What you eat doesn't just affect your body — it also affects your strands. Sure, you may buy and try expensive shampoo and conditioner to get your hair in tip-top shape, but to get the locks you desire, it really all comes down to loading up your plate with the right foods.
'You can tell a person is eating well when they have healthy-looking hair,' says Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, explaining why maintaining a balanced diet is important for shine, growth, and fullness.
'When you focus on a variety of foods, your body naturally works together by using the nutrients it needs at the time, storing what could be used later, and excreting what it knows it won't need,' says Jackie Vega, RDN.
If you live on fast food, don't expect to have luscious locks — your lackluster hair will rat you out.'A well-educated hairstylist can tell when you have a poor diet due to the dullness of your hair and a brittle texture,' says Joelle Noll, stylist at B. Salon and Spa in Wayne, New Jersey.
'If you come in with volume, fullness, and a natural shine along with a uniformed look, the stylist knows you lead ahealthy and nutritious lifestyle.'While you can try supplements, hair masks, and other treatments, your hair may benefit more by getting certain nutrients from food.
'It's actually better to ingest certain nutrients rather than slather them on your head,' says Kendra Aarhus, licensed cosmetologist and women's hair expert at . 'The hair's inability to absorb nutrients through the cuticle sends most of your efforts swirling down the drain.'It can take some time to see results, so be patient. Noll notes changes won't happen overnight, explaining 'the hair takes about three months to turn around.'Consider making these foods part of your diet and you'll be on your way to healthy, strong, andvibrant hair before you know it.
1. For shine, eat sweet potatoes.
Unlike the typical white potato, the orange-fleshed variety is packed with beta-carotene.'Beta-carotene helps keep hair cells healthy,' says Tamara Melton, MS, RDN, LD.
'A sweet potato contains a day's worth of beta-carotene.'Your body will convert that beta-carotene into vitamin A, which promotes sebum — a scalp oil that acts as a natural conditioner — and those oils help prevent dry and dull hair.
'Foods that are rich in beta-carotene can prevent dryness by helping your scalp produce natural and beneficial oils,' says David Alexander, licensed master stylist and men's hair expert at .
Just don't overdo it on the vitamin A. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, too much can cause hair loss. If you aren't a sweet potato fan, beta-carotene is also found in fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe, apricots, pink grapefruit, carrots, pumpkin, and winter squash. The more intense the color of the vegetable or fruit, the more beta-carotene it has.
2. For growth, eat eggs.
For growth, eat eggs. 'Because hair is built from protein, maintaining a diet rich in quality protein is beneficial,' Alexander says.
Eggs are full of protein, making them a great source to help promote hair growth. Added bonus? They're also loaded with iron, which promotes hair growth, too.
Unfortunately, if you're lacking either, hair loss may be the outcome. When your body doesn't get enough protein, for example, it rations what it does get. And that possibly includes stopping hair growth.
Other protein sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, and lean meats like chicken and turkey. Vegetarian-friendly proteins include chickpeas, quinoa, and lentils.
3. For strength, eat fish.
Fatty fish are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Your body absorbs these fats and assimilates them into your hair, and the omegas-3s in fatty fish can help strengthen your hair and prevent it from getting brittle.
'Lack of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can lead to weak hair that's prone to spilt ends,' Aarhus says.Because your body can't make the fatty acids itself, the American Heart Association recommends eating at leasttwo servings of fish per week. Vegetarians can get omega-3s from tofu, soybeans, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
4. For fullness, eat oysters.
Oysters aren't just an aphrodisiac. They boast zinc, an important trace metal in your diet.'Zinc is a vital nutrient to help keep your hair on your head and not shed before its growth cycle is up,' Aarhus says. 'It also helps regulate the production of androgens, hormones associated with hair loss.
'In a 2013 study in the Annals of Dermatology, researchers found that participants who had various types of hair loss had consistently lower zinc levels than participants in the control group. This was especially true for participants with alopecia areata, a common autoimmune skin disease that causes sudden and severe hair loss.
'Zinc supports cell production and repair, so it helps keep hair cells healthy and protects against hair loss,' Melton says.The good news is you can get almost 500 percent of your daily zinc value with six medium baked, cooked, breaded, or canned oysters.
Other foods rich in zinc include beans, dark meat poultry, breakfast cereals, crab, nuts, and whole grains.
5. For moisture, eat spinach.
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach benefit your hair in so many ways, including locking in moisture. That's because spinach is loaded with sebum-promoting vitamin A.'Having enough vitamin A in our diet helps our scalps produce adequate amounts of sebum, their natural moisturizer,' says Del Sandeen, black hair expert at .
'Without enough sebum production, our hair may feel dry and look dull.'To easily add more spinach into your diet, sauté it as a side dish or use it to replace lettuce in your salads. Other dark green leafy veggies include kale and collards.
Ready to eat your way to the best hair of your life?