Seven nutrients that can take your hair from dry, fizzy and scanty to lustrous, shiny and thick. Make these a daily habit today.
The health of your hair says a lot about what is happening inside you. A sudden increase in hair loss, changes in thickness or lustre, the speed of hair growth. These are all greatly influenced by how nourished or undernourished you are. A slight change on hormones can cause hair loss whereas even a week long change in diet can make them softer and better looking. Your body communicates through hair and nails. All you have to do is be a little observant and you will read all the messages.
Now there are 7 main nutrients that have a direct correlation to your hair health. I have listed them below along with the foods that will have these in abundance.
Protein Hair is made of a protein called Keratin. You will notice that a lot of hair care products in the market contain this protein. Does it help though? It might! But, for actual benefits, you need to ensure your body gets adequate protein through the diet. This is the one and only way you can get long lasting benefits.
Some of the more common protein-rich foods include eggs, lean meats, nuts and legumes. Make sure at least 20-25% of your calories are coming from proteins.
When it comes to proteins though, your body's power to assimilate the protein you consume is more important than your intake. Exercise will boost this. So make sure you do some form of workout for at least 120 minutes every week.
Iron Iron-deficiency anemia is one of the most common reasons for hair loss among women in India. If you are suffering with hair loss or dry, de-coloured hair, the first thing you need to do is get your blood work done. Check your Hemoglobin, Ferritin and Total Iron Binding Capacity tested. If these levels, are normal, then it is safe to deduce that your hair loss is due to some other reason. However, if your levels are low then GET TO WORK RIGHT AWAY!
Here's what you do - increase intake of iron-rich foods (here's a list for you), increase vitamin C rich foods (mainly fruits) and if your levels are very low then speak to your GP and start a supplement. Keep in mind that most of these supplements will make you constipated. So keep your water intake and fibre intake high.
Folic Acid One of the primary roles of Folic Acid in the body is the stimulate tissue and cell growth. When taken in adequate quantities on a regular basis, Folic acid is what causes your hair to grow.
Foods rich in this vitamin include kidney beans, bengal gram or chana, sesame seeds, fish, egg yolk, spinach, quinoa, walnuts, mango, papaya, beetroot. Also, do keep in mind, that it is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that if you boil something in water then this vitamin will get dissolved in the water and you will lose it.
Zinc Zinc plays a very important role in maintaining the integrity of the hair follicle as well as in maintaining hormonal balance. These two functions are the reason why a zinc deficiency causes hair loss.
Include oysters, almonds, sesame seeds, amaranth seeds, egg yolk, sunflower seeds, bengal gram, moth beans, oyster mushrooms and quinoa in your diet to ensure adequate intake of Zinc.
Selenium Eat adequate selenium for skin, hair and nails. It stimulates hair growth, reduces dandruff, reduces greying of hair and plays a role in balancing hormones. Selenium is best when consumed with vitamin E and zinc.
Selenium is found Lentils, Whole Wheat, Kidney Beans, Bengal Gram (split), Sunflower Seeds, Samai, Bajra, Fish (mackerel).
Vitamin E Has antioxidant properties that prevent the hair from damage. Vitamin E, along with Selenium, also promotes hair growth. Although a lot of hair care products, especially oils, claim benefits of external application, it is generally observed that these benefits are almost insignificant compared to those related to dietary consumption of vitamin E. Vitamin E is found in very few foods, so you should definitely ensure that you eat these on a regular basis.
Sources for vitamin E include Almonds, Pistachios, Sunflower Seeds, Flaxseeds, Whole Bengal Gram, Avocados.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids These fatty acids are important for nourishing the hair follicle and scalp health. With omega 3 always remember that animal sources are better. So, unless you are vegetarian, ensure adequate animal sources.
Plant sources include flaxseeds, walnuts kidney beans, drumstick, bajra, quinoa, garden cress seeds. Animal sources include mainly fatty fish, i.e. salmon, tuna, mackerel and eggs in small quantities.
WHAT TO DO NEXT?
It is difficult to have a list of sources for each nutrient and include it in your plan. So what I would recommend is the following:
Step 1: Understanding the severity of your current status If you are losing a lot of hair or your hair is greying very rapidly or it has gone through major textural changes in a short span of time, then you should get moving immediately. If you are seeing gradual changes then that also impacts your steps.
Step 2: Professional Help Needed? If you need a professional's help, then first get your bloodwork done. Take your reports to a nutritionist or doctor and get your supplements in place. This is basically to control the situation.
Step 3: Lifestyle Changes Use the above information and get your diet in place. If this seems tough, then just get yourself a customised diet plan. Manage your stress better and get some exercise into your routine.
Step 4: Be Patient This is generally the most difficult part of the process. But, you've got to be patient and give your body some time to restore itself.
Step 5: Keep At It It is common for us to stop making all the effort once we see the results we want. But, this is not a temporary problem. Hair loss or Bad Hair Quality talks a lot about your overall nutrition status. It is important for you to make permanent changes in your lifestyle and diet. This is what will ensure that you don;t come back to square one again.