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6 Nutrients You Should Be Eating For Healthier Hair

by Martha Adams

Most of us spend a lot of money on products to make our hair look good. But experts say you’re kind of fighting a losing battle if you’re not eating the right foods to keep your hair healthy.

“Hair is made up of nutrients that come from the foods you eat,” Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food , tells SELF. “If you don’t eat a healthy, balanced whole-foods diet, then you won’t give your hair the nutrition it needs to grow.”

So, which nutrients are important for good hair health? Experts break them down:

Your hair is made up of protein , so it’s important to eat enough of it to keep your locks thick and healthy, Alissa Rumsey , R.D. and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF. She recommends regularly incorporating fish, poultry, beef, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, into your diet.

This nutrient has a lot to do with keeping your hair strong, Jessica Cording , a New York City-based R.D., tells SELF. She recommends having red meat, beans, and lentils to get more iron into your diet, but points out that the nutrient is best absorbed in your body when you pair it with vitamin C (think: having black bean chili with fresh tomatoes).

Vitamin C helps prevent your hair from breaking by strengthening your hair shaft, Rumsey says. She suggests getting your vitamin C from oranges, guava, sweet potato, kiwi fruit, and papaya.

“Fat is key for a healthy scalp. Without enough in your diet, your scalp can become dry and inflamed, leading to hair loss,” Karen Ansel , R.D.N. and co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight, tells SELF. Omega-3 fats in particular can help keep your scalp and hair follicles moisturized, she says. Ansel recommends incorporating fatty fish like salmon and trout into your diet, or if fish isn’t your thing, opting for flax and chia seeds, canola oil, and walnuts.

Zinc is important for forming keratin, the main component in your hair. When you don't get enough zinc, your hair can become dry, dull, and brittle, Ansel says. Unfortunately, many women don’t get enough zinc in their diets, especially if they don’t eat red meat, so Ansel recommends having more red meat, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas to get your dose.

Want shiny hair? Chow down on vitamin A. “It helps the glands in your scalp make sebum, an oil that keeps your hair from drying out,” Rumsey explains. Sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots, and pumpkin are all good sources to try, she says.

While there are vitamin supplements on the market that promise to give you healthier hair, Cording urges caution unless you talk to your doctor first. “If you’re consistently eating a diet that contains foods from all the food groups, I generally think you’re doing just fine,” she says.

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