The phrase “you are what you eat” should be taken quite literally when it comes to your hair — if you eat bad food, your mane is going to look all kinds of blah. Conversely, if you load up on certain vitamins, minerals, and proteins, you’ll have envy-inducing tresses that shine and sparkle like a shampoo commercial.
“Promoting healthy hair growth, similar to having healthy skin and nails, has everything to do with the quality of your daily nutrition,” says Lana Masor, MS, RYT, a nutritionist in New York City. “Your body is made up of cells — and the healthier your diet, the healthier overall cell growth you have throughout your body — including hair.” So, what should you munch on to make sure your mane is the kind that makes other girls weep with envy?
First, skip the get-gorgeous-hair-in-a-bottle promises (we know there’s a slew of them on store shelves, and it’s so tempting to simply pop a pill). “Try to avoid going for supplements in order to give your body the nutrition it deserves, and instead, reach for wholesome and natural foods,” says Masor. Plus, you’ve got to eat food anyway, so why not make sure to pile your plate with those that contain nutrients that pack a serious ah-mazing hair punch? They’ll do your health and hair good, promise. Read on for the scoop on which foods you need to eat to score luscious locks, plus a perfect-hair-day meal plan to get you headed (get it?) in the right direction.
Illustrations by Ammiel Mendoza
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found in salmon, sardines, flaxseed, and walnuts.
"A diet that is full of omega-3 fatty acids reduces inflammation throughout the body, including the scalp, promoting better hair growth and even preventing hair loss," says Masor. "One that is lacking can have a dry scalp, causing hair to be dry and lackluster." Not. Pretty.
Vitamins A & C
Found in spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and strawberries.
"Your body needs both vitamins A and C to produce sebum, which is the oil secreted by your hair follicles that prevent your hair from drying out," says Masor. Translation: They give you crazy shine without requiring you to glob on the hair oil.
Found in cashews, pecans, almonds, and oysters.
"Include some of these zinc-rich foods in your diet daily to prevent excess hair shedding," says Masor. This essential mineral helps your hair stay put — as in, doesn't fall out before its time is up in the growth cycle — which means you'll have more lush hair to toss around as you walk and less lurking in your brush post-style session.
Found in low-fat dairy products, chicken, and eggs.
"People who have inadequate amounts of high-quality protein in their diets may experience brittle and weak hair," says Masor. Why? Because protein make up the building blocks of hair (it makes up the inside of every single strand), so if you're low on this bad boy in your diet, your hair is going to be, too. Then, it's going to seem finer and not as full.
Biotin And Vitamin B12
Found in egg yolks, beans, fish, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, peanut butter, poultry, and yogurt.
You all know the B word by now because it's called out on every hair and skin supplement bottle on the market — and for good reason: "Biotin is a form of vitamin B that increases elasticity of the hair's cortex, preventing breakage,” says Masor. “Vitamin B12 specifically promotes the development of red-blood cells — which carry oxygen to all of our cells, including the ones in our hair follicles, and also helps it function optimally."
The Perfect Hair Day Meal Plan
Low-fat Greek yogurt (such as Fage 2%) and add chopped walnuts or 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed and some fresh strawberries
Steel-cut oatmeal with chopped walnuts or flaxseed
Eggs cooked up any style you like. Better yet, an omelet with an assortment of fresh veggies (make sure to throw in some bell peppers)
Fresh salad with quinoa, kale, lentils, and salmon
1 slice of Ezekiel Bread with organic peanut butter or almond butter
2 hard-boiled eggs
Cottage cheese with fresh berries
Pecan Crusted Chicken with butternut squash
½ cup spicy brown mustard
1 tbsp. raw organic honey
1 cup pecans, crushed
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the mustard and honey. Toss the pecans in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Pour the chopped pecans into a large bowl and set aside. Using a paper towel, remove any excess moisture from the outside of the chicken breasts. Taking one chicken breast at a time, roll the chicken in the mustard-honey mixture and coat on both sides.
Transfer the coated chicken into the chopped pecans and, again, cover both sides. Place the crusted chicken into a greased glass baking dish (you can use coconut oil) and sprinkle each chicken with a little sea salt if desired. Bake 45 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear. Cut the butternut squash up into cubes and bake on high heat on a cookie sheet in the oven until soft, then sprinkle with cinnamon or pumpkin spice.
Photo: Maria Valentino/MCV Photo; Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza