One of the first ways I can tell how healthy someone is—and if they’re eating nutritiously—is by looking at their hair,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Strong words indeed.
As we all get older, keeping our bodies in top condition becomes increasingly difficult. Our hair is no different. From dry scalps, to thinning strands, there are a myriad of problems our long locks face each and every day. Yet, there are solutions, and the ones on our list don’t involve expensive salon treatments or spa products. Instead, we have compiled the best foods for combatting hair problems to turn your eating habits into hair heroics and rejuvenate your locks.
- Defeating Dull Hair – Eat Salmon (Omega-3)
- When you’re low on healthy fats, your hair starts to lose its natural shine. Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids that feed the oil gland around hair follicles, helping lubricate hair for added luster. Hate fish? Try flaxseed or Omega-3 supplements.
- Fight a Flaky Scalp – Pumpkin Seeds (Zinc)
- Pumpkin seeds (about a ½ cup) supplies 19% of your daily requirement of zinc, a mineral which may help prevent scalp dryness, says Rebecca Kazin, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University. Incorporate other zinc-rich foods like fortified cereals, pork, yogurt, and cashews, to help you reach the 8 mg you need each day.
- Tackling Thinning Hair – Chicken (Protein)
- You may not be able to stop normal, everyday hair loss, but you can help build the count back up by getting enough protein, the building blocks for hair. Without enough protein, your body can’t replace the hairs that you naturally shed every day. If you’re a veggie, try quinoa, lentils, or chickpeas.
- Battle Breaking Hair – Strawberries (Vitamin C)
- Your body needs vitamin C to help create protein, and your body’s ability to make enough of that hair-and muscle-builder is key for strong, unbreakable strands. Strawberries are full of vitamin C, with one cup packing 113% of your recommended daily allowance (vitamin C is fine to get in excess, as you’ll pee out what you don’t need). You can also reach for other top C sources like peppers, guavas, and citrus fruits.
- Beat the Burn of the Sun – Almonds (Vitamin E)
- Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can absorb energy from UV light—protecting skin cells in the process. It can even help repair the damage from previous sun exposure on your scalp.
- Subdue Serious Hair Loss – Beans (Iron)
- There’s a difference between slightly thinning strands and noticeable, I-can-see-my-scalp hair loss, and the latter can be caused by iron deficiency. Have your doctor check your iron levels and ask how much of the mineral she recommends (in general, women younger than 50 should aim for 18 mg of iron per day, while those 50+ need just 8 mg). Clams and oysters are among the highest food sources of the mineral, but beans are probably a more realistic everyday option.