It’s hard to listen to your hair sometimes. Many of us have a rather love/hate relationship with that mop on top. And unlike a dog pawing at the door, our hair’s cries for help can sometimes be both subtle and delayed. You don’t have to be a hair whisperer to hear what your hair is trying to tell you, however. You just need to know the signs. And no, hair loss is not usually the best or clearest sign that something is wrong. Solutions are pretty easy to come by, however. Food for thought? Try food for hair! Some foods contain all the right nutrients for a healthy head of hair, while others will lead directly to more hair problems.
Keep in mind, however, that some of your hair problems are just something that you and your strands are going to have to live with. No matter how much happy hair food you eat, there are simply some things you cannot change. Feel free to shake your angry, impotent fist at your genetics and move on. Then, realize that there is something you can do to at least grow your hair back, maximize its strength and shine, and keep it looking happy and healthy (even when it wants to do its own thing).
Why Does Hair Fall Out?
There are any number of reasons why your hair keeps running and screaming from your scalp. If you've just taken a trip to the salon, the chemicals used by your stylist might be causing your hair to just...give up and die. And speaking of death: dying your hair essentially has the same effect, especially if you get it bleached regularly.
On the other hand, most hair loss is coming from the inside out. Stress is one of those internal factors, and it’s often a big one. However, the stress you should be most concerned with is the kind that’s on-going, not short lived. So think bigger. Think “family problems” or “chronic health issues”. If it’s causing you to lose sleep, it’s probably causing you to lose hair.
But don’t move to the Bahamas just yet. A carefree life isn’t going to stop that hair loss. Genetics play a large role. Some people are just genetically designed to have hair that thins out. We all know that one guy who’s been going bald since he was 20. And we all know that poor girl whose hair was so thin that she always wore hats. Until science figures out how to turn that gene off (come on science, what are we paying you for?) some of us will just have to live with it.
Age, of course, is a common and inescapable factor as well. Almost everyone loses hair as they get older. Your body simply slows down its growth rate for new hair. No matter how many foods that promote hair growth that you consume, age is an inescapable force. Again, it’s all natural, although it still feels like your body is just pulling a Benedict Arnold on you.
Nevertheless, as you get older you’ll want to be conscious of how much you brush. With somewhat weaker hair, excessive brushing can only compound the problem. Indeed, even younger people can see hair loss due to brushing far too much.
Then there’s your body itself. We mean the whole shebang. Biology is just a crazy, complicated thing. Your body’s chemical makeup can change with age, with the season, with the last meal you had. Vitamin deficiencies are one major cause of hair loss, especially in people who have a bit of an affinity for burgers over broccoli. While the protein in that seared beef will help build strong hair, your hair won’t grow well at all without a slew of vitamins as well.
All of this means one, simple thing: If you want to fight hair loss and promote healthy hair, it’s time to take a good, long look inside your fridge. A healthy diet leads to healthy hair. An unhealthy diet will lead directly to unhealthy hair. Yes, you need food good for hair. Yes, you need foods that make your hair grow. Yes, you need the right food for healthy hair. There’s no amount of products or supplements you can buy that will do more good for your hair than the food you eat.
Nutrients Your Hair Needs
Here’s the skinny: you need vitamins. A lot of them. The good news is that most of the necessary vitamins you need for healthy hair and hair growth are ones you can actually get from some rather tasty foods. Many of these are foods you might already be eating.
Iron is one of the most important nutrients for the human body. Among many other benefits, your body uses iron to help grow hair. In fact, if you’re experiencing abnormal hair loss, you might just be suffering from an iron deficiency. Iron deficiencies are one of the most common forms of nutrient deficiencies and easily treated with supplements or simply taking in more iron-rich foods. Why iron, you ask? It's all in the hemoglobin. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a substance that’s essential for carrying oxygen throughout your body. We all know what happens if your body lacks oxygen.
You might be happy (or sad) to know that iron is primarily located in beans and dark, leafy veggies (spinach!). Looks like Popeye had the right idea with this one, even if he, uh, didn’t have much hair to speak of.
Link Up with Zinc
Zinc is one of those minerals your body really can’t live without. Literally. Zinc’s most important purpose for your body is helping your immune system. Outside of this, zinc has many other essential benefits to your body, including cell division, wound healing and cell growth. Hey, you know what else is made from cells? Your hair! This makes zinc a necessary mineral to help your hair grow from the very basic building blocks. Zinc is very common in animal proteins, making that steak dinner a food good for hair.
Earning a Few Ds Isn’t So Bad
Most of us spent our school years trying to avoid getting Ds. But when it comes to vitamin D, well, you’re going to want to load up on those! We’ve all been told how important vitamin D is for our bones and overall health. But did you know that vitamin D foods are hair foods? More recent research seems to indicate that vitamin D promotes the growth of hair follicles and leads directly to thicker, fuller hair. So eat that cheese, beef and eggs, and drink your milk. Get your vitamin D on!
The Professional Protein
It’s hard to talk about health without talking about protein. Then again, it’s hard to talk about protein without confusing people as well. Protein is a macronutrient, meaning it’s extremely complex. And there’s not just one type of protein, so not all protein is good, and not all protein has the same effect on your body. When it comes to your hair, good protein goes toward, well, actually building your hair. Hair is composed primarily of protein and keratin, which itself is just another type of protein. While you can find protein in most foods, we all know where the best source is -- meat!
It’s not often that someone tells you to go get some fat. But omega-3 fatty acids continue to prove their worth. Primarily found in fish, this fat has the beneficial effect of building strong, shiny hair. Now, you can easily buy many of those popular fish oil pills, but why bother? Just chow down on some delicious seared salmon instead!
Be One with Biotin
A family member of vitamin B, biotin is well-known for its benefits to hair growth. Looking for a few good natural sources without having to take supplements? Try eggs (the yolk is best), or liver. Alternatively, you can find it in yeast-based breads, as yeast is a great source of biotin as well. That means eat all of those whole grained bread you can! And if you're a milk or meat fan (sorry vegans!) you'll be able to get your biotin naturally from a lot of very delicious sources.
5 Bad Foods for Your Hair
With so much food good for hair, it’s easy to think that pretty much any food would be beneficial in some way. Not so fast. Some foods are downright detrimental to your hair. If you value your mane, you’ll stay away from these as often as possible. We’re not saying you can’t indulge, of course. Just be wary of how these will impact your hair health.
High Mercury Fish
It’s never good when the mercury is rising. And while all fish contains at least a little bit of mercury, some fish have much higher concentrations of the stuff. Mercury is a natural element, but it’s also downright toxic. Thankfully, the most common and most popular fish are not high in mercury. But if you’re going out to a fancy restaurant and you’re considering some of the more uncommon fish, just note that sword fish, mackerel, shark meat all have very high levels of mercury. And breastfeeding women: just say no! That mercury can pass from breastmilk to your baby.
Sugar (Say It Ain’t So!)
Can we all just let out an exasperated sigh? We thought you were our FRIEND sugar! Sadly, sugar can lead directly to increased hair loss. Yikes. High levels of blood sugar are bad for your body in a lot of ways. Blood sugar spikes can lead to inflammation, making it more difficult for your body to keep and grow hair. Likewise, more sugar means higher insulin levels, which means more androgen. This hormone can help hair growth, but too much of it can make you grow too much hair in places you wish it just wouldn’t grow. That yeasty donut might be good for your hair, but you’ll pretty much negate the effects when you smother it in a sugary glaze.
Yes, the news just keeps getting worse. Not only is sugar bad for your hair, but so too is pasta. Pasta is high in glucose, which as we already learned from sugar’s example is downright mean. That plate of pasta might look delicious, but if you plan on taking up a purely pasta-centric diet, you’re going to find your hair suffering pretty quickly. If you’re already depressed about sugar and pasta, you might just want to skip over the next one.
If this list didn’t make you want to give up on life yet, this might just push you over the edge. Despite the many studies that show a little wine is great for your health, alcohol does have more negative effects on the body beyond just the impact on your liver and ability to walk in a straight line. Alcohol literally stops your body from being able to absorb necessary nutrients. You can minimize those effects by drinking less, of course, or by simply offsetting your food and alcohol intake a bit. Either way, it’s best to avoid over drinking altogether.
Yes, all of the best foods just hate us. Even milk. Thankfully, the issues with milk are not common, although they can exist. Milk can occasionally contain high levels of testosterone. We get it, testosterone is naturally produced by your body. But too much of it can hinder the growth of hair, making testosterone a sometimes unavoidable consequence of life. Don’t lose any sleep over the negative effects of milk, but do consider how much of it you take in, as well as the type you’re buying.