Here are 8 nutrients that make your hair healthy and beautiful. Naturally.
Our hair is made of protein, and therefore proteins are essential nutrients for hair health. The most important aspect and defining characteristic of protein from a nutritional standpoint is its amino acid composition. There are nine essential amino acids that cannot be biosynthesized by the body and have to be obtained from the diet in order to prevent protein-energy malnutrition that leads to dry and weak hair. Some protein sources contain amino acids in a more or less “complete” set, some are not.
Having enough protein in your diet is crucial for making hair strong and healthy. Low protein diets may even result in hair loss. Include red meats, chicken, turkey, salmon and other fatty fish, dairy products, and eggs in your daily menu to properly feed your hair. They are excellent sources of protein. Plant proteins include grains, legumes and nuts. Vegans can get enough essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant proteins.
Iron is present in all cells in the human body. In hemoglobin iron binds to oxygen, thus enabling red blood cells to supply oxygenated blood throughout the body. Iron helps hair follicles to grow due to its involvement in numerous biological functions: supplying with oxygen, facilitating oxygen use, acting as a transport medium for electrons within the cells, being an integral part of various enzyme reactions. Iron is an especially important nutrient for hair because the hair follicle and root are fed by a nutrient rich blood supply. Too little iron can interfere with the hair growth cycle and may result in hear loss. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world that can lead to anemia – low content of red blood cells (erythrocytes) or haemoglobin.
Rich sources of dietary iron include red meat, lentils, beans, poultry, fish, watercress, tofu, chickpeas, fortified bread, fortified breakfast cereals, spinach and other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and salad greens. Animal products provide iron with a higher bioavailability, meaning the iron in meat (hem/hemoglobin iron) is more easily absorbed than iron in vegetables.
Zinc is an essential element for humans. It is the second most abundant metal in organisms after iron and it is the only metal which appears in all enzyme classes. No one string of hair will grow on your head without zinc. A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp.
Dietary sources of zinc are best absorbed from animal sources. Oysters, lobster and red meats, especially beef, lamb and liver have some of the highest concentrations of zinc in food. Plant foods can also be high in zinc, but are less bioavailable, as the zinc is bound to phytates. When there is adequate zinc in the soil, the food plants that contain the most zinc are wheat and various seeds (sesame, poppy, alfalfa, celery, mustard). Zinc is also found in beans, nuts, almonds, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and blackcurrant.
Vitamin D is responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Vitamin D is used to downregulate the cutaneous immune system and epithelial proliferation while promoting differentiation.
Very few foods contain vitamin D. Sunlight exposure is the primary source of vitamin D for people (But don’t overdo it because of the increased exposure to harmful UV rays). Dermal synthesis of vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin under the sun is the major natural source of this vitamin. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, eggs, mushrooms are good prerequisites for the vitamin D formation.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that regulates collagen synthesis, forms barrier lipids, regenerates vitamin E, and provides photo protection. Vitamin C also aids the absorption of iron.
The richest natural sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables, and of those, the Kakadu plum and the camu-camu fruit contain the highest concentration of the vitamin. Then follow rose hips, red bell pepper, parsley, broccoli, strawberry, blueberry, papaya, orange, kale, and pineapple. It is also present in some cuts of meat, especially liver.
Vitamin E is a membrane antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage: it stops the production of reactive oxygen species formed when fat undergoes oxidation. It also provides protection against harmful UV rays. The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin so ensure you eat foods rich in vitamin E to provide protection for your hair.
Vitamin E can be found most abundantly in wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, corn oil, almonds, avocado and papaya. But don’t go crazy with vitamin E because regular consumption of more than 1,000mg of it per day may cause hypervitaminosis E, with an associated risk of vitamin K deficiency and consequently of bleeding problems.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats our body cannot make itself, and therefore must be obtained through our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the must-have foods for healthy hair because they are responsible for the health of the cell membrane, which is not only a barrier to harmful things, but also the passageway for nutrients to cross in and waste products to get out. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the cells that line the scalp and also provide the oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated.
The foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, trout and mackerel), seafood, canola oil, flax seed, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Increasing dietary omega-3 fats is an important step towards healing the skin.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex also called vitamin B7 (formerly known as vitamin H or coenzyme R). Biotin is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids, amino acids isoleucine and valine, and in gluconeogenesis (a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates, such as proteins and lipids). Biotin deficiency can be caused by inadequate dietary intake or inheritance of one or more inborn genetic disorders that affect biotin metabolism. Too little biotin can cause brittle hair and may lead to hair loss. Mild biotin deficiency can also lead to skin rash typically on the face. Include biotin rich foods such as whole grains, liver, egg, soy flour and yeast.