A Nutritionist Breaks Down Exactly What to Eat for Healthy Hair
We’ve all heard about eating for healthy skin—there are countless diets designed to calm breakouts or deliver a natural glow. But eating for your hair isn’t getting nearly as much attention, even though the same concept applies. There’s no denying that your diet has a major impact on your strands. “For example, a lot of times a vegetarian or vegan client will come in and say their hair is always falling out, and that’s because they don’t get the right sources of protein,” says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist based in the New York City metro area. Rissetto shares how to eat for better hair by loading up on these foods.
As Rissetto mentioned, protein is crucial to hair health. “We need complete proteins to maintain hair because hair is protein,” she says. “Hair is 95% keratin, and then amino acids make up protein, so when you’re omitting protein from your diet it’s hard to have healthy hair.” Make sure to eat the right amount for your size. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, Rissetto suggests 68 grams of protein per day. Animals are a great source of protein because the human body easily absorbs them, so you need to eat less, meaning you get more bang for your buck. But vegans and vegetarians can find sources that work for them too, like rice and beans or eggs. “Do your research,” Rissetto says. Of course, animals aren’t the end all be all source of protein. Depending on your dietary choices, restrictions, or values, you can obtain your protein from items like beans, tofu, oats, and more.
Omegas 3, 6 and 9
Consider these the secret to shiny hair. You’ll find omegas in avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds. “Omegas 3, 6 and 9 do different things,” Rissetto says. For maximum hair health results, eat them and apply them topically. For example, you can make an avocado or egg mask for your hair to give it a boost and make it shinier. “When you ingest anything it has to go through the digestive system and gets broken down,” she says. “You have to eat tons of avocado to really reap that benefit. If you put it on your hair as a mask, when you wash and blow dry it, you obviously see the effect faster.”
There’s a reason you’ve seen biotin in all those beauty supplements—the B vitamin is known for boosting hair growth and shine. Foods loaded with biotin include sweet potatoes, tuna, almonds, sunflower seeds, eggs and meat. “We know that biotin supposedly helps with hair growth, but you need to have somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 micrograms of biotin per day to get that effect,” Rissetto says.
Fruits and vegetables
As if you needed one more reason to eat your fruits and veggies. Known for being great sources of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they’re key to strong, shiny strands, as well as countless other health perks. “Dark leafy greens have vitamin K, something that we know helps hair,” Rissetto says. “For omega 3s, you should have 250 milligrams per day for the effect; you can get 370 milligrams in 100 grams of spinach, which is nothing.” Best of all, you don’t have to eat as much fruits and veggies as you might think to reap the rewards. “Honestly, one and a half servings a day is sufficient, but there’s nothing wrong if you want to eat more,” Rissetto says.
We’re aware plain old H20 isn’t a food, but we’re including it in the nutrition category anyway since it’s so essential. “Drinking plenty of water is a must,” Rissetto says. “Basically, we’re 97% water. Protein needs water in order to survive, if you’re depriving yourself of water, everything comes from inside. If you’re dry on the inside, you’ll be dry on the outside. Look at people with dry skin and look at their hair—it’s always really brittle.” Women should aim to drink about 11.5 cups of fluids a day and about 15.5 cups for men. The more of that that’s water, the better.
While we’ve given you plenty of ideas on what to eat for prettier, healthier hair, there are also a few foods you should avoid. It’s all about balance. “Your hair [could be] falling out because all you eat is cheese and bread. What are you getting nutrition-wise? Stay away from processed and fast foods,” Rissetto says. Load up on the good stuff instead and your luscious locks will thank you!