23 Mar 5 Foods to eat for strong, shiny hair5 minute read
Now let me be clear: the importance of eating well stretches far beyond how nice your hair looks.
However, it’s a misperception that all vanity is trivial. So often it’s the cosmetic things—the dull skin, the flaking nails, the brittle hair—that spur people on to take a deeper look at their health.
Outer beauty is a product of inner wellbeing. It’s like a flower: the bud will only bloom if there’s enough sunlight to nourish the rest of the plant. A trite metaphor, perhaps, but it’s true.
What’s more, even if you couldn’t care less about your appearance (and if you don’t, I applaud you!), your hair can still contain important clues about your health. This is because, as far as your body is concerned, it’s non-essential. If you’re running low on a certain macro or micronutrient, your body would much rather shuttle it off to an important organ rather than use it to create shiny locks.
Eating to achieve lustrous hair, then, will also positively impact many other physiological features and processes, including (but by no means limited to) your digestion, your heart health and your nervous system.
So what should you be selecting?
Your hair is made of a type of protein called keratin. In order to have long, strong, thick hair, you therefore need to eat an adequate amount of protein. Eggs are a fantastic source—one large egg contains around 8g.
I always tell clients to buy the best eggs they can afford, as it makes a huge difference to both their flavour and their health benefits. The yolks of free-range, organic eggs are vibrant yellow, and much richer in nutrients than their caged-hen counterparts. Organic eggs are, of course, more ethical too.
2. Red meat
You require the mineral iron to transport oxygen to all cells in your body, including those on your scalp. Without adequate iron, not enough oxygen and nutrients can reach the roots, interrupting the growth cycle of hair. If someone is severely anaemic, it can even lead to hair loss.
There are two forms of iron: heme, found in animal products, and non-heme, found in leafy greens, beans and other plant foods. The heme version is the easiest for your body to absorb and utilise, so it’s a good reason to enjoy red meat (grass-fed and, again, preferably organic) once or twice a week.
For those who prefer not to eat animal products, the iron found in blackstrap molasses is the most bioavailable non-heme form . Try drizzling a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses on your morning porridge, or you can even stir it into vegetarian chilli for extra depth of flavour.
Dry hair is prone to dullness and breakages. Instead of spending a small fortune on expensive products that promise to moisturise your hair, consider how many fats you’re eating. The essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats help keep your scalp and hair hydrated from the inside out, leading to shiny, soft and supple locks .
Walnuts are one of the few nuts that contain omega-3 fats as well as omega-6. As heat can damage these delicate fatty acids, the nuts are best eaten raw. Add to salads for a satisfying crunch, or blend with basil and olive oil to make a quick pesto.
Other good sources of omega-3 fats include flaxseed, salmon and sardines (and no, you don’t have to eat the fish raw!).
The humble oat is a source of silicon. This mineral plays an important role in the cross-linking of proteins in your hair and nails. That sounds complicated, but all it really means is that if your body doesn’t have enough silicon, your hair can become weak (especially if you use a lot of heat to style it). Studies show that supplementation with silicon can enhance the strength, elasticity and thickness of hair .
Before turning to supplementation, it’s always best to derive as many nutrients as you can from your food. Eating oats for breakfast can contribute to adequate silicon intake, as can drinking horsetail tea. Never heard of the latter? It has a mild, slightly herbal flavour, and can make for a refreshing end to a meal.
Your mother probably told you that eating carrots can help you see in the dark—and they can also help you to grow and maintain beautiful hair. The orange colour of carrots comes from a pigment called beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A regulates the production of sebum on your skin and scalp. While it’s true that you don’t want too much, an appropriate amount of sebum acts as a natural conditioner, keeping hair soft and smooth.
Carrots are brilliant for padding out a salad when grated. I’ve also been known to stir them into oats for a carrot cake-inspired breakfast dish! Other sources of beta-carotene include sweet potatoes and kale. If you’re looking for a serious vitamin A hit, you could even eat some organic liver.
If you suddenly experience hair loss or thinning, this can be a sign that your thyroid needs some support. If the hair loss is in isolated patches, your immune system may need addressing. While a registered nutritional therapist can provide you with targeted dietary support, it’s important you consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
To discuss your individual requirements, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.