Diet & Hair Growth
Why is diet important when it comes to hair growth?
Your hair cells are the second fastest-growing cells in your body (second only to intestinal cells). To add to this, you have roughly 120,000 hairs on your scalp, all of which need nourishment in order to grow. But because hair is not a vital organ or tissue, your body will never prioritise its nutritional needs. So, due to hair’s expendable nature, a nutritional imbalance will often show up first in the form of hair loss.
Both deficiencies, as well as excesses, of certain things in your diet can result in hair loss. For example, in our London and New York Clinics, we often see hair loss caused by iron and ferritin (stored iron) deficiency. We have also seen hair loss resulting from an overload of vitamin A (found in oily fish, liver, cheese etc).
What does a hair-healthy diet consist of?
What many people have been led to believe is a ‘healthy diet’ often does not include all of the elements needed for optimum hair growth and hair health. These include diets that consist mainly of fruits, vegetables and salads, with only minimal amounts of protein and calories; or, on the other end of the spectrum, diets that are high in protein and fat, with few or no carbohydrates. Your hair cells, as well as the cells throughout your body, need a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, iron, vitamins and minerals to function at their best.
For breakfast and lunch, we suggest including at least a palm-sized portion of any protein (fish, chicken, lean meat, eggs, quinoa, nuts, pulses) with a portion of complex carbohydrates (whole wheat toast, skin-on potatoes, oats, barley, brown rice, pasta).
Nutritional Must Do's for your Hair
There are a number of 'daily must do's' that will maximise your hair's potential for growing healthily and looking beautiful. (Please note, we suggest you always speak with your doctor before making changes to your diet.)
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your body — and your hair. Energy to form hair cells is lowest first thing in the morning (or whenever you wake up!). Eat a balanced and nutritious breakfast of proteins and complex carbohydrates to give your hair a nutritional boost.
Drink approximately 1.5-2 litres of water a day depending on your activity level and climate. Your scalp, just like your skin, can become dehydrated, making for a poor growing environment.
The energy to form hair cells drops four hours after you eat a meal. To sustain energy levels to your follicles, snack between meals on a complex carbohydrate, such as fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread or wholemeal crackers.
Eat Enough Protein
Your hair is composed primarily of protein, so including adequate amounts in your diet is vital to hair growth. We suggest eating a portion of high-protein food with breakfast and lunch (for example, fish, chicken, lean meat, eggs, beans, quinoa, tofu, seitan, legumes, nuts).
Consume Adequate Iron
Ferritin (stored iron) levels are extremely important for hair growth. If your diet allows it, try to eat lean red meat at least twice a week, especially if you are menstruating. Otherwise, try adding an iron nutritional supplement to your diet.
Crush on Vitamin C
Iron can only be absorbed effectively if you are ingesting it alongside vitamin C. Drink a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or eat one of your favourite fruits / vegetables to help with iron uptake.
Add Milk to Your Tea
Research has shown that drinking black tea can increase the likelihood of anaemia. This is because, without milk, the tannins in tea are left free to bind with iron in your body, and can therefore deplete your iron stores. The solution: add a splash of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
Be Wary of Dairy
Dairy products are a great source of calcium. However, if you are prone to dandruff, eczema or psoriasis, dairy can exacerbate or trigger the condition. Try limiting your cheese and whole milk consumption.
Eat a Varied Diet
Try not to choose the same meals or foods every day. Eating a varied diet will help ensure you are getting a wide-range of essential vitamins and minerals.