Healthy Eating: Beauty Nutrients

Attention ladies! Lather, rinse, repeat may no longer be enough to maintain those luscious locks. Find out what are the top foods to feed your hair.

hair products (photo credit: Courtesy)
hair products
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Years of dyeing, blow drying, straightening and curling, can harm your hair, leaving it looking dull and overrun with split ends. While excess processing can cause serious damage to your hair, sometimes the problems go deeper than that. Hair, just like skin and nails, reflects the overall condition of the body – consider it as a looking glass into to what is going on inside. If your body is healthy and well-nourished, then your hair should reflect it; but if you suffering from any nutritional deficiencies, than your hair will certainly show it.
Just like there are shampoos and conditioners for different types of hair (damaged, dry or oily) there are different micro- nutriments that benefit our hair in different ways. Without these vitamins and minerals our hair may fall, become brittle and may not grow back properly.
Related:Healthy Eating: Care for your skin from within Healthy Eating: Food Fight
So for the most luscious locks possible, you may need to put down the beauty products, step out of the shower and into the kitchen.
Red Meat for Falling Hair
Red meat has gotten a bad rep lately, as it its typically high in saturated fat, a “bad” fat that can cause many diseases, particularly related to the cardiovascular system. However, while red meat does contain saturated fat, it is also one of the most abundant sources of iron, an essential mineral that the body needs to function properly. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world and can lead to many unpleasant results, including hair loss. While most women typically shed 50 to 125 strands of hair per day, stress, menopause, crash diets or an iron deficiency can lead to excess hair loss in women– a condition referred to as alopecia.
Iron is crucial for many vital body functions, including helping in the production of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also needed for normal growth and maintenance of  hair; however, when the concentration of dietary iron absorbed by the body is inadequate, our body starts to take from non-essential stores – as hair follicles are not a vital part of living, they are the first to lose their supply.
However, don’t worry as hair loss, due to an iron deficiency can be easily resolved by eating more foods rich in iron. There are two types of iron: heme iron, which is derived from animal sources, and non-heme iron, which comes from plant sources. Animal based sources of iron, such as red meat, egg yolks and oysters are the best source of the mineral, as our body absorbs almost all of the iron content in the food. Non-heme iron sources, such as wheat, parsley and dried fruits, are also high in this mineral but unlike heme iron is not easily absorbed by the body. Therefore, to maximize its absorbency, plant based sources of iron should be consumed with Vitamin C as well as heme sources of iron. However, on the other hand the polyphenols found in tea as well as  sources of oxalic acid ( spinach, sweet potatoes and chocolate among others) greatly diminish the body’s ability to absorb iron, so avoid eating/drinking these foods at least one hour after a meal.
Red meat, along with clams, liver, snapper and fortified cereal, is also one of the highest sources of Vitamin B12. There are eight different B Vitamins, and this one ranks amongst the most important. Vitamin B12 helps to metabolize protein, maintain a healthy nervous system as well as helps in the synthesis of DNA which is needed to make red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body, including the scalp and hair. Even though this vitamin takes on an enormous amount of responsibility in the body, we don’t require very much of it at all (only 2.4 mcg/day and pregnant women 2.8mcg/day). This is really not a lot as a small 3 oz steak contains our entire daily requirement and on top of this our body can store this vitamin for several years. However, while a full on deficiency of this vitamin is rare, low levels are quite common (especially amongst women and vegetarians as Vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal products). While low levels of Vitamin B12 lead to minimal side effects, such as fatigue, a major symptom is hair loss.
Oysters for Thinning Hair
Oysters may be known for aphrodisiac powers, but recent research has shown that they also lead to healthy hair growth--and what woman doesn't lust after that? Oysters are one of the highest sources of zinc, an essential trace mineral that is required to build new cells, to balance hormone levels, and to absorb vitamins as well as is needed for protein and collagen synthesis - all processes that are important for normal healthy hair growth.
So what happens when we don’t have enough zinc? Like with iron, a deficiency in zinc can result in falling hair as without this mineral the hair shaft can become weak, which causes hair breakage and slow re-growth. Therefore, adequate amounts of this mineral are needed to prevent hair loss and hair thinning. In addition low levels of this mineral can cause the scalp to become dry, flake and maybe even irritated.
While oysters are one of the most abundant sources of zinc on the planet, don’t fret if they aren’t your favorite. Many other foods such as whole grains and nuts, as well as beef and lamb are also excellent sources of this mineral.
Salmon for Damaged Hair
Salmon is one of the top sources of omega-3 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid that is required for many vital body functions, including our heart, brain, digestive system and joints. However, when it comes to foods that pack a beauty punch,
salmon sushi
salmon sushi
salmon comes out on top as its omega-3 content is needed to maintain healthy skin, including that of the scalp. While this essential fatty acid isn’t part of the hair strand’s actual composition, it is part of our scalp cells and thus plays a crucial role in keeping the hair follicles and well as our scalp healthy. Hair follicles are fragile and easily harmed. While healthy hair follicles will produce shiny, thick, desirable hair, unhealthy follicles lead to the opposite. So make sure you are eating of enough of this essential “good” fat as regular consumption of Omega-3 helps repair damaged hair follicles.
Apart from salmon, tuna and trout are also excellent sources of omega-3. However, if you are not a fish person, alpha-linolenic acid, the plant based form of this essential fat, is found in abundance in walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.
Beans for Dry and Brittle Hair
Legumes, such as kidney beans and lentils, are not only high in protein, iron and zinc, but they are also loaded with biotin. Also known as Vitamin B7, biotin is essential for the growth of your body's cells, the production of amino acids, and the metabolism of fatty acids. While a biotin deficiency is rare, it is possible to be low on this vitamin. So what does this mean for our hair? As fatty acids are needed for proper hair growth low Vitamin B7 can cause our hair to become dry, damaged and brittle.
Nuts for All Hair Types
mixed nuts
mixed nuts
Nuts, while high in calories, are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Not only are they rich in protein, but they are also loaded with various vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that are important for our overall health as well our hair. To begin with, all nuts are also an excellent source of Vitamin E. A fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin E acts as an anti-oxidant, thereby destroying free radicals which can cause cancer, heart disease and even premature signs of aging. Apart from this role, Vitamin E also increases and improves circulation in the scalp, thus encouraging hair growth.
Now within the nut family, walnuts (as mentioned above) are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant based form of omega-3 which is essential for proper scalp health as well as repairs damaged hair follicles. Cashews, pecans, and almonds are an excellent source of zinc which as mentioned above prevents excess hair loss.
With enough of these minerals and vitamins, your hair will be healthy, how it looks of course is up to you.