Boost Hair Health With These 13 Key Nutrients

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Not all of us may have naturally glowing, voluminous waves, and with certain heat therapies, gadgets and products nowadays, hair might achieve that"style," but not without other damaging consequences in the process. Many different factors can contribute to poor hair health, and so it's important to nourish your hair through proper foods, styling protectors, and moisturizing treatments to keep it strong and shiny.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on taking care of themselves through grooming, self-love, and nutrition. In addition to reducing chronic stress, which can lead to hair graying or loss, as well as limiting use of heat on your locks, without a helpful and moisturizing mask, oil or heat protector, it's important to feed your hair through healthy foods and nutrients that will keep hair firm and prevent dullness, brittleness and, the most feared, balding. Many people don't realize how closely nutrients are linked to hair growth and health, and being malnourished in vital nutrients required for these processes can seriously affect strands and hinder the repair of hair follicles. Here are thirteen nutrients to eat for beautiful, hydrated and strong hair. Say goodbye to split and fried ends, dull color and coarse textures for good.

1. Vitamin E

"Vitamin E promotes blood flow to the scalp," advises Stephen Thevenot, hairstylist at Eva Scrivo Salon in NYC, over email with Bustle. Thevenot suggests "leafy greens, like spinach" and "almonds," as they are high in vitamin E and are also a great source of antioxidants and protein, which will also strengthen hair and promote a beautiful, glow. Other leafy greens include kale, Swiss chard and Collard greens.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a great vitamin to promote healthy hair and prevent hair loss. Thevenot suggests eating salmon, as oily fish is incredibly high in vitamin D and will also deliver a slew of inflammation-reducing omega 3 fatty acids. Vitamin D really helps stimulate hair follicle growth and can make hair thicker and more texturized. Make sure to find elsewhere, if you cannot consume these foods. Get adequate "sunlight or a supplement (1,000-2,000 IU)," advises holistic health coach and personal trainer Jen Bruno with J.B. Fitness and Nutrition over email with Bustle.

3. Unsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsatured fats, such as avocado, offer terrific sources of fat for healthy locks. "Avocados are loaded with fatty acids that can be found naturally in skin cells. When applied directly to hair and scalp, they can help promote collagen and elastin production," advises Thevenot. Other healthy fats include nuts, such as almonds, and coconut oil.

4. Fish Oils

"One tsp of liquid fish oil twice per day," can do wonders for your hair, advises Darin Hulslander, CEO & owner of DNS Performance and Nutrition, over email with Bustle. "You will see a relatively fast and noticeable improvement in both hair and nails within weeks," Hulslander adds. "Fish like wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, tuna, and mackerel are examples and should be enjoyed a couple times per week," says Dr. Chris Mohr, a Reebok Nutrition Expert, over email with Bustle. When choosing labels, look for these signs to know how to pick a reliable brand.

5. Vitamin C

"Vitamin C is critical for health and beauty, as it's a natural antioxidant that helps the body deal with stress, which is a mean cause of hair thinning," says Thevenot. He recommends yellow bell peppers, as they are "loaded with vitamin C." In addition, you can also eat "guava, oranges, berries, kiwi, sweet potatoes, and broccoli," advises Bruno, along with watermelon. "Vitamin C helps the body better absorb iron that comes from vegetables and legumes (like spinach and black beans) and also helps form collagen, a structural fiber that is used to make hair follicles," says dietician Toby Amidor, MS, RD with WTRMLN WTR over email with Bustle.

6. Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Non-Fish

While I mentioned fish oils, which are a staple in omega 3's, there are other sources of omega 3 fatty acids that can be consumed for those who don't eat animal protein. "Omega 3 fats are essential fats, meaning we need to get them from the diet because our bodies don't make them," says Mohr. Beyond fish, he suggests hemp seeds and nuts, which are high in omega 3's and are fit for all dietary preferences. Other options include walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

7. Vitamin B6

"Vitamin B6 is involved in creating red blood cells, which carry oxygen and important nutrients throughout the body, including to the scalp, follicles, and growing hair," shares Amidor. Great sources of vitamin B6 include watermelon, beans, sunflower seeds, pistachios, chicken, fish and bran, among others. It can also provide energy to boost mood levels as an added perk!

8. Vitamin A

According to experts, vitamin A produces sebum, which moisturizes hair and prevents dullness and dry ends. It also helps fight free radicals, which can be damaging to hair growth and glow. Bruno suggests eating sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkin, these orange foods that contain beta-carotene to assist in hair protection.

9. Biotin

"Those lacking biotin tend to have brittle hair," advises Alicia Ward, VP of Marketing at Beanitos, over email correspondence with Bustle. "Biotin is a B vitamin that promotes hair growth and overall scalp health," she adds. Rich sources include beans, lentils, green peas, and brown rice, among others. Also, eat almonds, recommends Thevenot. You can also take a supplement, if you feel that you are unable to eat enough through foods.

10. Pantothenic Acid

Also known at vitamin B5, it can help prevent graying of hair and and the dangers of aging. It can also aid in the removal of dead skin from the scalp, making way for healthy growth of new hair follicles that can strengthen strands and promote a more youthful, shine and glow. Great sources include whole grains and eggs, but you can also find it in a complex B supplement.

11. Inositol

This nutrient is rather hidden, but can be tied into the array of B vitamins. The great thing about inositol is that the body can produce it on its own through the breakdown of glucose; however, it can be also eaten through beans, citrus fruits and whole grains. It helps support the function of the cell membrane and may even help prevent hair loss.

12. Protein

Your hair needs protein to grow strong and to avoid weakened and damaged ends from styling, weather woes and other aspects that can break it down. "Organic chicken, organic eggs and organic turkey," says Bruno, are great options, in addition to beans, eggs, seeds and nuts. Eating protein-rich snacks and meals will also keep you more full throughout the day! It's also best to eat protein foods that are high in iron, as iron can boost hair health and prevent thinning. Rich foods include lean animal protein, beans and legumes, oily fish and dark, leafy greens, and oranges.

13. Zinc

According to experts, deficiency in zinc can lead to hair loss and weakened hair follicles. Eat foods high in zinc for less thinning and more thickening of the hair, along with the more youthful appeal. Optimal sources include oysters, nuts, eggs, sweet potatoes and chickpeas, among others. If you feel you cannot get enough in the diet, a supplement might be helpful.

While limiting hair styling tools without a heat protector spray and using moisturizing haircare products can help with treatment, eating the right, nutritious foods will greatly affect your hair's ability to grow, strengthen and shine. Pay attention to the nutrient density of your meals, and plan wisely so that you can fuel yourself throughout the day.

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