What you eat each day not only affects your health, it can make a huge difference in the way your hair looks and feels.
While taking individual vitamins and mineral may be of some benefits, it’s eating the real whole foods that will supply hair with all that it needs to remain healthy, strong and lustrous…
Besides, taking isolated or synthetic vitamins can also cause unwanted side effects. For example, biotin supplements can cause acne, nausea or stomach cramps in some people.
So unless you have a real deficiency, the best way to take your vitamins is by eating fresh, healthy foods.
Ready to give your hair a boost? Here are 7 foods to make sure you are getting the essential nutrients your hair’s craving for…
7 Best Foods for Healthy, Gorgeous Hair
Cucumbers have not received as much fame as other vegetables in terms of health benefits. In fact, it is packed full of antioxidants which help our body get rid of free radicals –if they are not removed quickly they can cause signs of aging including wrinkles, and dull and weak hair.
Cucumbers are also a good source of silica, a vital mineral for hair. It makes hair strong and lustrous, and also helps to promote faster hair growth.
With about 95% water, that is naturally purified, cucumbers have superb cleansing properties. They work to remove accumulated waste and toxins from our body.
Cucumber face mask: Rub a slice of cucumber on your face and neck, leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and wash with plain water. Do this every other day for a week. And your face will become clear of any spots and will have a natural radiant glow.
2. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are superb for your hair.
These tiny seeds are packed with hair nourishing vitamins, minerals and fats. Flax seeds are actually the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids – which help to nourish your hair follicles and moisturise your scalp skin. Dry, flaky scalp is often attributed to lack of omega-3 in the diet.
Also, if your hair is rough, brittle and frizzy, then eating flax seeds can help a great deal. The various fats and vitamins in flax seeds make hair soft, smooth and flexible, so you will have less breakage; plus they also increase shine and lustre of your hair.
Flax seeds contain high amounts of wonderful substance called lignans – which exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Lignans help protect hair follicles from damaging effects of free radicals. Lignans also help in treating dandruff and other itchy scalp conditions like eczema, thus promoting hair growth and healthy scalp.
Data from various hair forums: People who eat flax seeds every day report that their hair loss and thinning is markedly reduced, and some users even have good regrowth on bald areas.
Prefer flax seeds over flax seed oil: Flax seeds are more beneficial than the oil itself. This is because during oil extraction flax loses many of the nutrients properties which are there in the seeds.
Flax seeds improve digestion: The high fibre and mucilage content of flax seeds promote healthy digestive function and improves intestinal absorption of nutrients – which in turn will promote glowing skin and healthy hair.
Other benefits: Eating flax seeds could help you balance hormones, give you clear skin, lower cholesterol, reduce sugar cravings, fight cancer and promote weight loss.
Chicken contains protein. And hair and nails are made of protein. So chicken is good for hair and nails. That was a simple explanation.
But it’s more than just that…
Chicken contains cysteine which provides strengthen to the hair shaft.
What is cysteine and why is it important for hair?
Our hair and nails are made of special protein called keratin. The building block of protein is amino acids. To describe this easy way, think of a wall of bricks – where the bricks are amino acids and the wall is protein. (There are 22 different types of amino acids)
Kertain is largely made of one amino acid in particular: cysteine. Cysteine molecules are joined together in a strong bond, which gives your hair its strength.
So by eating foods rich in cysteine, you can help make your hair stronger. Cysteine also promotes faster hair growth as well as improves the overall health of our hair and nails.
Other foods high in cysteine: eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, duck, turkey, red meat, onion, garlic, sprouted lentils, wheat germ and oats.
4. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is found everywhere in the world. It tastes yum and also has very high nutritional value.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and it helps protect our skin — including scalp skin — from damage caused by UV rays. It’s nature’s own sunscreen.
Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Vitamin A is vital for your hair and scalp health. It is needed for the production of natural oils (the sebum) that condition the hair and give it shine and elasticity. Without these oils your scalp will become dry and itchy and your hair will get damaged.
At the same time sweet potatoes also contain plenty of vitamin C, copper, pantothenic acid, and biotin – all of these are required for good healthy hair.
For those with coarse, stiff hair, pantothetic acid makes the hair really soft, shiny and super slipper, making hair easy to comb.
Vitamin and Minerals in Sweet Potato
Vitamin A, C, B1, B2, B3, Biotin, Pantothenic acid
Minerals manganese, copper, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium
Eating sweet potatoes: You can eat boiled or baked sweet potatoes depending upon how you like it. Substitute them in any recipe that calls for white potatoes or squash.
Random Fact about sweet potato:
The Center for Science in the Public Interest ranked the nutritional value of sweet potatoes as highest among several other foods.
The first president of America, George Washington grew sweet potatoeson his farmland. He didn’t just eat them; he also developed 118 products from sweet potatoes including glue for postage stamps and starch for sizing cotton fabrics (source).
5. Mung Beans
When I was growing up, mung bean was a staple for breakfast in our house. So my love for this bean is very special.
Mung beans are literally the multivitamin for hair. It contains plenty of hair nourishing nutrients such as: protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins.
Mung beans are also a rich source of folic acid, which is necessary for the health of red blood cells that supply our body (including our scalp) with much-needed oxygen. Folic acid is also essential for cell rejuvenation – deficiency of this vitamin will cause fragile and stunted hair growth.
Besides folic acid, most beans and lentils are a good source of zinc, iron and B vitamins.
A diet rich in zinc and iron can give you thicker and healthier hair.
Zinc is essential for producing keratin (remember the protein that makes hair), so people with low levels of zinc may produce finer, weaker, and sparser hair. While, anaemia from iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of thinning hair in otherwise healthy adult women.
Vitamins & Minerals in Mung Beans
Vitamin B1, B2, B3, Pantothenic acid, folic acid, B6
Minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc
Mung Beans are the best of all beans: Unlike the other beans, mung beans are easy to digest and therefore enjoy the reputation of being gas-free beans.
Mung beans are also one of the most cherished foods in ayurveda. They’re considered tri-doshic, which means that they work well for all body types
Cooking mung beans: Soak mung beans overnight, then drain the water and rinse well. Leave them to sit for another 24 hours and they will start sprouting.
To cook: you can lightly boil them with salt and pepper, and before eating add a dash of lime juice and sprinkle some coriander leaves.
You can also stir fry them with spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, which renders them even more digestible.
Almonds are another fab food for hair.
Almonds are one of the best sources of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, which help repair damaged hair follicles caused by pollution and ultra-violet sun rays.
Almonds also contain good amounts of biotin. Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about biotin, which is touted as the important vitamin for healthy hair. Some research shows that biotin may help strengthen hair and thus reduce hair loss.
Besides, if you think you are greying too early than, almonds can help delay it. Almonds contain special enzyme called catalase which is essential for keeping our hair colour intact and thus prevent greying for many years. (read more about catalase here)
Vitamin & Minerals in Almonds
vitamin E, biotin, vitamin B2
minerals manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, molybdenum
How to eat almonds:
The best way to eat any seed, nut, bean and lentil is to soak them overnight. This helps to remove the unwanted anti-nutrients that can cause indigestion or hamper nutrition absorption. Also discard the soaked water and rinse before eating. (I use that water to water my plants).
Buying Tip: When buying almonds look for organic unpasteurized ones. These almonds are in the most natural state and contain maximum goodness. (Buy here)
Amla is tonic for hair. It has played a key role in long, thick, beautiful hair of Indian women for centuries.
According to ayurveda, amla slows hair loss and greying and promotes strong, healthy, and lustrous hair.
Amla is a powerful antioxidant and the richest source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to prevent hair breakage and to support healthy scalp circulation, which is key for healthy hair growth.
Besides, amla also contains a high concentration of minerals, amino acids, polyophenols and flavonoids, all of which help boost immunity system and keep us healthy and young looking. This is the reason the ancient Indian text refer amla as the best remedy to promote health, longevity and physical beauty.
Amla also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties that help prevent inflammatory scalp condition and keep dandruff away.
Vitamin & Minerals in Amla
Wide array of antioxidants
Vitamin C, A
Amla for digestion and acidity: Amla is good for digestion, and helps the body to absorb and assimilate nutrients from the foods we eat. Due to its cooling nature, amla also reduces acidity.
Buying tip: You can get fresh amla when in season, or you can purchase amla powder, which is said to be equally beneficial, year around (Buy here).
You may also enjoy: Amla the Superfood for Hair
The Dos And Don’ts for Healthy, Shiny Hair
Don’t lose weight too quickly
Staying hungry to lose weight can have harmful effects on your health as well as hair. Lack of enough fats and protein, vitamins and minerals can cause hair loss and wrinkled skin. If you wish to lose weight, eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Cut down on sugar and refined carbs
Sugar is empty calories, meaning it provides no nutritional benefits. Not just that it actually uses up nutrients in the body to process it, including those that you need for healthy hair
Refined carbs such as white bread, pasta have a similar effect as sugar.
Replace refined carbs with whole grains, and sugar with healthier alternatives such as jaggery (gur).
Eat a variety of foods for healthy hair
To ensure you have strong hair, eat a variety of foods: seasonal fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils (dal), nuts, and seeds, dairy, whole grains, and ghee.
Don’t skip healthy fats
Fats are important for healthy hair growth. If you have dry or brittle hair, or a dry or scaly scalp, it’s a sign that you are lacking in essential fatty acids. All fat is not bad. Fried foods, refined oils, hydrogenated oils are bad fats.
But ghee, butter, fish, nuts (cashew, walnut), seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), cold pressed unrefined oils and avocados are some examples of good fats.
If you are a vegetarian check for vitamin B12 deficiency
If you are losing a lot of hair or greying prematurely, you could be low in vitamin B12. The deficiency is more common in vegans or vegetarians, as b12 is mostly found in animal products such as dairy, eggs, chicken, meat and fish. Check your B12 levels if you are unsure.
You may also enjoy: Why Vitamin B12 deficiency causes Hair loss and Greying
Eat quality protein
Good quality protein sources are essential for healthy hair. Without enough protein, or with low quality protein, one can experience weak and reduced hair growth. Deficiency in protein can also result in loss of hair colour. Examples of good quality protein are: egg, dairy, meat and fish.
Eat Iron rich foods
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition in which cells don’t get enough oxygen to function properly. The result can be disturbing to the whole body, causing weakness, fatigue, and even hair loss.
Foods rich in iron: all beans and lentils, sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables, beet root, red mean, and liver.
Don’t drink too much tea and coffee
Excess tea and coffee can make body acidic. To buffer the acidity your body takes the minerals first from your hair and later from your bones, so you will first get hair loss, followed by osteoporosis.
It contains healthy bacteria, which improves digestion and absorption of food. You can also eat other probiotic rich foods such as sauerkraut, khimchi, or homemade pickles.