Hair

What to Eat for Healthy Hair: Top 12 Foods for Healthy Hair

It's no wonder they say health and beauty come from within. Your body can provide everything your hair needs if you provide it with proper food.

Keeping hair beautiful isn’t just through the right shampoo, conditioner and salon treatments, but also through proper nutrition. Check out these foods I listed to find out what to eat for healthy hair.

The body and your diet

gorgeous girl with ice cream

Most of us ladies spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for our hair to be beautiful, but if you are constantly having bad hair days even with all the products you are using, you may want to reassess your diet. You might not be eating the right foods for healthy hair.

The secret to long (or short) luscious locks isn’t really your super expensive leave-on conditioner or your extra-talented hairstylist. While they may help you achieve a great look, these treatments and products can only do so much if your hair is too damaged to start with.

Your health and your hair

Just like any other part of your body, the physical processes that support your hairs health and vibrancy all depend on a balanced diet. While it may take longer to see the positive effects of healthy eating on your hair than on your skin, it will definitely show over time.

A few months of nutritional deficiency and stress, for example, can lead to dry scalp, hair loss and limp hair. The effects of a regular balanced diet and proper intake of essential nutrients, on the other hand, can be quite remarkable, as it leads to healthy hair follicles which translate to strong, bouncy, full and shiny hair.

Your hair needs protein

Lovely brunette woman drinking a glass of orange juice standing in her kitchen at home

Your scalp and your hair need quite a list of nutrients to help it grow strong and beautiful. Ever wonder why most shampoo commercials talk about proteins and vitamins in their ingredients? Because your scalp and your hair follicles need them, not just in shampoo but internally as well.

Protein lands the top spot for the most important nutrient for your hair. After all, a strand of hair is mostly made up of protein fibers, which means that for it to grow well – they need more protein as well. At any given time, about 90% of all your hair strands are in the growing phase, where it grows slowly inch by inch. This phase can last for two to three years.

After that, they go into a short resting phase of about three months before finally shedding. At any given day, you shed about 50 to 100 hair strands, which is considered normal. Without proper protein intake, a large amount of your hair may go into resting phase earlier than it should and may die out earlier. This leads to unwanted shedding and rapid hair loss.

Some other nutrients

Aside from protein, there are a few other nutrients worth mentioning as well. You also need iron and trace minerals like copper, magnesium and selenium to keep your hair in tip-top shape, as they are involved in the production of various proteins in your body. Vitamin D is also significant. While studies have not yet pinpointed its exact effect, it is seen to play a role in keeping your hair cycle normal.

Now that we have that all settled, it might just be time to hit the nearest supermarket and fill your kitchen up with foods rich in these hair-healthy nutrients. Here are twelve foods for healthy hair that you should incorporate in your diet every day.

Top 12 foods for healthy hair

1. Blueberries

Blueberries

If you love blueberries and constantly munch on them, then you are definitely in the right track. This nutrient superhero gives you plenty of Vitamin C, which is very beneficial for blood circulation in your scalp and follicles. Blueberries come in a wide range of versions, but it is best to get them fresh or frozen.

If for some reason you don’t like blueberries or are sick of eating them on a daily basis, you can always use a substitute. Choose from blackberries, cherries raspberries and strawberries and have fun! Add them to salads or eat them as is.

2. Salmon

Salmon is rich in protein and vitamin D (two nutrients I mentioned earlier). But what makes it really, really ideal is its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids feed the cell membranes of your scalp and provide you with natural oils to keep your skin and hair hydrated.

Aside from salmon, you can also get protein and omega-3 from deep-sea and cold-water fishes like mackerel, trout, herring and sardines.

What if you don’t like fish? Try avocado and walnuts instead!

3. Walnuts

Female mouth eating a chain of walnuts

They are a great snack food, especially if you are a Paleo eater or following a Gluten Free diet. Walnuts are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are a good source of vitamin E, which protects cells from free-radical damage.

Add walnuts to your diet – and not just by snacking on them! Try to use walnut oil when stir frying vegetables, or create salad dressings with it.

4. Spinach

Spinach is rich in antioxidants and nutrients from vitamin B, C, E to minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Aside from that, spinach is also rich in lutein. While not really for the hair, you will be glad to know that this nutrient keeps your eyes in top health. Eat spinach whenever you can by adding it to salads, sandwiches and omelets.

Can’t find fresh spinach in your supermarket? Check out the frozen section and get a bag of frozen spinach. It can be surprising to note that frozen spinach can compare to its fresh version. This is because of the fact that frozen spinach is flash frozen right after harvest.

The process allows the leaves to retain most of its nutrient content, giving you more vitamins and minerals than from fresh spinach that’s been left in room temperature for days.

For substitutes that are just as good, try kale, romaine lettuce and Swiss chard.

5. Oysters

oyster platter

Regular intake of oysters gives you your fill of zinc, and studies show that zinc deficiency can lead to dryness of the scalp and hair loss. A small serving of oysters (around 3 ounces) is already around 500% of your daily value.

The best thing about this food is that it also gives you protein at the same time. Oysters can be eaten raw, but if you aren’t too eager on eating your food alive, you can also enjoy them fried or added to stews and soups.

You can also get a similar experience (and similar nutrients) by eating clams, mussels and scallops.

6. Beans

Beans or legumes, such as lentils and kidney beans should be an integral part of your healthy-hair diet. First, they are rich in protein, but aside from that they also contain an ample amount of zinc, iron and biotin. Experts suggest at least three or more cups of beans each week.

Don’t know how to cook your beans? Check out this quick, easy and tasty Black Bean Burger recipe from one of our lovely authors.

7. Eggs

With all the controversy surrounding eggs for years, here is news for you: eat them when you can! Whether it’s boiled, scrambled, poached or fried, the egg is the best source of protein and is probably the easiest that you can prepare, too. Eggs are also good sources of vitamin B-12 and biotin.

8. Low fat dairy

young beautiful woman with a glass of milk

Low fat dairy options like yogurt, milk and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, which is apparently also an important mineral for hair growth. Aside from calcium, they also contain casein and whey – high quality sources of protein, as well as vitamin D, which we have established earlier as important for hair health.

I personally love Greek yogurt because of its live culture and low fat content, yet you can also get all the nutrients mentioned above from skim milk, low fat cheese and cottage cheese.

9. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes aren’t branded as super foods for nothing. They are a great source of beta carotene, which is then converted by the body into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an integral nutrient in the body and is required by all cells to function properly. It can also help your scalp produce the right amounts of oil to keep it well moisturized. Low levels of vitamin A may lead to dryness, itching and lots of dandruff.

Think mashed sweet potatoes taste yucky? Try baking them in chunks with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and salt. Or, substitute them with carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe and mangoes instead. They are also great sources of beta carotene.

10. Meat and poultry

As hair is mostly made of protein, it makes perfect sense to get as much protein in your diet as possible and the best source is always lean cuts of meat and poultry.

If you are on a diet, white meat is a wonderful choice – just make sure to cut off the skin and exclude it when cooking. Your best options are chicken breast, turkey cuts, pork tenderloin, eye of round and top round beef portions, as they have the highest protein content per serving portion. Lamb is high in protein but is a lot fattier than other types of meat.

11. Yellow peppers

They are another lovely source of Vitamin C. Do you know that they have at least five times more vitamin C than oranges? Add yellow peppers to your stir fries, in between pieces of meat when you barbecue, in your salads and even sandwiches. You can also stuff them with lean meat cuts for a vitamin C and protein combo.

If you cannot find yellow bell peppers, use red or orange ones freely, but do not substitute them with green ones.

12. Avocados

Very high in essential fatty acids, avocadoes are a beauty secret that has been used by civilizations for centuries to keep skin (and scalp) supple and smooth. If you don’t like the flavor and sensation of avocado, you can also apply them topically onto your scalp.

Quick bonus: hair treatments in your kitchen

Do you want to go a step further and speed up the effects of your healthy hair-friendly diet? Check out these kitchen staples that you can put ON your hair:

  • Apple cider vinegar – A great cleaning rinse, apple cider vinegar removes gunk from your hair that causes it to become chunky and tangled
  • Coconut oil – it may smell a bit funky, but coconut oil is a wonderful and natural substitute for your deep conditioner. Simply massage on dry hair, cover with a shower cap for several minutes and rinse off with shampoo. Do this once a week for best results.
  • Avocados and bananas – great ingredients for a quick fruit salad, but also great for the hair! Avocados and bananas have moisturizing and healing properties that will definitely address dry hair and split ends. They also stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, so they’re definitely great for the skin. Simply mix half an avocado and one banana together and massage onto your scalp. Leave on for thirty minutes and rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
  • Baking soda – Great as follow up to the apple cider vinegar rinse. Baking soda also removes product buildup and can be mixed with your favorite shampoo or with just water.

Healthy diet, healthy lifestyle

When it comes to foods for healthy hair, keeping a balanced diet is definitely the best way to go. Variety is important, so don’t just stick to one type of food. Balance it all out by getting your fill of lean proteins, green veggies, antioxidant rich foods, fatty fish and low fat dairy. Check out the substitutes mentioned under each item to keep your menu as varied as possible.

If you are keen on losing weight and looking forward to start another crash diet, you might end up with more than just a hungry stomach. Low calorie diets are often also low in nutrients that are essential for hair such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and zinc, leading to shedding or dry, dull and limp hair.

If malnourishment isn’t enough to deter you from crash dieting, then the idea of bald patches on your head just might.

If you want to shed some pounds, remember – eat and eat smart. A healthy diet that includes most of the foods above, as well as proper exercise should give you great results – resulting to more than just a lean body, but bouncing beautiful hair as well.

Want to do more? Check out these vitamins and essential oils for your hair to pair with all that you have learnt in this article. If you have some other tips on what to eat for healthy hair, be sure to write them in the comment section.

About the author

Justine R

On an eternal quest for happiness, Justine tries to lead a positive lifestyle by giving back to the universe and following natural approaches to parenting, health, food and beauty. When she's not on the beach, she keeps herself fit (and sane) by running and doing yoga.

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