Attacking health problems with diet is the buzz these days. Proponents of this approach believe very simply that you are what you eat. Your body is essentially a running vehicle, and the fuel you give it determines how well it performs. Artificial supplements can help, but they can't solve the problems that eating a nutrient-dense, vitamin-rich diet can. Case in point: your hair. Nutritionists say they can often tell the quality of a person's diet by looking at their hair. Dull, thinning or break-prone strands can signify a nutrient deficiency. So what to do? Read on for ways your hair can benefit directly from the food that you eat.
1. Thinning hair
The No. 1 problem that people experience with their hair as they age is thinning. Hair thinning is part of the natural aging process, but there are things you can do to slow the progression. On average, we lose 50 to 100 hairs every day and in order to replace that hair, our body needs plenty of protein, the building blocks for hair. Where can you get more protein in your diet? Chicken, turkey, red meat and seafood. If you're a vegetarian, try chickpeas, quinoa, certain nuts and seeds or lentils.
2. Dull hair
Your hair needs healthy fats from foods with natural oils in order to keep its natural shine. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids? Salmon, for one, and other seafood. Omega-3s are essential not just for hair health, but for heart health as well. The Mayo Clinic recommends at least two servings of fatty fish a week (for adults) to ensure you’re getting the recommended amount.
3. Flaky scalp
Zinc is a mineral that plays an important role in many of your body's functions, including neurological health. How does it benefit your hair? It can help prevent your scalp from flaking. Some zinc-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, pork, yogurt, cashews, beef and poultry.
4. Prematurely gray hair
While most of when you will go gray is predetermined based on your genetics, a B12 deficiency can cause your hair to grow prematurely gray as well. It's worth talking to your doc to get your levels checked (you can get your iron checked out, too) to see if a vitamin B12 deficiency may be the culprit. Foods that contain this important vitamin include meat, fish, dairy and eggs. You can also take B12 supplements.
5. Extreme hair loss
If your hair is thinning to the point of leaving patches of scalp completely visible, you may have an iron deficiency, which is common in women. It's worth checking out. Iron deficiency causes your body to take oxygen from your hair and channel it to where the body actually needs it to survive. Iron deficiency can cause other symptoms too, like extreme tiredness. If it's not the problem, there may be something more serious at play, such as a thyroid issue or alopecia. You can get more iron from beef and poultry, or from leafy greens like spinach, though the iron contained in animal protein is more easily absorbed into our bloodstream.
Whatever your particular issue may be, your hair — and your body — will benefit from a better, more nutrient-dense diet.