Nutrients To Feed Our Follicles: Power-Packed Foods For Your Hair
Since the beginning of time, people have been looking to enhance the look, feel and volume of the hairs on their head. In a world where drug store aisles are oversaturated with shampoos, conditioners, volumizers and the like, it makes us wonder—can what we eat really impact what’s on our heads? With so many products on the market, can you really look to foods to prevent you from balding or to repair those split ends?
We believe so. And we’re not alone.
One only needs to look at the past to see the relationship between what you put into your mouth and how it affects what’s on your head. For example, in the early 20th century in England, a “miracle aging brew” composed of nettle, dandelion flowers and roots fermented overnight in yeast was commonly consumed to prevent baldness. Native Americans used yucca in a brewed hair tonic to enhance volume and shine. Heck, the Japanese believed a concoction of horseradish and kelp were powerful for continued hair growth—many even still believe so today!
Is there any truth to these traditions? Can what you put into your body actually affect the quality and quantity of your hair? Statistics reveal that most scalps lose 100 hairs a day on average, so clearly no one can escape some degree of hair depreciation. Let’s take a look at certain nutrient-rich foods we can put into our bodies to keep that statistic at a minimum.
Who’s to say Popeye didn’t have a giant head of hair under his hat with all the spinach he ate? I mean, if memory serves correctly, he never really took his hat off, so who knows what he could be hiding? He could have very well been George Clooney under there. In addition to building your muscles, spinach is the premiere leafy green that can contribute to hair health and even prevent thinning.
Not only is spinach jam-packed with Vitamin B, C, potassium, calcium, magnesium and Omega 3 fatty acids, but the iron alone are vital for healthy hair growth. Iron in general helps red blood cells carry oxygen to hair follicles, which is vital for healthy and long strands. When people are lacking in iron, they can develop anemia, which can result in hair loss.
1/2 cup of spinach contains 2 mg. of iron, so keep in mind you don’t have to eat buckets of the stuff to get the nutrients you need. Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind you don’t have to eat it at all. (No, we’re not talking supplements here.) You can mix spinach with hair-enriching oils and apply directly to your hair so your scalp can soak up all the benefits directly from the source. Regardless of how you use it, spinach’s vitamins and minerals are a top source to keep your strands healthy and vibrant.
Biotin, biotin, biotin. While it may sound like a new superhero villain, it’s actually found in most whole grains and aids in alleviating alopecia and brittle hair. What is it, exactly? Well, biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the Vitamin B family and might even be identified amongst some circles as Vitamin H. It’s required to convert nutrients into energy and plays an important role in hair, skin and nail health.
Deficiencies in biotin can lead to scaly red rashes and hair loss, so looking to whole grain foods such as brown rice and oats are sure to give you what you’re looking for. Oatmeal is a particular biotin whole food source worth noting, as it also contains Beta-Glycan, which further adds to hair health and volumizing benefits. Similar to spinach, you don’t have to consume oatmeal to get the hair-enhancing advantages. An “oatmeal hair mask” aids in eliminating excess oil from the scalp, even though it may not be the easiest to rinse out in the shower!
Good news for guacamole fans—avocados have been used as hair moisturizers for hundreds of years and were actually first done so by the early Egyptians. Filled with Vitamin B and E, this super food works at the cellular level to strengthen and protect hair. In particular, Vitamin B is known for being great for hair growth, whereas E aids in repairing damaged scalps.
The high fat content in avocados make hair less dry as well as less prone to breakage. And similar to spinach, you don’t only have to eat this food to reap its hair-loving benefits. Ever heard of avocado conditioner? You can make your own by mashing one into a paste and adding water, then applying onto your scalp and hair for ten to 15 minutes.
If you’re looking to incorporate this super food into your smoothie routine, remember they go well with bananas and almond milk, particularly with a touch of honey or agave!
Oysters go great with a glass of white wine, so isn’t it nice to know it also can help in tissue growth and repair, particularly hair loss? Oysters and clams are rich in B12, which keeps your hair healthy, but they contain a lot of zinc. Zinc possess a handful of enzymes well known for hair growth and health. A deficiency in zinc results in changes of the protein structure of hair follicles, making it imperative for those of us wanting to maintain quantity and shine. Some scientific case studies have actually shown that people whose hair turned gray actually returned to their original color when placed on a diet high in zinc. Long story short, it’s a vital mineral and plentiful in oysters.
For those who prefer sweet potato fries over regular ones, you’re in luck—they are also a food known to contribute to overall hair health. Sweet potatoes have a great deal of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body—a deficiency of which can lead to lifeless hair and skin, resulting in excess dandruff. Also found in sweet potatoes is copper, iron and protein, all of which strength hair follicles and increase hair growth rate.
Eggs are filled with proteins, minerals and B-complex vitamins that do wonders for your hair. Egg yolks are jam-packed with biotin, folate, Vitamin A and D. These nutrients can actually help your hair resist damage and make it grow faster. Since your hair is composed of 70% keratin protein, it requires protein in your diet to sustain it, making egg protein very advantageous. Eggs also contain lutein which helps with hair elasticity. Hair elasticity is the measure of how much hair will stretch and then return to a normal state. Healthy hair, when wet, will stretch up to 50% of its original length and return to its normal shape without breaking, while dry hair will only stretch about 20%. Low hair elasticity can result in breakage, which is why lutein can be so helpful to the overall strength of your strands. Of course, you want to be careful not to oversaturate your diet with eggs, as they’re high in cholesterol, but integrating them into your morning routine several days a week can certainly have an impact on what’s on your head.
While there may be a plethora of wives tales and home remedies out there, nothing beats the nutrients you can get from super foods. We consciously choose foods that are beneficial to almost every other part of our internal and external body, so there’s no reason we can’t also select ones advantageous to our hair. Luckily, there’s a variety of ways to integrate these valuable foods into our diet without overdoing it. Many of them make great additions to smoothies and shakes, whereas others can easily be implemented into other meals as healthy add-ons and alternatives. Fresh pressed juice is a fantastic way to incorporate these super foods into your diet, without having to worry too much. Just head to Pure Green's smoothie bar in NYC on your way to work and the task is done.
And of course, if you aren’t in the mood to consume them, you can apply most as a scalp treatment. Whoever said there weren’t options when it comes to hair health’s organic remedies? Whether it’s taking a page from ancient Egypt with avocados or embracing the benefits of sweet potatoes, thankfully, there’s no need for age-old concoctions that promise the world with little reward.
Joan Crawford once famously claimed, “I think that the most important thing a woman can have next to talent, of course, is her hairdresser.” Well, she may have been partially right, but there’s only so much work someone else can do to make your hair look and feel its best. Clearly, the onus and responsibility is on all of us to have some of these nutrient-rich super foods sitting next to the curling iron so nature can do its job, too.