What to eat for healthy hair

Eating right is the first step towards getting healthy hair

B vitamins are essential for healthy hair, especially biotin.

To flaunt healthy hair, one should nourish themselves with key nutrients and eat them in the right proportion. Optimal nutrition for the fastest growing natural tissue in your body involves the right balance of both macro and micronutrients such as good quality protein rich in essential amino acids, which are not produced in our body but are to be supplemented through a balanced meal plan, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well. A study conducted on Indians and published in International Journal of Trichology in 2017 states that the nutritional deficiencies among the participants with hair loss showed varied amino acid and micronutrient deficiencies across all types of hair loss. Indian participants exhibited deficiencies of histidine, leucine, valine, alanine, cysteine, iron, zinc, folate, etc.

Biotin

B vitamins are essential for healthy hair, especially biotin. Biotin sources are cereal-grain products, liver, egg yolk, soy flour, yeast (bread), salmon, avocado, sweet potato, nuts such as almonds, and oilseeds like sunflower.

Watch out: Biotin present in raw eggs and mayo contains avidin which binds with biotin and makes it unavailable, so it’s better to eat cooked eggs. Find out how much nuts and oilseeds that you can eat in a day.

B Vitamins

Vitamins help reduce thinning, prevent dandruff and hair loss. Vitamin B5 sources are mushroom, dried peas, avocado, lentils, yolk, chicken and beef. Vitamin B6 is present in cereals, chickpea, potatoes, chicken, beef, etc. Vitamin B1 sources include beans like navy/pinto/lima/peas/black, oats, unpolished rice, sunflower seeds and lentils, B2 can be found in mushroom, milk, curd, spinach, soy, and Vit B3 in salmon, brown rice, chicken, lamb, tuna. Vit B12 can be found in fish, eggs, chicken, yeast fermented foods and milk.

Watch out: Various processing methods like freezing, refining have been reported to reduce the Vit B5 content of foods. Vit B6 and B12 sources are usually high in saturated fat which needs to be limited. Vit B6 interacts with medicines like antiepileptics. In plants sources like corn and wheat, Vit B3 is bound to sugar molecules in wheat and corn in the form of glycosides, which significantly decrease niacin bioavailability.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E protect your skin from ageing and the damaging effects of pollutants and UV exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the main reasons for hair loss.

Watch out: Vitamin C is heat sensitive, so avoid processing and heating its sources. Vitamins such as A, D, E are fat soluble, so ensure not to over-indulge yourself in zero-oil diets. Excess intake of Vitamin A supplements also results in hair loss.

Proteins & essential fats

Your hair is loaded with amino acids, which are found in the form of keratin. Methionine and histidine can be found in cereals, leafy veggies, dry fruits and fresh fruits. Other amino acids can be obtained from animal sources and essential fats such as PUFAs which help reduce dry, scaly scalp. Include walnuts, fish, flaxseed, etc.

Watch out: Following a diet extremely low in carbs/cereals or fat can bring an imbalance in amino acid and fat requirement, which can lead to significant hair loss.

Iron, folate & zinc

Dark green leafy vegetables, organ meat, seafood, yolk, nuts and dried fruits, peas, soybean and oilseeds are potent sources of trace elements such as iron and zinc.

Watch out: Caffeine and tannins in beverages hinders the absorption of iron from plant sources. But Vitamin C helps to increase the bioavailability of iron.

Quick tips

• Any nutrient imbalance in your diet needs to be corrected by experts rather than supplementing it by yourself.

• Our traditional Indian meal includes a combination of cereals and pulses, which itself is an ideal way to achieve this ratio of amino acids in our diet.

• The quantity and proportion should be decided by your dietitian since this differs from person to person.

• Stay away from crash diets! You may end up with temporary hair loss or dull hair.

• Indulge in a colourful healthy eating plan to flaunt healthy hair!

(The author is a senior dietitian, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru)

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