and conditioning your hair may not be enough to have luxurious locks. “Every month hair grows about 1/4 in or 1/2 in, and the most important thing for healthy growing hair is nutrients," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a Chicago-based dietitian. A “healthy diet favors the growth of stronger and healthier cells in the body," Blatner adds.
Nutrition and hair experts say that the type of hair that you possess depends on genes and is difficult to change. For example a person born with fine, thin hair may not develop thick, rope-like hair with nutrition. But a healthy diet, with lots of protein and iron, can promote the growth of healthy hair and make a real difference to its look. Many experts warn the use of dietary hair-growth supplements, as many of them can backfire rather than stimulate growth.
“Although supplements to promote hair growth are easily available in a market, it is better to get nutrients in the diet," suggests Paradi Mirmirani, MD, a dermatologist in Vallejo. In some rare cases, excess intake of nutrients, like vitamin A, is associated with loss of hair.
A healthy hair diet includes:
- Salmon – Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamin B-12 and iron, and form the best package for healthy beauty. Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, opines that “omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the health of the scalp, and deficiency of this nutrient may result in dry scalp and hair, which makes the tresses look dull and lifeless." If you are a vegetarian, opt for some flaxseed to include the plant-based omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.
- Dark green vegetables – dark green vegetables like the spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard are abundant in vitamin A and C, which are very essential for the production of sebum. Sebum is a natural conditioner for hair and keeps hair looking healthy and vibrant. Dark green vegetables also provide calcium and iron for better hair growth.
- Beans – this is an important component if you’re looking for luxurious growth. They are rich in proteins for promoting abundant hair growth and also provide enough amounts of iron, zinc and biotin. In some cases, biotin deficiencies are reported to cause brittle hair. “Three or more cups of lentils or beans a week is ideal for healthy hair growth," recommends Blatner.
- Nuts – Nuts are very important for the growth of shiney, thick hair. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, a mineral important in maintaining the health of the scalp. Walnuts can improve the condition of hair by providing linolenic acid, one of the common omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts, cashews, almonds and pecans are good sources of zinc deficiency, which can lead to hair loss.
- Poultry – Healthy hair starts with high a quality protein diet; chicken and turkey are the best sources for these. “Deficiency of protein or having low-quality protein can result in brittle hair while acute shortage of proteins in the diet may lead to loss of hair color”, says Giancoli. Poultry is also a good source of iron.
- Eggs – It goes without saying that eggs are one of the best sources of dietary proteins. Whether scrambled, fried or just cooked, eggs can help to have lovely, long locks. They also provide good amounts of biotin and vitamin B-12, two major nutrients for healthy look of hair.
- Whole grains – Include whole wheat bread or fortified whole grain breakfast cereals to have adequate amounts of zinc, iron and B vitamins; major hair-health nutrients. Snacking on whole-grain foods is another option to reap the benefits of the nutrients.
- Oysters – Oysters contain good amounts of zinc, a powerful antioxidant that can considerably improve the health of hair. If you are a vegan and is worried about the zinc content in the diet, go for whole grains and nuts to get adequate amounts.
- Low-fat dairy products – Dairy products like yogurt and milk are known for their richness in calcium. Calcium is a very important mineral for hair growth. They also provide two major sources of protein: whey and casein. Snack on healthy dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese for maximum benefits. One can improve the health content of the product by mixing in a few spoons of ground flax seeds or walnuts, which will provide additional nutritional value of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Carrots – carrots are not only good for a healthy vision, but also for a healthy scalp because of the abundance of vitamin A in them. Presence of healthy scalp ensures shiny, well-conditioned hair.