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“Lather, rinse, repeat” may be standard advice, but shampoo and conditioner alone won’t give you the healthy hair you crave. For the most luxurious locks possible, you’ll need to step out of the shower, and into the kitchen.
“Your hair grows about 1/4 to 1/2 inch every month, and the foundation of all of our new hair, skin, and nail growth is the nutrients we eat,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a Chicago-based dietitian. “If you eat a healthy diet, you will grow stronger and healthier cells throughout your entire body — inside and out.”
If you were born with fine, thin hair, you’ll never have rope-thick tresses — no matter what you eat — but a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of growth-promoting protein and iron can make a difference, say nutrition and hair experts.
And beware of dietary supplements often marketed to thicken hair or make it grow faster. They may backfire.
“Even though you can find beauty supplements on the shelves of most stores, try to get the nutrients you need from foods whenever possible,” Paradi Mirmirani, MD, a dermatologist in Vallejo, Calif., tells WebMD. “In rare instances, excess supplementation of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, has been linked to hair loss.”
Read on for the 10 top foods that should be the foundation of your healthy hair diet.
Healthy Hair Food No. 1: Salmon
When it comes to foods that pack a beauty punch, it’s hard to beat salmon. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, this high-quality protein source is also filled with vitamin B-12 and iron.
“Essential omega-3 fatty acids are needed to support scalp health,” says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a dietitian in Los Angeles and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “A deficiency can result in a dry scalp and thus hair, giving it a dull look.”
Vegetarian? Include one or two tablespoons of ground flaxseed in your daily diet for some plant-based omega-3 fats.
Healthy Hair Food No. 2: Dark Green Vegetables
Popeye the Sailor Man didn’t eat all that spinach for healthy hair, but he could have. Spinach, like broccoli and Swiss chard, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which your body needs to produce sebum. The oily substance, secreted by your hair follicles, is the body’s natural hair conditioner.
Dark green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.
Healthy Hair Food No. 3: Beans
Beans, beans, they’re good for your … hair?
Yes, it’s true. Legumes like kidney beans and lentils should be an important part of your hair-care diet. Not only do they provide plentiful protein to promote hair growth, but ample iron, zinc, and biotin. While rare, biotin deficiencies can result in brittle hair.
Blatner, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, recommends three or more cups of lentils or beans each week.