Life & Beauty Weekly: Health
By Holly Crawford for Life & Beauty Weekly
For most of us, when it comes to taking care of our hair, the usual maintenance routine involves frequent washing, conditioning, styling and going for regular cuts at the hair salon. But how often do you eat certain foods that promote strong, shiny and healthy hair?
Healthy hair starts with a well-balanced diet, says Samara Felesky-Hunt, a Calgary-based registered dietitian and contributor to Global TV, CTV and Breakfast Television. “By adopting a healthy lifestyle and following a nutrient-rich diet, your hair will be fed the nourishment it needs to be shiny, strong and healthy,” she says.
Check out this guide to hair-healthy foods and start feeding your follicles at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
No. 1: Spinach, chicken and red peppers
Load your plate with spinach and chicken for their health benefits to hair. Both spinach and poultry are great sources of iron, a mineral that helps red blood cells carry oxygen to hair follicles. “This flow of oxygen is necessary to keep hair follicles fuelled for healthy growth and repair,” says Felesky-Hunt. “A healthy oxygen supply also carries an abundance of nutrients to the cells to promote healthy-looking hair.”
Aim to get your iron from both plant and animal sources, advises Rachel Schwartzman, doctor of naturopathic medicine at the Markham Village Naturopathic Clinic in Markham, Ontario. “The heme iron from animal sources are, in fact, the easiest for your body to absorb; however, they are also high in saturated fat and can raise your cholesterol levels,” says Schwartzman. “Try to balance the heme iron with non-heme iron, found in vegetarian sources such as green leafy vegetables, dried beans and tofu.” Because vitamin C increases the amount of iron your body absorbs, try to eat iron-rich foods with a fruit or vegetable, such as oranges or kiwis, she says.
Serving suggestions: Chicken breast with spinach and red peppers is a perfect example of an iron-packed meal, delivering about one-third of your daily 18 mg requirement. Get the remainder throughout the day from other good sources, including fortified cereal, lean beef, fish, lentils, beans and such vegetables as tomatoes and beets.
No. 2: Oysters
The notorious aphrodisiacs actually deliver much more than an amorous feeling. Oysters are one of your best sources of zinc, a mineral that is vital for many functions in the body, including the cell division necessary for healthy hair growth. “Deficiency in zinc can contribute a lot to hair shedding, because without zinc and other related minerals, your hair shafts get weakened, causing hair breakage and very slow hair regrowth,” says Schwartzman.
Serving suggestions: Oysters pack the most zinc per bite — just one provides your entire day’s zinc requirement. But you’ll also fulfill your zinc needs with three ounces of lean beef or pork. Or just fill your breakfast bowl with fortified cereal.
No. 3: Sweet Potatoes
These and other orange veggies owe their place on the list to a high concentration of beta-carotene. In your body, this carotenoid converts to vitamin A, which helps you maintain normal growth and bone development, protects nerve fibres, and promotes healthy skin, hair and nail growth, says Schwartzman. Regularly sloughing off old cells and replacing them with new ones contributes to normal hair growth, plus a smooth and healthy scalp.
Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant. It protects skin — including that on your scalp — from damage caused by UV rays.
Serving suggestions: Try a baked sweet potato for a hearty dose of beta-carotene. Carrots, squash, cantaloupe and apricots also supply ample amounts. A good rule of thumb: For your recommended five servings of fruit and veggies a day, choose a variety of colours, including at least one that’s high in beta-carotene.
No. 4: Eggs
Eggs deliver multiple nutrients needed to maintain healthy hair. “Eggs are loaded with protein, which keeps hair strong and healthy, especially when it is faced with elements of sun or heat,” says Felesky-Hunt. “Eggs also contain B vitamins, which keep the DNA of your cells in good repair. The healthy fats in eggs, such as omega-3 fatty acids, also add lustre to your hair.”
In addition, because eggs are such great sources of protein, which is essential for metabolism, they aid your body in using the energy from food toward being physically active, adds Schwartzman. They help convert what you eat into the energy your body needs for its various functions, including hair’s growth cycle.
Serving suggestions: Three to five eggs per week. You’ll also get protein and B vitamins from poultry, lean meats, fish and lentils.
No. 5: Salmon
Fish is a favourite among nutritionists, and salmon is a superstar they mention frequently thanks to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. For hair, these good-for-you fats act like internal conditioners, helping to keep your scalp and hair moisturized, shiny and healthy. Salmon also contains other strand-savers like B vitamins, protein and iron.
Serving suggestions: Experts recommend eating salmon or other fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout and sardines two to three times a week to get your fill of omega-3s. Not a seafood fan? Sprinkle two tablespoons of ground flaxseed into your oatmeal or smoothie.
The nutrients and foods that give hair a beauty boost are some of the same that keep your body healthy. So try increasing your intake, even if it means snacking on carrots or ordering a side of spinach once in a while. You know the saying “When you look good, you feel good”? You’ll see just how true it can be.
is a freelance writer and editor who has written for such publications as
Glamour, Elle, InStyle, ShopSmart, Allure, Shape and
Houston Modern Luxury. She was the beauty director at
First and on the editorial staff of
Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and