Thursday, January 21, 2010
Top 10 Foods for Healthy Hair
When it comes to healthy hair, it’s not just what you put on your tresses that count -- it’s what you put in your body, too.
By Hilary Parker
"Lather, rinse, repeat" may be standard advice, but shampoo and conditioner alone won't give you the healthy hair you crave. For the most luxurious locks possible, you'll need to step out of the shower, and into the kitchen.
"Your hair grows about 1/4 to 1/2 inch every month, and the foundation of all of our new hair, skin, and nail growth is the nutrients we eat," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a Chicago-based dietitian. "If you eat a healthy diet, you will grow stronger and healthier cells throughout your entire body -- inside and out."
If you were born with fine, thin hair, you'll never have rope-thick tresses -- no matter what you eat -- but a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of growth-promoting protein and iron can make a difference, say nutrition and hair experts.
Read on for the 10 top foods that should be the foundation of your healthy hair diet.
Healthy Hair Food No. 1: Salmon
When it comes to foods that pack a beauty punch, it's hard to beat salmon. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, this high-quality protein source is also filled with vitamin B-12 and iron.
"Essential omega-3 fatty acids are needed to support scalp health," says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a dietitian in Los Angeles and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "A deficiency can result in a dry scalp and thus hair, giving it a dull look."
Vegetarian? Include one or two tablespoons of ground flaxseed in your daily diet for some plant-based omega-3 fats.
Healthy Hair Food No. 2: Dark Green Vegetables
Spinach, like broccoli and Swiss chard, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which your body needs to produce sebum. The oily substance, secreted by your hair follicles, is the body's natural hair conditioner.
Dark green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.
Healthy Hair Food No. 3: Beans
Beans, beans, they're good for your ... hair?
Yes, it's true. Legumes like kidney beans and lentils should be an important part of your hair-care diet. Not only do they provide plentiful protein to promote hair growth, but ample iron, zinc, and biotin. While rare, biotin deficiencies can result in brittle hair.
Healthy Hair Food No. 4: Nuts
Do you go nuts for thick, shiny hair? You should.
Brazil nuts are one of nature's best sources of selenium, an important mineral for the health of your scalp.Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help condition your hair. They are also a terrific source of zinc, as are cashews, pecans, and almonds. A zinc deficiency can lead to hair shedding, so make sure nuts are a regular on your healthy hair menu.
Healthy Hair Food No. 5: Poultry
Chickens and turkeys may have feathers, but the high-quality protein they provide will help give you the healthy hair you crave.
"Without adequate protein or with low-quality protein, one can experience weak brittle hair, while a profound protein deficiency can result in loss of hair color," Giancoli tells WebMD.
Poultry also provides iron with a high degree of bioavailability, meaning your body can easily reap its benefits.
Healthy Hair Food No. 6: Eggs
When it comes to healthy hair, it doesn't matter whether you like your eggs scrambled, fried, or over easy. However they're served up, eggs are one of the best protein sources you can find.
They also contain biotin and vitamin B-12, which are important beauty nutrients.
Healthy Hair Food No. 7: Whole Grains
Sink your teeth into hearty whole grains, including whole-wheat bread and fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, for a hair-healthy dose of zinc, iron, and B vitamins.
Healthy Hair Food No. 8: Oysters
Oysters may be better known for their reputation as an aphrodisiac, but they can also lead to healthy hair -- and who doesn't love that?The key to their love and hair-boosting abilities is zinc -- a powerful antioxidant.
Healthy Hair Food No. 9: Low-Fat Dairy Products
Low-fat dairy products like skim milk and yogurt are great sources of calcium, an important mineral for hair growth. They also contain whey and casein, two high-quality protein sources.
Healthy Hair Food No. 10: Carrots
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes a healthy scalp along with good vision.
Since a healthy scalp is essential for a shiny, well-conditioned head of hair, you'd be wise to include carrots in your diet as snacks or toppings on your salad.
The Big Picture: A Balanced Diet for Healthy Hair
When it comes to foods for healthy hair and beauty, variety is the best way to go.
"An overall balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fatty fish like salmon and low-fat dairy will help keep hair healthy," Giancoli says.
What are some of the things you do to keep YOUR hair healthy and shiny?