Fiona Hunter March 23, 2018

It may be decidedly less glamorous, but the truth about healthy hair is less about trips to expensive salons and more about overhauling our diet.

The inside out secret

Keeping your hair healthy and in good condition starts by nourishing it from the inside out. Like skin, your hair has high nutritional requirements and even a small deficiency in key nutrients can leave it looking dull, lifeless, brittle and dry.

Low calorie and fad diets which involve cutting out major food groups are two of the most common causes of hair loss and thinning. When your body doesn’t get everything it needs, nutrients are diverted away from less essential tasks, such as hair growth, in favour of more important jobs. As a result hair growth slows or even stops, so when a hair falls out there is no new hair to replace it.

Iron or protein deficiencies

1 in 4 women in the UK have low iron levels and this is one of the most common causes of hair loss, thinning and slow growth. Women who suffer from heavy periods and anyone who doesn’t eat red meat needs to be especially careful to ensure they get enough iron.

Low protein diets are also linked with hair loss and brittle hair. Protein provides the building blocks from which hair is made, helps make your hair strong and keeps it in the growing phase of its cycle.

Feed your hair

Key nutrients for healthy hair include protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins A, D and E, iron, zinc and selenium, as well as two important B vitamins, biotin and niacin. Admittedly, that sounds like a lot, but it can be attained by a healthy, balanced diet containing at least five portions of fruit and/or vegetables a day, two servings of lean protein, healthy fats from foods like avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds and wholegrain carbohydrates.

A nutritionist’s fridge

How would Fiona rate the contents of your fridge? If you’re looking to improve the health of your hair or help prevent hair loss, here’s what she’d hope to find…

  • Lean red meat – provides iron in a form which is more easily absorbed by the body. Alternative vegetarian sources of iron include beans and pulses, fortified breakfast cereals, kale and watercress. Meat is also a good source of protein and the amino acid lysine. Vegetarian foods rich in lysine include eggs, nuts and seeds.
  • Wheat germ, wholegrain cereals and shellfish – rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency is thought to weaken the hair follicles and increase the risk of hair loss.
  • Salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna – oily fish provides essential fatty acids which help to keep the scalp healthy. Oily fish also provides vitamin D.
  • Probiotic yoghurt – helps boost levels of friendly bacteria in the gut. These bacteria can make the B vitamin biotin, which helps to improve hair strength and texture.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables – provides vitamin C which helps neutralise free radicals which can damage the hair.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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