Is clean eating and ditching those processed foods part of your new year resolutions? Jo looks at the vitamins and foods that are essential for healthy hair.
A balanced diet should provide all the vitamins and protein you need. But which are the most important ones for healthy hair and how should we make sure we are getting enough?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is vital for our health generally as well as healthy hair.
Jo explains, “Because our bodies cannot store it, we must make sure we have it on a daily basis. Eat a variety of different coloured fresh fruit and vegetables every day to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C. Freshness is important because vitamin C is easily lost from food through overcooking and storage.”
Vitamin C is also important for hair health because it enables us to absorb iron. A lack of iron (anaemia) can cause hair loss, dry and brittle hair and slow growth. Red meat, spinach and lentils are good sources of iron.
Loss of blood, illness and pregnancy can be causes of anaemia says Jo. If you notice thinning hair or it isn’t growing at the rate it used to ask your doctor to test your iron levels as these can be symptoms of anaemia. Always see your GP if you think you may have an iron deficiency and before taking supplements.
Complex B vitamins play a role in hair growth especially vitamin B7 (biotin) and B12 are important to strengthen and condition the hair.
B vitamins can be found in 100% whole grains, meat, fish, whole eggs, nuts and avocados.
Your hair also needs protein to maintain its strength, elasticity and ability to grow says Jo. This is because hair is mainly made of a protein called keratin, so a lack of protein will make your hair brittle and more likely to fall out before it’s reached its full growing length.
Eggs and other ‘primary proteins’ such as fish, lean red meat and poultry are all good sources of easily absorbed protein to help give your hair a boost.
Vegetarians and vegans can go for plant proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, pulses and tofu – however, they are not as easily absorbed as primary proteins and don’t contain the same level of vital amino acids.
“Zinc is only needed by the body in small amounts,” says Jo. “But low levels have been associated with hair loss and poor wound healing so eat plenty of zinc-rich foods including meat, beans, nuts and seeds.”
As always do get medical advice if you are worried about hair loss, for example, if your hair is coming out in clumps or your scalp is inflamed.