Having long, healthy hair begins on the inside. "The nourishment of hair depends on the nutrients supplied from our diet and on the intake of oxygen from the air," explains Lucy Vincent, founder of sans[ceuticals], an award-winning clean hair-care line. "The health of growing hair depends wholly on what we eat and break down in the bloodstream and the circulation of blood to the scalp, which may be improved by massage. Hair consists mainly of the protein keratin, which, like other proteins, is built up from smaller units called amino acids. During digestion, protein foods such as eggs, meat, fish, and milk are broken down into amino acids. These are circulated into the bloodstream, sorted, and rearranged to be built up into keratin in the cells of the hair." All of that is to say: Our hair is what we eat. With that in mind, we asked Lucy to share the top nutrients she recommends consuming regularly for long, healthy hair:
MSM is a sulfur that is naturally present in our bodies, as well as in certain plants. "It enhances collagen and keratin, fundamental building blocks for skin, hair, and nails," explains Lucy. "It is particularly high in the amino acid cysteine, a key element responsible for rebuilding skin and hair tissue. It also speeds up wound healing and is generally great for healthy skin, hair, bones, and connective tissue." MSM-rich foods include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, asparagus, onions, and garlic.
"Because hair is constructed mostly of protein, a diet of too little protein can advance the loss of pigment, causing grayness," Lucy says. "A diet rich in high-quality, naturally occurring protein will do wonders for your hair." She recommends protein-rich foods including Greek yogurt, egg yolks, kale, peanuts, beans, peas, lentils, tofu, chicken, and turkey.
"Boosting tissue growth and repair, zinc helps keep your scalp and hair healthy," Lucy explains. "It also regulates hormones in the body [testosterone included] and helps maintain production of oil-secreting glands on the scalp that help your hair grow." Zinc-rich foods include chickpeas, wheat germ, oysters, beef, veal liver, and roast beef.
4. B vitamins
"Biotin, niacin, and cobalamin are among the most popular B-complex vitamins that help restore shine and thickness to hair strands," says Lucy. She's found that too little biotin can cause brittle hair and may lead to hair loss and recommends eating B-vitamin-rich foods like whole grains, eggs, avocados, yeast, liver, and legumes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are nourishing, inside and out. "The essential nutrients reach both the hair shaft and the cell membranes in your scalp, nourishing the follicles and promoting healthy hair growth," says Lucy. "Plus, they add elasticity to your hair, preventing breakage and some hair loss." The body can’t produce omega 3-fatty acids on its own, so it is vital to eat a diet rich in flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, tuna, kale, Brussels sprouts, and small, fatty fish like anchovies.
According to Lucy, "Selenium is a trace element that helps the body make selenoproteins, which regulate reproduction, metabolism, DNA synthesis, and immunity. It also stimulates hair follicles to encourage new growth. Scrimp on selenium and you risk hair-follicle abnormalities, reduced growth, and hair loss." Selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, shrimp, and sardines.
You can also eat your way to clear skin! Here's how.
And do you want to learn more about how the health of your skin is greatly impacted by the food you eat and the toxins you're exposed to? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.