The Best Foods & Nutrients for Healthy, Strong and Shiny Hair + Food-Based Hair Masks

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The Best Foods And Nutrients for Healthy, Strong and Shiny Hair

If you want your hair to be healthy-looking, full of shine, strength and beauty, you need to think about the things you put in your body. Like skin, hair too gets affected by what we eat. It might take your locks longer to show they are not appreciating your diet, but after a few months of nutritional deficiencies the neglect will begin to show. Read about the foods you should eat to make your hair radiant and joyful.


Did you know that there are between 100,000 and 350,000 hair follicles on your scalp? Each hair grows for an average of 1000 days, after which it has a 100 day resting period before being shed.

Hair’s main building block is a protein called keratin, therefore, it comes as no surprise that protein intake is crucial to the health of your hair. Keratin also makes nails and is found in the outer layer of your skin.

Here are a number of foods and nutrients that you must include in your diet in order to have healthy, shiny and strong hair.

Protein

If you don’t consume enough protein, your hair will respond by becoming dry, brittle and weak. Extreme protein shortage can result in hair loss.

Eat chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and dairy products. For vegetarians and vegans, legumes and nuts are good sources of protein. You can also find protein in these 13 sources (they are all meat free).

Iron

Iron is a mineral that people often not get enough of. Subsequently, they develop anemia and become susceptible to different diseases. Iron deficiency disrupts the supply of nutrients to the hair follicle. This affects the growth cycle and can even lead to hair loss.

It is easier for meat eaters to meet their recommended daily allowance for iron, as it is highly bioavailable in products such as red meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarians can get iron from lentils and leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, kale, salads) or alternatively, they can reach for iron supplements.

Vitamin C

The mighty vitamin C supports iron absorption, so should be eaten in combination with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C also aids the production of collagen that strengthens the capillaries, thus improving the supply of nutrients to the hair shafts.

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Foods you should eat to boost your vitamin C intake include guava, spinach, sweet potato, broccoli, blueberries, strawberries, kiwifruit, red bell pepper, papaya and oranges.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays an important role in the production of sebum, which makes our hair shiny. Sebum is a substance produced by the sebaceous glands and acts as a natural conditioner. Without it, your scalp would be itchy and dry.

Look for orange/yellow vegetables, which are rich in beta-carotene. Think carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato. Animal products also provide you with vitamin A.

Vitamin E

This is another vitamin that will help you achieve optimal hair care. It keep the hair healthy, promote hair growth and prevent hair loss.

Nuts are a very good source and walnuts are a particularly good choice. Nuts and seeds have amazing health benefits and they are one of my favorite foods.

You can also consume pumpkin seeds to encourage hair growth. According to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine, supplementing your diet with pumpkin seed oil (PSO) can boost hair growth.

The study showed that men who took 400 mg pumpkin seed oil per day experienced faster hair growth than those who didn’t. The researchers concluded that pumpkin seed oil could be an alternative treatment for hair loss.

You can either consume the pumpkin oil itself or around 1.5 tablespoons of shelled pumpkin seeds which are equivalent to 400 mg PSO.

Omega-3 fatty acids

A lot has been said and written about essential fatty acids. The bottom line is that we need them for normal functioning, and they are crucial for the activity of the brain and nervous system.

Yet, our bodies cannot produce them, so they need to be supplied in sufficient amounts. What’s also important is the correct ratio between the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. People in the developed world often consume too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

Omega-3s build cells that line the scalp and hydrate the hair. To keep your tresses happy, salmon, trout, herring, sardines and other oily fish need to feature on your menu on a regular basis.

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Again, it gets a bit tricky if you are a strict vegetarian. When it comes to plant sources of omega-3, you need to know that they might not be your best bet. They contain only ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which can, under the right circumstances, convert into other omega-3 acids in the body. Unfortunately, the conversion of plant sources of ALA, such as flaxseed, is poor in healthy people and even worse in people deficient in certain nutrients. These people may need fish oil supplements.

Taking omega 3 is one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.

Zinc and selenium

These are two more minerals that you should befriend for the sake of your locks. Zinc deficiency can cause dry and flaky scalp and selenium helps to encourage hair growth.

Nuts, beef and eggs are amongst the good sources. Pumpkin seeds also contain high amount of zinc (as well as iron and B vitamins). The more adventurous can indulge in oysters, which are zinc powerhouses. Three ounces gets you a whopping 493% of your daily value! Plus, oysters supply you with the much needed protein. If you find them too slimy, whole grain breads are the more conventional, although not so rich, source.

Biotin

This is a water-soluble B vitamin, which is important for hair health and prevents your hair from becoming brittle.

Foods that fit the bill include wholegrain products, egg yolk, liver and yeast. Cauliflower is also a good source of biotin and you can use cauliflower to make a delicious and crispy cauliflower buffalo wings.

Other factors

If you want lustrous hair, there are other, non-dietary, steps you can take as well. Your hair gets affected by bad habits and hectic life style. Smoking, hormonal imbalances, sleep deprivation and stress, all hit your body in many different ways, and hair is just one of their more visible targets. Crash diets and repeatedly losing and gaining big amounts of weight will also take a toll on your hair.

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But there are also some factors you have little power over. It’s not much you can do about getting older, and with age, our hair has a tendency to change its thickness and texture. Genetics plays a part as well, and some people are more prone to losing hair and becoming grey (you can use natural supplements for treating premature grey hair). Women can notice changes to their hair post pregnancy and after the menopause.

Food-Based Hair Masks

When making hair masks, I always follow the rule that what I put on my body should be good enough to also eat.

Making a hair mask at home has plenty of benefits. It’s cheaper, healthier and it gives you that feel-good sensation that comes from being self-sufficient and creative.

Many websites suggest variations of hair masks. Some use olive oil + honey + banana, and some replace the banana with avocado, some use only olive oil, and some mix yogurt and honey.

Since hair-types and their characteristics differ greatly, there is no set recipe that would work for everyone. It’s about exploring different ingredients, combinations and proportions until you find the combination that works for you. Here are some suggestions for your next favorite mixture:

1. Bananas

These fruits will work wonders on dry and exhausted hair, as they are rich in natural oils, vitamins, potassium and anti-oxidants. Bananas are particularly good if you’re aiming to treat split ends, remove dandruff and make your hair stronger. They should be mashed up well (an important point, if you don’t want to spend ages removing bits of banana from your hair) and used alone, or mixed with other ingredients such as honey, olive oil or coconut oil.

2. Honey

Honey, with its natural moistening effect, is an important ingredient in a homemade hair mask for dull hair. It adds moisture to hair and restores its glow. You can use it independently (don’t be too heavy-handed though or you’ll be stuck with sticky hair), or add it to other mixtures.

The most popular are banana and honey, and yogurt and honey. How delicious! You may expect your hair to lighten slightly when using honey. You may also be interested to read my article about 13 ways to use honey for your health.

3. Egg mask

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Eggs are a good source of proteins and fats, and should be used whole when treating dry and dull hair. They will moisturize the hair and heal the scalp. Can be used alone, or mixed with olive oil or a few drops of lemon juice. Find great egg hair masks in my article on how to use egg white or egg yolk for hair.

4. Olive oil / Coconut oil

Natural oils have been used for centuries to hydrate hair, and are the perfect conditioners, making hair soft and healthy. They can be added to an avocado or banana mask, or used solo. Find here instructions on how to use coconut oil for shiny hair.

Using more coconut oil in your daily routine is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.

5. Avocado

Avocado is a great source of natural oils, vitamins and nutrients, which will nourish your dull hair and make it shine. Use half an avocado for your hair mask, or mix it with other ingredients, such as olive oil, banana, yogurt or milk.

6. Mayonnaise

It might sound a bit unappetizing to apply mayonnaise to your hair, but if you look at its ingredients – eggs, oil, vinegar – the choice becomes logical. It’s a perfect combination for hair in need of hydration. For best results, mix with avocado and use as a conditioner.

7. Yogurt

Yogurt is rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants and can provide your hair with nutrients and needed moisture. For dry hair, mix with banana or avocado.

8. Beer rinse

This more unconventional use of beer, takes advantage of the vitamin B and proteins the drink contains. Pour the beer over washed hair, and massage it into your scalp and locks. This treatment is particularly good for frizzy or dull-looking hair.

The following four ingredients are more suitable for oily hair. If used with dry hair, they should be added to ingredients which have a moisturizing effect.

9. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is good at removing excess oils. It helps you get rid of dandruff by restoring the scalp’s pH. It can be added to your other favorite ingredients, or diluted with water and used on its own. Find all the details in my previous article why you should wash your hair with ACV.

10. Strawberries

It might seem a bit wasteful putting strawberries on your head, but they are an excellent source of vitamin C, and regulate oil production. Can be mixed with other ingredients. To learn more about the amazing healing properties of strawberries, as well as other berries, have a look at my e-book The Healing Berry Guide. This e-book will teach you how to transform your health with berries and is a must for berry lovers.

11. Baking soda

Baking soda cleans the scalp and hair, and can be used instead of shampoo, or added to a yogurt or mayonnaise mask. Find here 7 uses for baking soda as a kitchen medicine.

12. Lemon juice

Lemon removes excess oils from the scalp and closes the pores. It will lighten your hair, unless you use it with other ingredients or dilute it with water.

How to use the hair masks?

With all of these lovely hair masks, wash your hair with shampoo first. Then apply the natural mixture, and leave for about 10-20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. If the mixture leaves an unpleasant smell, finish off with a fruity conditioner.

Enjoy your healthy and beautiful hair!

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