Like general health, skin and nails, hair also is affected by the diet that you eat. Hair loss is a major problem and it is being aggravated by bad diet, strong chemicals and pollution. In such situation, it is necessary to incorporate all those foods in your diet which will help to keep your hair healthy and strong. On the other hand, there are certain foods that can hinder the growth of your hair, make it appear lank or even aid in hair fall. It is necessary to identify and avoid those foods if you want a full head of healthy hair.

Hair evolved on the human head to provide protection from injuries and inclement weather, but through centuries, it has become one of the most important instruments of making a statement. Whether you want to announce that you are a rebel, a fashionista or a rock music fan, it is the hairstyle that is most commonly manipulated and which makes the loudest and most easily recognizable statement. But, in order for that to happen, you need to have a full head of healthy hair. This is not merely a question of vanity. Losing hair, balding and thinning can play havoc with your self image, affect your self confidence and in turn have serious implications for your social behavior. In the long run, you can become excessively self conscious or shy and may even retire from social life. On the other hand, strong and dense hair can boost your confidence significantly.

Should you worry about hair loss?

It is necessary to look at certain figures to understand how serious the problem of hair loss can be. Hair changes every seven years. There are on an average, 150000 to 200000 hairs on your head and you shed about 100 hairs a day or 36000 hairs in a year. Hair re-grows at almost the same rate, though it decreases with increasing age. Around the age of 15 you have the best head of hair in your life. By the time you are 30, you begin to notice slight hair fall, but it is not the time to worry yet. However, by the time you reach 40 years of age, it is time to start worrying because you are losing much more hair than what is growing back.

The following table helps you to understand the severity of the problem.

Number of men experiencing hair loss in USA 35 million
Number of women experiencing hair loss in USA 21 million
Number of people worldwide who sought professional help for hair loss in 2004 361077
Number of people worldwide who sought professional help for hair loss in 2008 811363
Percentage of men with noticeable hair loss by age 35 40%
Percentage of men with noticeable hair loss by age 60 65%
Percentage of men with noticeable hair loss by age 80 70%

Source: Relevant Research, Inc.
International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery

Thus it is seen that hair loss can indeed be a serious problem. In fact, most women feel that hair loss is the matter of greatest concern when it comes to their physical attractiveness while men confess to feeling worried if they experience heavy hair loss just when they were ready to embark on their career or an important relationship. As a result, a number of methods and remedies have been suggested to overcome the problem of hair loss.

Role of diet in hair growth

Your hair is a part of your body. It naturally follows that whatever happens in your body affects your hair as much as it affects other organs. In fact, scientists, nutritionists and beauty experts all think that what you put inside your body can affect your hair much more than what you put on it. A good diet supplemented with plenty of water can help in healthy hair growth. Incorporating the proper nutrients can even slow down hair loss, make your hair appear lustrous and healthy and prevent dull, lanky, lifeless hair.

The best foods for healthy hair

Hair needs certain nutrients to grow well, resist breakage and become soft and silky. Here are some of the best foods that can help your hair:

  1. Try to incorporate wild salmon at least twice or thrice in your weekly diet. This fish is a very rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are found in the cell membranes of the cells on your scalp as well as about 3% of the hair shaft. In addition, salmon is a very good source of vitamin D – another essential nutrient for hair.
  2. Walnuts or walnut oil can be a very beneficial addition to your diet. They supply omega 3 fatty acids and biotin and vitamin E. the last two protect your hair from DNA damage as well as from overexposure to the bright sun.
  3. Another fish that can be very helpful for healthy hair growth is halibut. This fish is a rich source of magnesium which prevents hair fall.
  4. Of all the veggies, spinach and carrots are the best for your hair. Carrot is rich in beta carotene. The body can turn this into vitamin A which helps to maintain the correct balance of oil for your scalp. Sweet potatoes are another rich source of beta carotene.
  5. Oysters are a type of superfood which supplies zinc to your body. This nutrient is necessary to prevent hair loss and avoid a dry flaky scalp. Zinc can be found from other sources, but only three ounces of oysters can supply 493% of your daily value!
  6. If you want healthy hair, be sure to include lots of spinach in your diet. It is rich in iron, folate, vitamin C and beta carotene – all of which are essential for good hair health.
  7. Eggs are another important food which can help in good hair growth. In addition to protein, eggs supply zinc, selenium, iron and sulfur to the body.
  8. Lentils are truly the superfood that you need for good hair growth as they are rich in protein, zinc, biotin and iron.
  9. Vitamin C is best supplied by blueberries, though the fruit may not be easy to obtain. Try to eat them frequently for they really have amazing effect on hair.
  10. Greek Yoghurt can be another good food to add to your hair friendly diet. This low fat yoghurt contain vitamin D and vitamin B5 – both of which help in good hair growth.

Best nutrients for hair and their sources

The following table can help you identify the most important nutrients that you need for good hair growth and the source of those nutrients:

Nutrient Food source
Omega 3 fatty acids Salmon, tuna, kale, flaxseeds, Brussels sprout , walnut
Zinc Chick peas, wheat germ, roast beef, liver, lima beans
Protein Chicken, turkey, lentil, peas, beans, egg yolk
Iron Dark leafy green vegetables, red meat, clams, mussels, oysters, whole grains
Vitamin A and C Swiss chard, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli
Magnesium Almond, spinach cashews, halibut, lentil, brown rice
Selenium Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, ham
Folate Lentil, black eyed peas, soybean, oats, turnip greens
Vitamin B6 Wild salmon, chickpeas, oats, bananas, pistachios, Brussels sprouts
Biotin Eggs, peanuts, almonds, cauliflower, avocado, raspberries
Beta carotene Carrot, sweet potatoes, kale, butternut squash, collard greens, lettuce, spinach etc

Foods to avoid for healthy hair

Just as there are certain foods that supply essential nutrients for healthy hair, there are also foods that can actually harm your hair, weaken the hair roots and speed up the process of hair fall. Here is a list of some foods which are worst for the health of your hair:

  1. Sugar is one of the worst foods for your hair. It uses up vitamin B during digestion and less is supplied to your hair. It makes your hair go gray prematurely, lowers the absorption of vitamin E and interferes with protein absorption.
  2. The intake of salt should be no more than 2300 mg per day or 1500 mg if you are 51 or older. Sodium in excess of this can interfere with the salt balance in your body and cause your hair to fall off.
  3. Protein is necessary for hair, but too much animal protein can create pressure on the kidneys and increase the uric acid in your blood. This creates a hostile environment for hair growth.
  4. Artificial sweeteners and colors have no nutritive values and instead they harm the health of your hair.
  5. Soft drinks contain excess sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and color – none of which are beneficial for your hair or your health.

In addition, enriched bleached white flour, packaged and processed foods and full fat cheeses cause dry, scaly scalp. This leads to increased hair fall and hamper hair growth.