Wish you could have longer hair? Healthista Collective expert and nutritionist Rick Hay reveals the 5 foods to eat for healthy hair growth

Healthy-looking, shiny hair is often seen as a sign of health and beauty.

Long, thick, glossy – whatever your preference, people are always striving for beautiful flowing locks.

Advertisements convince us invest in serums, shampoos, conditioners and hair masks which we end up spending a fortune on, but the truth is healthy hair actually starts on the inside.

healthy hair actually starts on the inside

That’s why a healthy diet is key to help every part of the body function well, and that includes your hair.

Hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in the human body and like every other part of your body, your hair needs a variety of nutrients in order to be healthy and to grow.

While factors such as age, genetics and hormones determine hair growth and the speed of hair growth, consuming the right amount of nutrients is key in order for our hair to grow.

Even though our hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in our bodies, hair is a non-essential tissue. That means your hair isn’t exactly top the the priority list when it comes to nutrient distribution.

As well as a possible lack of key nutrients our hair also has to deal with everyday stresses such as pollution, hair dryers, straighteners, colour treatments, social media expectations, rain and wind can impact the health of our hair.

Therefore, it is important to provide the body with sufficient vitamins and nutrients, to give your hair the best possible chance to grow and thrive. A nutritious diet including foods high in vitamins A, C, E as well as healthy fats can help transform a dull and lacklustre mane to flowing hair fit for a princess.

it is important to provide the body with sufficient vitamins and nutrients

Fruits, veggies, wholewheat goods, beans, pulses, protein, fibre – a diet full of these foods will provide you with all the nutrients you need, but if you want to improve the health of your hair even further then there are a couple of nutrients and vitamins you should aim to consume more of.

So, with that said, here are five key foods to add to your diet for healthy hair growth.

#1 Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in hair growth and repair – plus they are delicious sprinkled over your morning porridge.

They also consist of cucurbitin, an amino acid that may encourage hair growth.

Pumpkin seeds

Zinc is essential to good cellular replication and protein absorption which are both essential to having glossy, healthy hair. It also helps keep the oil glands around the hair follicles working properly.

Indeed, zinc deficiency has been shown to be factor of hair loss. A 2013 study in the Annals of Dermatology on 312 people with hair loss found that all participants had lower zinc concentrations in their blood than those in a control group.

A study in the same journal found that supplementing with zinc daily for 12 weeks was enough for 66 per cent of the patients in the trial to see an improvement in hair growth.

Other food sources of zinc include kidney beans, beef, chicken, hemp seeds, tofu, lentils and oatmeal.

#2 Fatty Fish (or Algae for vegans)

Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are great sources of protein, selenium, vitamin D3 and B vitamins. These are nutrients that may help promote strong and healthy hair as well as protect your skin from premature ageing.

Not only that, but fish is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, that greatly benefits your hair and scalp by regulating oil production and boosting hydration.

fish is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 is also important for preventing hair shaft breakage and giving hair a healthy shine, thanks to the essential fatty acids they contain.

When it comes to healthy hair, protein is a must. This is because keratin, which is what your hair shaft is made of, is basically made of protein.

In order to ensure you have optimum levels of protein, make sure your diet includes sources such as seeds like flax, lentils and quinoa as well as fish, eggs and lean meats if you eat meat.

Sources of protein

If you are vegan or vegetarian you can supplement with algal oil which is rich in healthy omegas or you can add Spirulina to smoothies, as this blue green algae superfood is packed full of hair nourishing vitamins including iron, vitamins B and C.

In addition to fish and algae, other sources of omega 3 include chia seeds, soy beans, flax seeds and edamame.

#3 Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, a compound converted into vitamin A by the body.

Vitamin A is vital for cell growth, and that includes hair cells which can speed up the rate of hair growth and encourage the growth of thicker hair.

Not only does vitamin A benefit hair cells, it helps your scalp too as skin glands also use vitamin A to produce an oily substance called sebum, which will help yo keep your scalp moisturised.

Sweet potato wedges

It is best to eat beta carotene rich foods such as carrots, squash and sweet potatoes cooked as opposed to raw as vitamin A becomes more bioavailable in cooked food. It’s also helpful to consume these vegetables with oil as this can improve your absorption of vitamin A.

#4 Avocados

Avocados are the ultimate beauty food as they are packed with your skin and hair’s favourite vitamins: A (mentioned above), C and E. There’s a reason avocado on toast is such a popular breakfast!

Not only that, but avocados also contain antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and folate which help to nourish and strengthen hair, encourages growth, improves the condition of your scalp and prevents hair loss.

Avocado and eggs on toast

Usually when anyone hears the words vitamin C they think of lemons and other citrus fruits but avocados, potatoes, broccoli and strawberries are just some of the many sources of vitamin C.

One of vitamin C’s major functions is to help produce and maintain healthy collagen, the connective tissue found within hair follicles. Without vitamin C, our body struggles to synthesize collagen.

One of vitamin C’s major functions is to help produce and maintain healthy collagen

Vitamin E is also an important vitamin for maintaining and growing healthy hair. Sunflower seeds, almonds and green veggies as well as avocados are all excellent sources of vitamin E.

Indeed, a study was conducted to investigate the effect of tocotrienol (vitamin E) supplementation on hair growth in volunteers suffering from hair loss.

The study published in The National Library of Medicine in 2010, found that the number of hairs of the volunteers in the tocotrienol (vitamin E) supplementation group increased significantly as compared to the placebo group.

#5 Walnuts

Walnuts contain both nutrients mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) and vitamin E, which keep the scalp hydrated and bacteria or fungus infections at bay because of its antibacterial properties.

Walnuts also protect our hair from sun damage as well as keeping it voluminous and lustrous. Snacking on a handful of raw walnuts throughout the day will make your hair extremely happy, so eat up!

Rick Hay

Rick Hay is an Anti-Ageing and Fitness Nutritionist with many years clinical experience in nutrition, naturopathy, botanical medicine and iridology.

He specializes in obesity treatment and weight management. He writes a regular Natural Health and Fitness Blog for Healthista.

Find out more at rickhay.co.uk.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rickhayuk

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