Many external factors contribute to the health of our hair — our environment, which cleansing and conditioning products we use, our hair colouring and styling practices — these are all important areas to look at when trying to support vibrant, healthy locks.
But all too often we forget about another vital contributor to our hair’s health — and that is: what we eat. So, how can we help nourish our hair from the inside out? Let’s dig in!
Eat regularly and adequately
Our bodies are incredible beings. They are accomplishing a million and one tasks on our behalf each and every day. They are keeping our blood pumping, our lungs breathing, our immune system fighting, our digestion running… it’s a never ending list of tasks.
We need fuel for these tasks. And if we’re running low on fuel, those items that are the most vital to our existence will take priority. If there’s an energy shortage, growing bouncy, shiny hair will be very low on the list!
Which means, both for overall health, as well as for luscious locks, eating adequately is most important. That means consuming regular, satisfying meals and snacks throughout the day. Hydration is key as well, so be sure to sip on some H2O so your body has enough water for the many processes it has to perform.
Going for long periods of time without food/water, or consuming meals that do not satisfy your energy needs, will put our body into a state of scarcity. When your body is intensely focused on keeping you alive, it won’t have the capacity for healthy hair!
The importance of balanced meals
Have you heard the term “macronutrient” before? Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are each incredibly important for our well-being, and understanding them can be the simplest and greatest way to improve our overall health.
Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of fuel. They exist in foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and grains, and provide energy to our body’s many functions.
Proteins play a key role in our immune and hormonal health, as well as the making and maintaining of tissues such as muscle, skin, nails and… hair! You can find protein in meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
And finally, we have fats. Fats are needed to carry fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as being an essential component of cell membranes — all of which is helpful for hair, and overall health. Nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts and fish are all good sources of fat.
When planning meals and snacks for your day, consider your macronutrients and try to incorporate a little of each whenever possible. Don’t stress about trying to get it perfect at each meal. Just have a look at the overall picture of your day and aim to incorporate some of each macronutrient along the way.
Antioxidants for healthy hair
Consuming a balance of macronutrients will help ensure your body has the major building blocks it needs for strong, healthy hair.
But there are also smaller, “micro”-nutrients your body benefits from. These include vitamins and minerals vital to our bodies’ many processes. Antioxidants, in particular, are compounds that are able to reduce oxidative stress which has been linked to hair loss. Examples of antioxidants are vitamins A, E and C, and minerals such as zinc and selenium.
Fruits and vegetables are going to be your best resource here as they are bursting with vitamins. Nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts and flax seeds are good sources of antioxidants as well.
What about supplements?
There are a great number of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids that contribute to hair health, and many nutrient deficiencies have been linked to symptoms such as hair loss. Iron deficiency is a well-known cause of hair loss, a lack of zinc may bring about brittle hair, and niacin deficiency can lead to alopecia.
Upon hearing this you may be tempted to begin a supplementation plan to support your hair health, but we do need to be careful in our efforts. Over-supplementation of vitamin A and E, for instance, may actually lead to hair loss!
Our bodies are miraculous, finely-tuned organisms and we should be mindful in our efforts to treat our symptoms. So what are you to do if you have hair woes you think a nutrient deficiency may be responsible for?
See a specialist
If you have noticed a change in the health of your hair that concerns you, consider reaching out to your doctor, naturopath or other qualified wellness professional.
Our hair can actually be a great indicator of what is going on internally, and the right professional can help you put together a plan to take care of and nourish your whole body, as well as your hair.
The big picture
The beautiful thing about our bodies is that all our systems are intertwined. So making healthful changes for your hair will support your body’s overall well-being, and vice versa.
Plus, nourishing your hair from the inside out, for the most part, is fairly simple. Eat enough food, make your meals balanced when possible, and enjoy a variety of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants. And finally, if you feel your hair needs further support, don’t be afraid to see a qualified professional.
To get you started on your journey to healthier hair, check out this recipe for a nourishing chia bowl to be enjoyed any time of the day...
Nourishing chia bowl recipe
Chia seeds are a great blend of our 3 macronutrients so they make an excellent jumping off point for a hair health-supporting recipe.
To begin, mix 2 tbsp chia seeds with 1/2 cup milk or dairy-free milk of choice and a splash of maple syrup or other sweetener if desired. Let sit in the fridge for 1 hour, or overnight. Top with some of the nutrients from each of the categories we discussed:
Protein: Hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
Fat: Coconut milk, yogurt, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans
Antioxidants: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches
Make sure you add enough toppings to create a truly nourishing and satisfying creation.
Here’s to healthy, happy hair!
DISCLAIMER: All content and opinions expressed are general in nature and provided for informational purposes only. Anything discussed is not a substitute for medical advice or care and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure. Please consult your health care practitioner(s) before implementing anything mentioned here or on hairholistic.ca.
Sheelagh Daly is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor with a passion for helping individuals learn to eat, move and live in a way that feels best for each of their individual, unique needs.
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