Taking good care of our natural hair is not just about moisture, regular deep conditioning, trimming or avoiding a particular damaging practice. If you’re doing these already, you’re doing great and are on your way to healthy hair. However, taking care of our hair from the inside is just as important as from the outside. Having a balanced diet directly affects your hair, so it’s important you learn to eat your way to healthy hair.
We all know what they are and we can all say meat and fish when trying to identify them in our diet. Yes, doctors are not trying to scare you when they say we need to have them every day. Proteins are essential for building our muscles, cartilage and skin, promoting cell growth and repair, and are also influential at the hormonal level (insulin).
Since we are talking about hair (healthy hair) proteins might be the most important macronutrient to discuss because it is the main component of our hair and nails. Therefore, we definitely need them to maintain not only the important functions they sustain but to keep healthy hair as well. If the supply of proteins to our body is insufficient then they will get delivered to where they are most needed first. The cells that are involved in hair growth may not get enough proteins. This equates to weak, dry, brittle hair and possibly hair loss and/or shedding.
If you’re eating meat and fish those are good sources of proteins, but they are not the only ones. Make lean proteins such as chicken and turkey your meat of preference has they have less saturated fat. Try to include proteins from different origins so you can get as many different amino acids as possible (there are 20). These are the small blocks that make proteins and our hair needs several of them to be as healthy as possible. Therefore, also have brown rice, wheat, legumes and nuts.
I love carbohydrates, bread in particular! Don’t be surprised to find these in here, I know there are a lot of diets out there telling you to lose the carbs to achieve your weight goals, but to me any diet that tells you this is already wrong to start with. If you have problems with carbohydrates then you probably need to eat the right ones, which will get you fuller eating less.
No carbs and low carb (bad carbs) diets lead to loss of energy and “failure” of important body functions. Carbohydrates are what provide our body with energy for our muscles to move, they regulate blood glucose, they break down fatty acids and they are specially important to our brain and nervous system. When we don’t have enough carbohydrates in our body proteins are used to compensate. Conclusively, if you’re not getting carbs and the proteins you’re ingesting are not enough to make up for all the shortcomings the results are – dry, dull, weak hair with increased shedding.
Make sure you include complex carbs in your diet such as whole grains breads, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, breakfast cereals (not the sugary infested ones, please).
Yes, these need to be here as well. Don’t force them out of your diet just because saturated fats have a bad reputation! Fats need to be included because they are what helps us to keep warm, they protect our organs and they start chemical reactions that control growth and immune function. The type of fats you should privilege are EFAs (essential fatty acids) because our body can’t synthesize them and we need to get them from food. Their role is important as they help proteins do their job, and you know by now how proteins are important for our natural hair.
I know that saturated fats are at the source of cardiovascular diseases, however, these can’t simply be eliminated from our diet since many foods contain both saturated and unsaturated fats. Therefore, you need to include those that have less of the former and more of the latter. Look for foods with Omega 3 and Omega 6 such as salmon, sardines, Brazil nuts, olive oil, green leafy vegetable, avocados or pumpkin seeds.
Unlike proteins, carbs and fats, vitamins don’t provide us any energy they are however essential for the optimal functioning of our body. There are many vitamins (about 30) and they all play a vital role in our health, one way you can make sure you eat as many as possible is to include in your diet fruits and vegetables with a wide range of different colours at each meal. Here are the role of a few vitamins.
- Vitamin C, for instance, is associated with our body’s ability to fight off infection, it fights free radicals preventing premature ageing (grey hairs). The antioxidants in it help collagen production that will strengthen your hair. This vitamin is also important for iron absorption when you eat green leafy vegetables for example. Find it in citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi.
- Vitamin A is important for healthy immune system, cell growth and sebum production. Without this natural oil to protect our hair and scalp your hair becomes dry and dull and your scalp becomes itchy. Eat fruit and vegetables that are yellow and orange such as mangoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots or pumpkins.
- Vitamin B complex work to help our metabolism, nervous system, muscles, skin and hair. These vitamins offer protection to our skin and hair from sun damage. Biotin is a B vitamin that is important for hair health and growth. Eat salmon, trout, tuna, beef, lamb, avocado, dates, kidney beans or green leafy vegetables, eggs, cheese, yogurt, chicken or breakfast cereals.
Just as vitamins, minerals are needed to maintain our bodies in good function they help in muscle contraction, nerve transmission, blood pressure, they also help regulate growth and our metabolism, and some minerals are needed for making protein. As you can see minerals are important and having a balanced and diverse diet will make sure you get as much a needed. Now, you may be thinking why do I need them for my hair, but in case you don’t know our hair is also composed of minerals albeit a small percentage.
Iron and Zinc, for example, are minerals that help our hair follicles to grow. They are found in liver, red meat, fish oil, lentils, broccoli, fortified cereals, bread, dairy products, crab, lobster, soybeans and spinach. Lack of these two minerals can affect the blood supply to hair follicles, it can lead to shedding, hair loss and anemia. Make sure you pair iron and zinc with vitamin C for maximum absorption of these minerals.
Our bodies are 60 to 80% water and this alone should tell us how important it is to drink plenty of it every day. Our bodies can only survive 3 to 5 days without water and under extreme conditions the numbers are even lower. Drink 6 to 8 cups of water as is helps regulate our circulatory system that feeds our hair follicles and stimulates hair growth, supports the work of cells and helps the elimination of toxins in our body.
As you can see having healthy hair means having a balanced and diverse diet eating from all different food groups. If you’re concerned you’re not having enough nutrients from a specific group(s) then maybe you should take an all-purpose multivitamin supplement that will cover all your daily needs.
If you feel you’ve been eating right and giving all the TLC your curly hair needs and your hair is not responding accordingly then you might need to talk to your doctor about this. Sometimes, despite our best efforts certain conditions such as pregnancy, hormonal changes or thyroid interfere with our health and consequently the health of our hair.
Do you have a balanced diet? Do you drink enough water? What do you do to have healthy hair?