The trick to growing your hair is to feed your body the right foods. Beauty-full Food is a new series on Hair Romance to share food tips and simple recipes to help you grow gorgeous hair and get glowing skin.
There’s so much talk about what food you should and shouldn’t eat that I was completely confused. I turned to Emma Stirling, Accredited Practising Dietitian, food lover and blogger at Scoop Nutrition to find out if we really are what we eat and here’s what she had to say.
The cosmetic industry has been dabbling in nutraceuticals for decades now with topical nutrients like co-enzyme Q10 in serums and face creams. But the idea of inner-beauty foods is relatively new in the Western world unlike countries such as Japan, where dietary practices are deeply rooted in beauty.
When I last visited Tokyo, I was able to see firsthand the steps women go to in order to obtain flawless, porcelain skin. For example, many Japanese women mix collagen powder with water and drink it on a daily basis with the belief it will add to the collagen in their own skin. And there are countless drinks and dishes marketed with added animal collagen for age-defying skin, despite lack of scientific support!
We know that every single cell of your body requires the right balance of nutrition plus antioxidant activity to ward off free radicals that case damage. And yes, dietary deficiencies often show up in skin, nails or hair. For example, zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss (alopecia), curved nail beds may indicate an iron deficiency and vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) can cause cracked and bleeding lips and gums.
The best bet is to sort out your daily eating plan first before reaching for a pill or supplement. If you are meeting all your essential nutrient requirements through healthy, whole food, plant-based eating, you’re likely to be glowing with vitality from head to toe. And research shows us that whole food sources of nutrients are often more available and absorbable by the body than when extracts are popped into a pill.
Dietary deficiencies can occur from unbalanced eating like skipping whole food groups, following a restricted or very low kilojoule eating plan and also from certain medical conditions or interactions that increase requirements. If you’re on a special diet, such as a gluten free diet for Coeliac Disease, consult with an Accredited Practising Dietitian to learn how to balance your eating plan and replace missed nutrients.
Beware of Dr Google
If you notice changes to your hair, skin or nails it may be a nutrient deficiency or it may actually be a sign of an underlying medical condition. So make an appointment with your GP first for a chat and routine blood test before consulting Dr Google or automatically adding in a supplement. Be wary of online or hair analysis tests that are lacking in scientific credibility. And be cautious of high dose supplements (you can have too much of a good thing) and supplement-drug interactions. For example if you’re taking a blood thinning medication like warfarin, you should avoid taking vitamin E supplements.
So what should you be eating for great skin and hair?
Some beauties for healthy skin, hair and nails include:
- At least 7 serves of fruits, vegetables or brightly pigmented plant based foods including spices for a range of ACE vitamins, phytonutrient antioxidants and other essentials. For example, sweet potatoes are low GI and a naturally nutrient rich source of beta-carotene. And lycopene in tomato, guava and watermelon is even being studied for its role in reducing skin cancer risk and preventing UV damage.
- Go for wholegrains, nuts and seeds for an extra antioxidant and nutrient boost, plus dietary fibre that acts as a natural way to remove waste and toxins.
- Add in portion controlled serves of high quality protein sources such as lean, red meat for iron and zinc, eggs with lutein and Greek yoghurt with whey proteins.
- Clock up at least 3 oily fish meals per week (like salmon, sardines and mackerel) with omega-3 fatty acids for healthy cell membranes and anti-inflammatory properties.
- And don’t forget to stay hydrated with water and keep a check on salty foods.
Are you trying to grow your hair? What sort of recipes would you like to see in my Beauty-full Food series?