Hair Care-Discover the Healthy and Tasty Way by Asma Ferdoes

Hair- the beautiful mane that crowns our head defines our personality in a prominent way. It is a symbol of beauty, health, and reflects our attitude as well. We wear them with pride, and care for them in little extra measures which they deserve too.

One of the most common and vivid childhood memories us girls might very likely share is of our mothers and grandmothers fussing over our hair. They would spend tireless hours every day washing and drying our hair, oiling them, combing them and making sure we kept them clean, untangled, silky, shiny and voluminous. And boy! Did we hate these tedious routines?

We sure did! It felt like our guardians had made it their life mission, and we were literally left at their mercy. They were no saviours for us from their ruthless regime, but we sure loved the end results. We loved the shiny, lustrous, cape of black silky hair tumbling over our shoulders; we loved to show-off the various hairstyles we were adorned in during the various functions and festivities. But we hardly appreciated the dedication, hard work and wisdom that went into our hair care. 

That is, until now; when the tables have turned and we are the care-givers of our kids, and we find ourselves fussing over them in similar way. But there is so much more to hair care than the external treatments we so lovingly give with so much thought and consideration. Our hair needs nutrition like any other part of our body and derives strength from the same source- our diet. What we eat and drink reflects in the strength and viscosity of our hair. 

Let’s talk of the science first. What is our hair made of?

Hair is made mainly of keratin protein, and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are fibrous strands finding their strength from Iron, Vitamins and Calcium and need so many other nutrients to maintain their health and appearance. It goes without saying, that there are other factors too that affect our hair, like our age, gender, genetics, ethnicity, lifestyle, choice of make-up and even certain ailments that trouble our body like diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, etc. 

But human hair is rather unique. According to an article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, human hair are pliable and resilient, and recover from repeated mechanical deformations with little loss of their physical properties.

So, by proper diet and care, our hair can always bounce back to life and even get better than ever before.

What are the nutrients our hair needs to maintain their health and beauty? 

  1. Protein and amino acids:

First on the list is Protein. Though our hair is made of a complex structure of keratin and other nutrients, our body synthesizes the natural protein derived from our food to meet our hair needs. We need to include at least one serving of protein in our diet to meet the various requirements of our body apart from our hair. Our hair alone requires about 0.8-0.9 grams per kg of our weight daily. For example if we weigh around 50 kg our hair needs about 45 grams of daily protein from our diet. 

  1. Vitamins

Vitamins include a diverse field and different vitamins play a specific role in our hair care. The main vitamins that we need to focus on are Vitamins A, B, C and E. 

  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has several important roles that can affect hair health, including:

  • contributing to the synthesis of collagen, which contains amino acids (the building blocks of keratin) 

  •  enhancing the absorption of iron

  • protecting hair from free radicals and pollutants, which can otherwise lead to hair loss 

  • Biotin is vitamin B7 and required for proper growth of the hair and nails. Genetic factors, intestinal problems, smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to biotin deficiency. Pregnancy and lactation can also reduce biotin levels. 

  • Vitamins B1(thiamine), B2(riboflavin), And B3(niacin)

Also more commonly known as vitamin B-complex, our hair follicles need a healthy dose of these vitamins to grow and prevent premature hair fall. These are abundantly and easily found in food items we most likely include in our staple diet like chicken, fish, liver, soy products, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and cereals.

  • Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Consumption of foods rich in folic acid or dietary supplements can help reduce hair fall. According to several decisive research findings, maintaining a steady amount of folic acid in our diet help in improving hair growth, increasing hair volume, enhancing shine and preventing premature greying.

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s) are essential polyunsaturated fats that perform important functions in our body, and one which our body cannot produce adequately by itself. Numerous studies have shown that omega-3s nourish the hair and support its growth, and they also reduce the inflammation sometimes associated with hair loss.

  1.  Minerals

Healthy hair growth and reduced hair fall require a proper dose of minerals that play a role in the hair’s growth cycle. Minerals that are incredibly helpful for our hair needs are zinc, iron, iodine, and magnesium along with few other micro-nutrients. They work as our natural defence mechanism, protective shield, and immunity boosters to work wonders in our hair health.

  • Iron

We have studied from our school-days that iron deficiency is the major cause of wek, dull and brittle hair and nails. So, we were always encouraged to consume foods rich in Iron and Calcium to maintain strong and healthy mane and claws. 

  • Selenium, Magnesium, And Copper

These minerals help maintain hair health by fighting underlying diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism, which are known to cause hair loss. They also help reduce the risk of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that usually results in unpredictable, patchy hair loss

  • Zinc

Zinc is an essential defence mineral that our bodies need to keep healthy and fit. Our hair and skin are made of connective tissue which is constantly in a cycle of renewal as old cells are shed and new ones are grown to replace them. Zinc is especially important in building this new connective tissue, which is especially important in improving restorative cell functions in older adults. Adult men aged 19 years old and above are recommended to consume 14 mg/day, while women above the age of 19 years old require about 8 mg/day 

6. micro-nutrients

Trace elements like calcium and iodine also play a vital role in hair growth. Calcium is required for stimulating the hair follicles, and iodine helps in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.

Super foods for our hair health:

Now that we understand which nutrients our hair requires are, and how each of them aid in its care, let’s explore the amazing treasure-trove of nature to see what are the best sources of these nutrients?

  1. Sweet potatoes 

From providing moisture to promoting hair growth, sweet potatoes are an elixir for hair health. The vitamin A in this vegetable provides our hair with the required hydration by boosting our scalp’s natural oils.

  1. Green leafy vegetables

“Eat your green vegetables” is one of the most common dialogues of mothers of small children across the globe. I understand today as a mother of a toddler myself, the miraculous benefits of these boring looking, simple staple food of our childhood. 

They are a rich source of vitamins K, A, C, B2, B6, B1, E, manganese, zinc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a rich source of antioxidants that protect our hair against pollutants and free radicals.

  1. Eggs

Power-packed with hair-loving nutrients such as protein, biotin and other B-complex vitamins, minerals like zinc and selenium, and other essential nutrients eggs play a major role in reducing hair loss, stimulating hair growth, and increase its viscosity. Egg yolks are rich in lutein, which helps hydrate hair, improve its elasticity, heal brittle hair and curb breakage.

  1. Sea food

Fishes, sea weeds and shrimps are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids that make up about 3 per cent of the hair shaft. It is also a great source of protein, selenium, vitamin D3 and B vitamins. Look for these varieties of fish for great health benefits

  • Tuna 

  • Mackerel

  • Salmon

  • Herring

  • Shrimps

  • Sardine

  • Seaweeds and Algae

  1. Nuts and seeds

Nuts like Coconut, Groundnut, Walnuts, Almonds and Brazil nuts are rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and minerals that nourish and protect our hair. Having 3-4 servings of these nutty fruits per week is optimum way of ensuring our hair doesn’t feel dry, frizzy and brittle. 

When we speak about seeds, they are the most convenient and tasty addition to our diet working great as snacks and toppings alike. They are power packed with Omega 3 fatty acid, vitamins and essential minerals. Make sure to include these seeds in your routine shopping list to reap amazing health benefits.

  • Sunflower seeds,

  • Sesame seeds,

  • Flax seeds,

  • Fenugreek seeds,

  • Pumpkin seeds,

  •  Chia seeds

Herbs that help hair care

  1. The legendary Hibiscus

Chinese hibiscus tea is actually quite good for hair and is also good at stimulating hair follicles for better growth. It even increases the follicle size. You can even infuse hibiscus extract in your regular hair oil to reap its benefits.

  1. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera gel is a boon when it comes to hair care or skin care to encourage healthy hair growth by maintaining hair’s natural pH level. It also works wonders as a natural conditioner and prevents hair loss.

  1. Ginseng

  2. Amla

  3. Henna

But are Hair Supplements necessary?

Many experts stress that for an average individual eating these natural foods are adequate help boost and replenish their hair-health’s requirements. They don’t need additional supplements. But, if we have a busy lifestyle or nutritional deficiency, consulting a dermatologist, may help in deciding the right supplements. But under no circumstance, should we go for self prescription of these supplements as an overdose of some proteins, zinc, essential acids and other minerals can have an adverse effect and increase our problems.

As a final note:

Eating a balanced, diversified and natural diet ensures our overall health including our hair. It is just a matter of choosing right and planning proper combinations to enjoy a healthy and beautiful life.