Eat these 5 foods for shiny hair, says a nutritionist
August 3, 2022
When I hear the adage food is fuel, I need everything in my power not to get up on my podium and (with fervor and passion) ramble on about the many reasons why I disagree. Sure, I understand the intent, and while the core of the saying is true, the food is much more. Food is celebration, comfort and pleasure. Food helps us connect and build rituals and routines in our daily lives. And when you stock your fridge with the best foods for shiny hair, foods can help us feel more vibrant, beautiful, and confident.
Speaking personally, I have always cited luck as the difference between my good and bad hair days. On some, my locks sit exactly where I want them, and on others, it takes all my time, energy, and hairspray to untangle my tangles. But when I questioned whether or not my diet played a role, well, that’s when I found the answers.
Whether you’re going for a sleek, sleek look or embracing your natural curls, there’s no question that achieving healthy, shiny hair is a win in many of our beauty books. And while I love learning about the products that make it possible, I think our health habits and wellness practices can also play a role. I spoke with Edie Horstman, a double-certified integrative nutrition health coach and nutrition consultant, and of course our resident wellness expert, to learn how to achieve that glow from the inside out.
Read on for everything you need to know about getting healthy, glass-like locks, plus the ultimate grocery list of the best foods for shiny hair.
Featured image of Ashleigh Amoroso.
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wait, canned food Really make my hair shine?
While there is much more to wellness than meets the eye (literally), Horstman confirms that dull hair may be your body’s way of signaling that something is wrong. Many factors can compromise our quest for shiny strands: hormonal imbalances, genetics, and of course, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies as a result of a gap in your diet.
And while supplements intended to support healthy hair are all very well (not to mention a major addition!), they should be taken as intended: as a supplement. What’s even better? A holistic approach through food. If you’re tempted to ditch the quick-fix mentality, now is the time. Eating the best foods for shiny hair will not only lead to lustrous locks, it will also do your overall well-being a lot of good.
Foods to avoid for shiny hair
Although we would never tell you No to eat something (after all, balance is the spice of life) if shiny hair is the goal, Horstman recommends consciously cutting back on some of the foods below. Remember: stress can also slow you down on your way to silky hair. With that in mind, read the nutritionist’s opinions below.
Fatty fish (wild salmon, herring, sardines, etc.) is excellent for skin and hair. However, please note that fish high in mercury it can actually lead to hair loss over time. Essentially all heavy metals can cause hair loss.
Fish to be careful to include mackerel, swordfish, Y certain types of tuna. As alternatives, look for fatty fish like shrimp, sardines, wild salmon, and canned light tuna. All of these tend to be low in mercury, so eating them can help improve your hair, scalp health, and eczema symptoms.
We all know that too much sugar can lead to blood sugar problems, hormonal imbalances, trouble sleeping, and more. Also, sugar can cause problems like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. Sugar can cause flaky, itchy skin and damage to hair follicles because it stimulates the production of androgens, a hormone that shrinks hair follicles. That means you could develop dandruff quickly, and many medicated shampoo options won’t treat the source of this problem.
If you want healthy hair, try to limit your sugar intake (you don’t have to cut it out entirely!).
low protein foods
Hair is made of protein. If you eat low-protein foods all the time, you’re not giving your hair the building blocks it needs. When most people think of protein, they think of animal protein. And while I encourage a well-rounded diet, there are plenty of high-protein foods that are plant-based. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, some high-protein foods include tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, and beans.
Although not a food group, too much alcohol can cause itchy skin because it lowers the overall levels of zinc in your body. Zinc is critical for healthy hair growth, so too much alcohol isn’t helpful over time. Alcohol is still good for your hair in small amounts, so you don’t have to completely avoid it when trying to control dandruff. Additionally, alcohol can also dehydrate your body, which could affect conditions like dermatitis and dandruff. Be sure to stay hydrated while drinking alcohol to mitigate the worst of these conditions.
Other toxins to avoid: sulfates, parabens and other synthetic chemicals! These are harsh on the hair, stripping away our natural oils, etc. See a full list here.
The best foods for shiny hair
When it comes to the best foods for shiny hair, whole and minimally processed foods will be your hair’s best friends. Healthy fats, protein, and a variety of vitamins and nutrients (Vitamin C! B6! Zinc!) will help you unlock the shinier hair of your life. Let’s dive in: revitalized, rejuvenated hair is just a snack or meal away.
Omega-3 fatty acids
We’re 100 percent here for the benefits of omega-3s (we’ll jump at any excuse to have another slice of avocado toast!). In addition to your favorite brunch food, these hard-working polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found in fish oil, seeds, almonds, and walnuts. Not only do these foods support hair health, but making sure you get enough omega-3 fatty acids through food and supplements can support brain health and help improve your mood.
If you’ve ever questioned a pizza’s ability to be both delicious and functional, the following recipe provides the answer. It’s festive and simple, and with its creamy plant-based almond ricotta, you’ll get plenty of omega-3s in every serving.
Recipe: Butternut Squash Pizza with Arugula and Almond Ricotta
Vitamins B6 and B12
Found in salmon, oysters, green leafy vegetables, eggs, legumes and whole grains, these vitamins help create red blood cells, which Horstman says carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles . Both are important processes for hair growth.
Nutritious and tasty, this grain bowl is proof that when it comes to lunch or dinner, you really can have it all. It’s crisp, creamy, lush, and of course, a dream for your hair. The good news, too, is that this bowl does double duty, with superfood ingredients like salmon and avocado to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Recipe: Spring Salmon and Veggie Grain Bowl
Iron is a hair-healthy mineral that should not be overlooked. Horstman shares that it helps stimulate circulation and bring oxygen to the roots of your hair. Also, an iron deficiency can cause hair loss. Heme, an iron-rich molecule, is optimal with animal food sources including red meat, poultry, and seafood. If you follow a plant-based lifestyle, plant sources of nonheme iron include beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruit.
Last but not least, Horstman adds that for optimal absorption, it’s best to combine iron with sources of vitamin C. So if you’re whipping up this low-effort, high-reward green smoothie, it wouldn’t hurt to indulge in an orange. . beside.
Recipe: Almond Butter Green Smoothie
Speaking of vitamin C, it is another important one for hair health. Horstman cites vitamin C’s role in increasing collagen production as one of the key reasons for making this list of the best foods for shiny hair. Look for vitamin C in citrus fruits, strawberries, and red bell peppers.
If you’re looking for a quick and light (yet indulgent) breakfast, look no further than these sweet and salty strawberries. It’s special, simple and so summery. Also, the color of those berries is unbeatable.
Recipe: Thyme Macerated Strawberries and Greek Yogurt
Lastly, zinc. “Zinc helps the oil glands in the scalp work properly,” says Horstman. Just as iron deficiency can cause hair loss, a lack of zinc in your diet can too. Be sure to include enough food sources of this important trace mineral in your diet. Pumpkin seeds, oysters, Brazil nuts, and eggs are all good choices.
As evidenced by the recipes I’ve chosen to feature in this list of the best foods for shiny hair, I like to start my long, strong locks regimen first thing in the morning. Store-bought pico de gallo makes this tasty egg dish a breeze to throw together, and if you want to take the healthy hair party into the night, this recipe works just as well for dinner.