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When many of us natural think about hair care we often obsess over products, regimens, protective styling, as well as many other external factors- but we often over look a very basic, but very important component…our diet.  Now you may say ” I hate drinking water, live on Cheetos and Taco Bell and consume 3 litters of soda a day, and I have GORGEOUS hair long strong and down to my ankles!” Well great for you! But the fact of the matter is that this is the exception, not the rule.  The majority of us are subject to the principle of  what we put into our bodies being just as important as what we put on it.

Here’s why…

“Hair is a barometer of your overall health,” says David H. Kingsley, Ph.D., a hair and scalp expert of the British Science Corporation in New York City.  Hair growth is stimulated mainly by nutrients supplied through the blood stream.  Now although we feel our hair is crucial….your body begs to differ. In fact to your body your hair is nonessential tissue; which means when your body is dolling out the nutrients it’s given, first in line are the key organs like your heart and brain.  Your hungry hair follicles will be last in line, if they get a place in the line at all!

Healthy Scalp

Now we know that the hair on our heads is dead lifeless protein, but  the follicles on our scalp are very much alive!

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The follicles are what is growing the hair under the scalp, and they are nourished (or NOT), by the protein, essential fatty acids (help to hydrate the follicles), vitamins like biotin and B vitamins 6 and 12 (help to strengthen the cuticle), and whole grains that we consume.  “Iron is also essential because it stimulates hair turnover and replenishment,” says Neil Sadick, M.D., a New Yorkbased dermatologist. Now understand that if you were born with fine, thin hair, you’ll never have rope-thick tresses — no matter what you eat, and be wary of those who claim differently. But a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of growth-promoting protein and iron can make a difference.

The Pantry

  • Eat foods loaded with loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats can be found flax seeds(one of the greatest natural wonders on earth in my humble opinion).  You can add flax oil to smoothies, or ground flax seeds to many of the foods you eat.  This plant-based omega-3 fat is ideal for vegetarians or vegans (like myself). For you carnivores, salmon is your friend! Full of omega-3 fatty acids,this high-quality protein source is also filled with vitamin B-12 and iron.
  •  Dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard, are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, which your body needs to produce sebum. The oily substance, secreted by your hair follicles, is the body’s natural hair conditioner. Broccoli actually packs more vitamin C than oranges! Dark green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.
  • Beans are indeed the magical fruit!  The more you eat, the more your hair grows!  Not only do they provide plentiful protein to promote hair growth, but ample iron, zinc, and biotin. While rare, biotin deficiencies can result in brittle hair.
  • Your scalp will go nuts for nuts!  Brazil nuts are one of nature’s best sources of selenium, an important mineral for the health of your scalp.  Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help condition your hair. They are also a terrific source of zinc, as are cashews, pecans, and almonds. A zinc deficiency can lead to hair shedding, so make sure nuts are a regular on your healthy hair menu.
  • Sink your teeth into hearty whole grains, including whole-wheat bread and fortified whole-grain cereals, for a hair-healthy dose of zinc, iron, and B vitamins ( many cereals for vegans are fortified with B6 and B 12 which is essential to the health of your hair and body).

Lost Pounds Could Equal Lost Hair

If you’re tempted to drop pounds fast it could leave you with less-than-healthy hair. Low-calorie diets are often low in some of the most important nutrients for healthy hair, including omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A. In addition to stunting hair growth and leading to dullness, super-low calorie plans may even cause hair loss.

“Crash diets can affect the hair cycle. Losing a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time can affect that normal hair rhythm. Two to three months later, you might notice a significant increase in shedding. This is a temporary problem that you recover from with a well-rounded diet.” Paradi Mirmirani, M.D

Treat your body well and your hair will definitely flourish! Oh and the rest of you will feel and look great too!

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