Is it possible to nourish hair from within? Does a well-balanced diet really nourish hair, so that it can grow long and healthy? Keep reading to find out.
In 2015, Angolan-born model, Maria Borges made “hair history” when she walked down the the Victoria’s Secret runway rocking her natural “TWA” (Teenie Weenie Afro). In recent years, the natural hair movement has gained popularity among African American women.
This movement promotes choice, the ability to choose how one wants to wear their hair without being confined to social norms. More women are choosing to wear their natural, curly hair instead of using relaxers or weaves.
Evidence of this was alive and well at the “Love the Hair You Wear” Event at the Blind Whino Arts Club in Washington D.C. The event was hosted by the D.C.-based blogger, Vecoya Greene. They showcased a number of vendors for natural hair care products, skin care products, and cosmetics. Both men and women confidently boasted their natural hair of all different styles and lengths.
Unfortunately, some still struggle to feel confident and sexy with their natural hair, particularly adolescent girls.
- A recent study found that of 72 African American adolescent girls, nearly all of them rated long, straight hairstyles as “most attractive”.
- A separate study found that of 200 women surveyed, 50% experienced excessive hair loss and 22% felt that their hair contributed to weight management issues.
To further the problem, women go to their doctor to address their hair loss. However, many leave without answers. Why? Many physicians do not understand black hair care.
Too many people have the misconception that black hair is simply impossible to grow. As a result, they opt to ditch their natural hair for long weaves.
It is true that black hair is more difficult to grow because it is prone to breakage and hair loss. Fortunately, there is a solution – food.
Have you ever noticed that the ingredients listed on hair products often sound like the back of a food package? You may see ingredients such as coconut oil, olive oil, blueberry extract, and amino acids.
Well, it is no coincidence that hair products contain some of the same things we eat. These hair products allow the ends of the hair to stay moisturized and healthy. The curlier the hair, the more difficult it is for nutrients and moisture to travel from the root of the hair to the end of the hair shaft.
However, putting hair products in your hair without putting the proper food in your body is like watering flowers that are planted in depleted soil. That is why a well-balanced diet is the most important hair product of all.
Although not enough research has been done to promote the use of dietary supplements for hair growth, the good news is that you can get all of the nutrients you need from food. You can nourish hair from within by choosing the right foods and staying away from those that are bad for you.
Below is a list of 10 key nutrients for maintaining strong, healthy hair.
Get ready to nourish hair from the inside out.
Iron deficiency, or anemia, is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. When your body doesn’t have enough iron stores, it may take away iron out of less essential areas like the hair bulb. Tonourish hair eat iron-rich foods like red meat, pork, chicken, seafood, beans, dark leafy green vegetables, dried fruit and peas.
One of the symptoms of biotin deficiency is hair loss; but no need to go out and buy costly biotin supplements, you can get all you need in your diet. Biotin-rich foods include egg yolks, nuts, beans, whole grains, milk, cauliflower, bananas, and mushrooms. All of these foods nourish hair.
- Vitamin D
You may have heard that vitamin D is important for strong bones, but it is equally important for strong hair. Vitamin D-rich foods include fatty fish (like tuna, mackerel and salmon), milk, cheese, yogurt, and egg yolks.
Zinc is required to process protein in the body and hair is made up of protein. So, it is no coincidence that low zinc levels may lead to hair loss. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, spinach, cashews, chocolate, pork, chicken, beans and mushrooms.
- Vitamin C
Don’t like oranges? No problem, vitamin C-rich foods include papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussell sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and many other fruits and vegetables.
Now For More Foods That Will Nourish Your Hair
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin helps improve circulation throughout the body, which ensures that blood and nutrients reach the scalp, promoting hair growth. Niacin-rich foods include tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, sardines, peanuts, shrimp, and brown rice. All of these foods promote hair health and nourish hair from the inside out.
- Vitamin E
Have you ever seen “tocopherols” on the ingredient list for hair or skin products? Turns out that is just another name for Vitamin E. Olive oil and castor oil, other common hair product ingredients, are high in Vitamin E as well. Also, vitamin E-rich foods include almonds, spinach, swiss chard, avocado, peanuts, turnip greens, asparagus, beet greens and mustard greens.
- Vitamin A
Did you know vitamin A helps regulate sebum production? It is the oily substance produced on the scalp, preventing the hair from becoming overly greasy or overly dry. Vitamin A-rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, swiss chard, winter squash, and butternut squash.
Like iron deficiency, magnesium deficiency is also common, and one of its symptoms is hair loss. Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, fatty fish, beans, whole grains, avocado, dairy products, bananas, and dark chocolate.
- Protein (especially methionine and lysine):
Ever heard of a keratin treatment or seen keratin on a shampoo bottle? Keratin is really just the protein that makes up our hair. Most people get enough protein in their diet, but it is important to choose the right types of protein. The building blocks of protein are called amino acids; and the two most important amino acids for keratin formation are methionine and lysine.
Foods high in methionine include brazil nuts, lean beef, cheeses, seafood, soy products, eggs, dairy products, and beans. Lysine-rich foods are very similar and include lean beef, cheeses, turkey, chicken, pork, soy products, seafood, nuts, seeds, eggs and beans.
So, there you have it. If you want to grow healthy, natural hair, then food is the answer. Make a conscious effort to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats in your diet, along with plenty of protein.
Do you think you can come up with a meal that includes all 10 of the nutrients listed above?
Here’s an idea: Try this Quinoa Mango Black Bean Salad and top it off with a filet of salmon or some shrimp. http://vanillaandbean.com/quinoa-mango-black-bean-salad-with-smoky-pepitas-and-chipotle-lime-vinaigrette/
Gathers, Raechele Cochran, and Meredith Grace Mahan. 2014. “African American Women, Hair Care, and Health Barriers.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 7 (9):26-29.
Prusiewicz-Witaszek, U. 1975. “[Changes in the biosynthesis of keratin in the hair following supplementing rabbits’ basic feed with methionine and lysine].” Pol Arch Weter 17 (4):659-66.
Woolford, Susan J., Carole J. Woolford-Hunt, Areej Sami, Natalie Blake, and David R. Williams. 2016. “No sweat: African American adolescent girls’ opinions of hairstyle choices and physical activity.” BMC Obesity 3 (1):1-8. doi: 10.1186/s40608-016-0111-7.