You are what you eat. Something that all of us have heard time and again! And rightfully so, ‘cos we are indeed what we eat!! And our hair is no different.
Hair is your body’s barometer that indicates good health or the lack of it. This is something that we always iterate. When something goes amiss within your body, your hair sends the signal out right away. When you eat right, your body stays healthy and thereby your hair is full of life. And when the contrary happens, you start experiencing hair fall, thinning, and when left unattended – irreversible hair loss. Yes, there are multiple factors that impact hair’s health. But your diet is perhaps the most significant of all.
The good news is that there is growing awareness and discussions on this topic. Many of you have reached out to us with questions on diet, and for tips on eating right, for healthy hair. So here we are, yet again, with the ‘Ask the Hair Expert’ series, to give you some answers and clarity on this very subject.
You asked: “What should I eat to have awesome hair?! What is the right diet to grow my hair? What are the best foods that can help maintain healthy hair?”
Here’s the answer from the Hair Experts.
A balanced diet with adequate Hair foods and sufficient water – a must for healthy hair!
Understand the diet that is best suited for you, to promote hair growth & maintain its health, with the help of a Trichologist!
So, let’s first understand what kind of nutrition is needed for your hair to remain healthy & grow well, what the available sources of these nutrients are, how best to consume them and some handy tips on food & hair care!
What are the nutrients most needed for Hair?
Proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and water, are six major classes of nutrients that are required by every human body. Healthy hair prevails in the body of the person who has all these six major classes of nutrients in the right proportion. There is a reason why people who have health problems like obesity or malnutrition are prone to hair related problems!
Speaking of specifics, vitamins, proteins and minerals are the building blocks to healthy hair. A balanced diet that adequately gives you these nutrients would ensure that your hair is strong and healthy.
You may have read our blog on Hair structure and anatomy. If you haven’t read yet, please do. Hair is actually made up of a structural protein called keratin. This is the same protein that makes up your hair, nails and the outer layer of skin. When you understand your hair inside out, it is easier to understand the importance of nutrients intake, and maintaining the pH balance in your hair.
Hair foods, as we call them, are superfoods that ensure your hair is strong, healthy and full of life. These superfoods are abundant in the much-needed nutrients for your hair. Let’s break this down further for you now.
Vitamins for Hair
Vitamins can essentially be classified as fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. The difference between the two lies in how they are absorbed and how each vitamin acts within your body.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that can be sourced from plants and animals. These vitamins get absorbed along with fats and oils. Of these, Vitamin E can be ‘water solubilised’ and consumed for it to be efficiently absorbed by the body. Small quantities of these vitamins are needed in your diet to promote growth, reproduction, and health. Excess intake of these vitamins can be harmful, hence best to take professional advice on how much is good for you! When taken in the right proportion, these vitamins do a fair bit in ensuring healthy scalp and hair growth.
Water-soluble vitamins are those that dissolve in water and are not stored in our body, unlike the fat-soluble ones. Since they dissolve and are expelled from the body on a daily basis, regular continuous intake is necessary. This also means that they are not toxic to the body even when consumed in excess, unlike fat-soluble ones that get stored in the liver causing concern in the long term. Vitamin B-complex group and Vitamin C are the vitamins that fall under this category.
Vitamin B-complex includes B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, biotin and folic acid. These are together important for the health and growth of your hair. This is also the reason why these are also termed as hair growth vitamins. These also help in reducing hair loss problems and help in improving the overall thickness of the hair. This apart, vitamins help in hydrating the hair shaft and thereby preventing split-ends.
Minerals for Hair
One of the key functions of minerals in our body is to maintain a proper balance of water within. They work to equalize circulation in the scalp. Inferior circulation is frequently a cause of hair loss. Sodium and potassium are minerals that play a big role in this. Calcium, phosphorus and magnesium help with healthy bones. Sulfur helps with ensuring stable protein structures – those that make up our hair, nails and skin.
Specifically, iron and zinc are perhaps most important of minerals, when it comes to your hair’s health. The hair follicle gets fed the nutrients it needs through rich blood supply. If the iron supply to your body is inadequate, it results in anaemia. This results in the disruption of blood, and thereby nutrients, supply to the hair follicles, affecting the hair growth cycle tremendously.
Calcium makes hair stronger and firmer. Calcium works with magnesium. A combination of calcium and magnesium will ensure better hair growth.
Copper helps to prevent hair loss and contributes to improving hair colour and thickness. Potassium allows proper nutrients to travel to the scalp and assist hair growth. Selenium makes your scalp supple and ensures blood circulation to the hair follicles and in turn, healthy hair.
Zinc plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair. Zinc taken in combination with selenium is a good way to help your body utilize proteins and hormones and produce more hair.
In fact, hair loss is a symptom of zinc deficiency! This mineral supports the oil glands around the hair follicles and ensures that they work properly. Studies have shown that zinc deficiency is associated with thyroid disorders – a cause for hair loss and even alopecia.
A word of caution here – While the lack of zinc can trigger hair loss, an excess of it can lead to the same results! The recommended daily amount of zinc is only about 11mg. Excess zinc in the body can hinder the absorption of other minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium and manganese — which are also required for maintaining healthy hair. For instance, copper helps to form blood vessels and the lack of it may prove detrimental to the scalp and limit the growth of hair.
Proteins for Hair
Hair is made up of protein, as we mentioned above. It is hence crucial that you have adequate proteins in your daily diet for you to stay clear of hair worries. When inadequate, hair can become dry, brittle and very weak, prone to breakage. Extremely low protein diets can in effect result in restricted-to-no hair growth and even hair loss.
These apart, Omega 3 fatty acids are very important for your hair. They give shine to your hair and make your hair stronger.
And last but not least, Water for Hair!
Water is something that is extremely important for your hair. Staying hydrated is key to good health and hair. When you don’t consume as much water as needed, your hair becomes dry, brittle, develops split ends and hair growth can virtually stop. Click here to understand how hydration impacts your hair.
What are the best sources to lap up these nutrients?
Dairy and dairy products, brewer’s yeast, wheat germs, whole grain cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables like carrots, broccoli, leafy greens, apricots, brussels sprouts, lime, kiwi, bell peppers, pineapple, strawberries, oranges, grapefruits and lemons.
Biotin, the most commonly known ‘hair vitamin’ is available in brown rice, brewer’s yeast, walnuts, sunflower seeds, lentils, oats, soybeans, green peas, walnuts, bananas, cauliflower, mushrooms and legumes.
Foods that are rich in vitamin E include peanuts, spinach, wheat germ, asparagus, vegetable oil, seeds, avocados, milk, whole grains, turnip greens and almonds.
Dairy, yeast, nuts, tofu and beans are good sources of calcium.
Dark green leafy vegetables, dates, figs and jaggery are good sources of iron.
Legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans, nuts, whole grains, seeds and dairy – all contain substantial amounts of zinc.
Dairy, yoghurt, beans, soybeans, palak, paneer, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, Kabuli chana and almonds are great sources of proteins.
Soy protein has also been found to be helpful in stimulating hair growth. Soy products, quinoa, cereals, lentils, nuts and legumes help with your amino acids intake need as well.
Apart from drinking water, you could lock in fluids through various other sources like coconut water, yoghurt, cottage cheese/ paneer, fresh fruits and vegetables. These are water-rich items, packed with multiple vitamins and nutrients that can ensure your body stays well hydrated. Fruits with high water content such as apricots, blueberries, oranges, grapes, strawberries, peaches, pineapples, plums and raspberries can be consumed.
Some other superfoods that help to get nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and most importantly flax seeds.
To know more about the nutrients for healthy hair and scalp, natural hair growth supplements, tips and remedies for hair loss, make sure to visit a trichologist, the best person to guide you on this.
How can a Trichologist help with your diet?
A trichologist will recommend vitamins and minerals designed specifically for hair, and in the proportion that YOU need. He/She will first understand your present diet, study your medical history, and clearly diagnose where the deficiency is. A diet, customised for you, will accordingly be prescribed along with needed natural supplements. These supplements formulated for maintaining healthy hair will counteract the impact that various external and internal factors have on your hair and scalp.
There are various tests that aid the diagnosis of the hair doctor. You can also opt to get HTMA test done to understand whether you have the right balance of minerals in your body. Mineral imbalance can lead to many concerns including hair loss. This test is a tool that aids in preventing hair problems.
Remember, each individual’s hair & scalp condition is different from the other. One solution doesn’t fit all! While a certain diet pattern suits you, it may not quite suit your friend. Multiple factors such as your lifestyle, occupation, geographical location, metabolism tendencies, medical case history & more, dictate how your diet should be, to prove beneficial for your hair. A trichologist is someone who understands this, is an expert on hair and scalp concerns, and hence the right person to guide you on this subject.
We are here to advise the right diet and hair care regimen that is suitable for your specific hair & scalp condition. We are always here to listen to your concerns, help you understand the facts, advice & even demonstrate what is best for your hair, be it best practices for your hair, your diet or lifestyle.
Diet fads and food trends aren’t quite always as rad as they seem! You may be causing much damage to your body from within, and in turn your hair, without realising it. Don’t go by hear-say. Don’t swap to drastic diet plans overnight. Seek professional advice.
Now that you have a better understanding of what your hair needs, ask yourself – Am I eating right?
And do what is needed to correct course, if you aren’t quite there yet!
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