Is your hair limp, splitting or just plain blah? You might need some healthy hair tips — and you can start by trading pizza and ice cream for fish and veggies.
“What you eat impacts every aspect of your life. You are your biology; your hair is part of your biology too,” says dietitian-nutritionist Oz Garcia, the age-defying expert whose A-list celebrity clients include Hilary Swank, Kim Cattrall and Winona Ryder. “The typical western American diet has a lot of processed foods, additives, sugar, salt, low-grade omega-6 fatty acids and trans fatty acids,” he says. “Those are all contributing factors to poor-quality hair.”
Mizani stylist Michelle O’Connor of M. O’Connor Studios in Hollywood, Fla., can tell at a glance whether someone hasn’t been eating right. “The hair is just depleted,” she says. When clients complain of shedding or brittle hair, “the first thing I always ask is ‘What are you eating? What are you drinking? Are you on a diet?’” she says. “I can put on lots of moisturizers, humectants and conditioners; but if there’s something going on inside the body, it’s going to affect the hair.”
So what should you be eating to maintain healthy hair? Garcia recommends planning your meals around foods that are rich in these ingredients:
- Silica. This mineral, small amounts of which are naturally found in the body, helps strengthen and hydrate hair. Raw oats, cucumber and green, leafy vegetables like cabbage are good sources of silica (salad, anyone?).
- Zinc. Another key mineral is zinc, which keeps hair naturally conditioned and stops shedding. Try topping those salads with walnuts, Brazil nuts or almonds to protect your healthy hair.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are high in these essential fats. Flaxseed is another omega-3 powerhouse: Try sprinkling a teaspoon of ground flax over oatmeal.
- B vitamins. This assortment of eight vitamins is a beauty must, and many B-rich foods also contain this hair-healthy protein. Go for turkey, tuna, whole grains, beans, lentils and bananas.
- Antioxidants. Boosting both your healthy hair and your immune system is easy and delicious when you reach for colorful fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli and Swiss chard are great veggie choices. Or you can try a mixture of berries, grapes and mango for breakfast, along with a cup of antioxidant-rich black or green tea.
- Iron. Keep your hair from becoming brittle by eating low-fat meats, spinach, dried plums and apricots.
More healthy hair tips: Limit your intake of sugar, deep-fried and processed foods, as well as salty smoked meats to keep both your hair and body functioning at their best. “If you’re not eating well, it doesn’t matter what you put on your hair,” says Garcia. “What you want to do is build a better hair follicle, and that’s done by building a better body from the inside.”