In the spirit of our food issue, we’re taking a look at foods that are said to help maintain a healthy head of hair. It seemed like a missed opportunity to only look at foods that do wonders for your tresses, so we also looked at food that are believed to be great for your body.
A note about superfoods: They’re all the rage right now! Many define them as nutrient-packed food or simply food that is really really good for your health. However, Cancer Research UK says the term superfood is really just a marketing tool that has little research supporting it. There is however, anecdotal support for superfoods (like in this GQ article), which may simply be a result of thinking your healthier and thus feeling healthier. In any case, I’m erring on the side of why not give ‘em a shot. Just because studies haven’t validated their effects yet, it doesn’t mean nutrient-rich foods can’t be of benefit. The good thing about a lot of food considered “super” is you’re most likely eating them anyway. So here are the ones that are not only good for your body, but are also good for your hair.
- Almonds: according to Wikipedia, “the almond is a nutritionally dense food and is a rich source of vitamin E, containing 26 mg per 100 g. They are also rich in dietary fiber, B vitamins, essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, and potassium.” Almonds may play a role in your cardiovascular health as well as promote healthy cholesterol levels. When it comes to your hair, some say that magnesium, which is contained in Almonds, is an essential mineral to healthy hair growth.
- Beans: (think lentils and chickpeas) are a great source of protein and fiber, are low in fat and are inexpensive to buy. WebMD says they provide plentiful protein, which, like magnesium, promotes hair growth and they also provide lots of iron, zinc and biotin.
- Blueberries: contains flavonoids, which are said to be “natural compounds that protect the brain’s memory-carrying cells (neurons) from the damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation. Since blueberries are one of the best sources of flavonoids you can find, it’s no surprise that this superfood has been shown to help preserve memory function.” Meanwhile, WebMD explains that vitamin C, which is also a blueberry nutrient, is critical for circulation to the scalp and supports the tiny blood vessels that feed the follicles. Too little vitamin C in your diet can lead to hair breakage.
- Dark Chocolate: dark chocolate, like blueberries, is rich in flavonoids and also contains antioxidants that are said to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. The copper, zinc and iron in dark chocolate is believed to help promote hair growth.
- Eggs: eggs are packed with protein (the building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood) and when you skip the yolk and opt for the egg whites only, they become an extra lean protein. WebMD says they’re “loaded with four key minerals: zinc, selenium, sulfur, and iron. Iron is especially important, because it helps cells carry oxygen to the hair follicles, and too little iron (anemia) is a major cause of hair loss.”
- Flaxseed oil: per WebMD, “There’s some evidence [flaxseed] may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.” What’s more, it’s loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, a fat your body needs to grow hair. WebMD further explains that “Omega-3s are also found in cell membranes in the skin of your scalp, and in the natural oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated.”
- Pumpkin: pumpkin contains beta-carotene, which is said to help rejuvenate your skin and protect your vision. It also contains potassium, a mineral that helps lower blood pressure. Pumpkins, like dark chocolate and beans, are a source of “hair-growing” zinc.
- Salmon: if flaxseed isn’t easily incorporated into your diet, salmon is a great alternative. It too is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids but also contains loads of protein and vitamin D.
- Spinach: this is another antioxidant-filled food. It also includes vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin—these last two nutrients are believed to help protect your eyes from the sun. Spinach is also a great source of iron which keeps your hair and nails strong. Per WebMD, “The iron, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C in spinach help keep hair follicles healthy and scalp oils circulating.”
- Sweet Potatoes: sweet potatoes are yet another great source of beta-carotene, which in addition to rejuvenating your skin, also helps protect and produce the oils that sustain your scalp.
In a nutshell, if your hair (and nutrition) is of particular concern, look out for good protein, Omega-3, vitamin C and antioxidant sources, among the other nutrients listed above. An easy first step might be to pick one thing on this list that’s not currently in your diet and add it moderation (snacking on almonds for example). As usual, a balanced diverse diet is key and you should consult your physician before undergoing any major dietary changes.